The lights are much brighter there
It was trash day in Brooklyn. I know this because on my way out the door, the trash collector nearly hit me with the trash can he threw angrily toward the front stoop while he was swearing about how disgusting the trash was, this building was and this supposedly elitist neighborhood was. “That’s disgusting! This building is disgusting!” I ignored him because that is what you do and because I still feel like a guest, at least some of the time, when it is convenient. It wasn’t my garbage.
One of these days I am bound to have a bad day at work, but it wasn’t today. I had more meetings. In one I met someone I’ll be working with who went on and on about how happy she was they hired me. In another I took an Argentinian scholar out to lunch at a Swedish restaurant. On the way home, she surprised me by giving me a big hug.
I ran into someone I met in the meeting where I had to make the surprise presentation a couple of days ago. We were both waiting for the coffee machine and I noticed she had a coffee mug from my college. Turns out she’s an alum too (although I’m guessing she’s quite a bit younger than I). We compared notes.
After work, instead of heading for the subway, I hoofed it down to the Village. I passed a parade of Korean women dressed all in white versions of traditional dress and holding the ends of their very long braids so they didn’t drag on the ground. I passed a crowd of paparazzi surrounding someone who looked vaguely familiar, maybe a Kardashian or a Jersey housewife. I passed someone dressed as Voldemort, complete with freaky face makeup. I walked through Madison Square Park as a band was setting up for a concert. I stumbled on the Flatiron building. I like walking from Midtown to the Village. The buildings get smaller and smaller as you go. I turned into a tree-lined, cobblestone street and started to pull from my pocket the piece of paper on which I’d written the address of the apartment I’ll be staying in, but I pushed it back in when I saw our friend standing in front of the building. He took me up in the tiny elevator with the sliding metal grate. The apartment looks very different than it did the last time I saw it maybe fifteen years ago. Back then it was largely empty, minimally furnished, the books and stereo hidden under the sofa. Now An easel commands the room and the walls of the main room are covered floor to ceiling with paintings in various stages of completion. In the bedroom, there are stacks of paintings and an old leather sofa. The tiny kitchen, built into a room the size of a closet, has a tiny window overlooking the street. It’s lovely. And now I have the keys.
Our friend and I went to the corner and ducked into a small restaurant with a marble bar with wicker chairs where all the waiters dressed like Jonathan Richman. We drank brilliantly dry rosé until I was just drunk enough and had a lovely conversation and then he walked me back to the subway, stopping to introduce me to a man with a tattoo of the state of Wisconsin on his arm.
I rode the subway back to Brooklyn, stopping at the Thai restaurant that smells of Nag Champa incense and waited for some curry at a table while the two women sitting at the table grilled the waiter about every item on the menu. “What is seitan? Is the satay hot?” On the way home, the plastic bag of cartons hanging from my wrist, I stepped over all the cracks on the sidewalk. In my head, I chanted the mantra, “I am lucky. I am lucky. I am lucky.” Lucky for second chances. Lucky to be doing something I love. Lucky to be here. Lucky to have a family willing to take this chance with me. Lucky to be going home in a couple of days to tell them how lucky I am to have them. Lucky to be sitting on the couch eating Thai food out of the carton and enjoying this perfect lucky day.