Times Square, 2 a.m. The city isn’t asleep, but it sure is groggy. It could use some rest.
A few scattered street vendors hawk their wares. Fake Rolexes remain available, as do matted sketches of Bruce Lee, Pacino, and Tupac. A photographer wanders, then shakes the hand of a horse and buggy driver. Two cops stare blankly uptown into a void of flashing neon.
The air is heavy and wet. It settles on my forehead, but refuses to bead. It smells stale like cigarrette smoke, raw like garbage, and sweet like vomit. It tastes like whisky on my lips.
I am swollen. I flex my fists to stretch the skin on my palms. I stand tall, weaving through staggering drunk pedestrians. I keep my face straight, feigning like I am invincible. I am wearing blue sneakers with yellow tips. The City knows better.
I pass McCales on 44th and Eighth. Three giggling women traispe through the glass doors. A young man in a blue suit leans on the post box. I sing in my headphones. Better to hear myself sing, I think, than think.
Rounding the corner of 48th and Ninth, I remember that I have a pint of Breyer’s All Natural Vanilla in the freezer. I crack a smile.
Beneath the yellow light of St. Claire’s Hospital on 51st and Ninth, a big man with bad skin gestures towards me. I remove my headphones.
“Hey, can you spare fifteen cents?” he asks with an air of addled menace.
“Sorry man,” I say, “I gave all of my change away.”
“Dude,” he shouts, “I wanna’ know to who!?!”
“To James in Carroll Gardens,” I answer. “It was his forty-ninth birthday. He just got out of jail for a crime he didn’t committ.”
I slip between traffic, a footfall, an instant away from certain collision. I pass Vintage. A girl with white hair and a red dress exhales smoke from her eyeballs. As I turn onto 56th Street as the second verse of U2’s ‘Grace’ begins. The tamborine keeps time. Bono sings.
Grace finds beauty in everything.
A woman steps out of my corner store, Al Sadiy, in a nightgown and slippers. I wave to the clerk, who smiles and waves back, then returns to his cell phone conversation.
In front of my apartment, a man sorts through the garbage. A single car is parked there. A red, white and blue windsock hangs from the antenna. Inside, a woman in the passenger seat is stretched across a man in the driver’s seat. I stare blankly westward.
I plumb my pocket for keys, unlock the door, and check the mailbox. Empty. I climb three flights, unlock another door, and walk straight to the refrigerator. In my bedroom, I kick off my Pro Keds, and bend over to turn on my air conditioning, when a single drop of sweat rolls down my nose. I tap the keyboard to wake my computer. And I begin.
Grace makes beauty from everything.