Tag Archive for The City

77th and Madison: Top of the World

The elevator was wood paneled with a dark reddish luster, and the doors were covered in gold leaf. We stepped inside and began our ascent, above the rest of the city. Madison Avenue and 77 th street, top of the world. The doors finally opened to reveal a dimly lit hallway with three doors. Mike knocked on the first one to the right. A thin girl wearing tight jeans and an even tighter black tank top opened the door. Her eyes, covered with eye shadow, seemed as though she peered out from two cavernous holes in her face.

The skin on her forearms was barely visible due to the innumerable bracelets which covered her arms.

Mike quickly brushed past her without any sort of salutation. As I walked up to introduce myself she quickly turned her back to me and followed Mike deeper into the apartment.

“Mike, did you bring me my cigarettes?” she whined as she trailed after him through the apartment and into the kitchen.

I paused a moment in the doorway to imbibe the surrounding atmosphere of the apartment. I looked around incredulously at the elaborate decorations of the house. To my right hung some sort of old portrait which could have dated back to the colonial America. The entire floor of the apartment was lavishly covered with an immaculate white carpet.   I thought that these kinds of apartments were merely myths.

I proceeded to explore the depths of the apartment in search of Mike. As I looked around I noticed a door cracked open, I peered inside and opened it slowly. There was indeterminable number of people on the bed watching a movie. I stood there for a moment debating whether or not I should I go in and introduce myself, until someone got off from the bed, walked briskly to the door and closed it in my face. I decided not to go in.   I hurried into the kitchen.

The kitchen was at least twice as large as any room in my house. Mike stood by an industrial sized fridge and beckoned me towards him. As he rummaged through the fridge he paused, and reached into his coat pulling out a pack of cigarettes, he tossed them to the floor in front of the girl with too much eye shadow. She lunged fervently for the box and began to tear it open. Mike reached into the fridge and passed me a coke, while retrieving one for himself as well.  

“I’m telling you man this girl is so rich—Just look around!” he exclaimed.

Mike spent the majority of the taxi ride uptown divulging exactly “how rich this girl was.”

Natalie walked over to Mike and looked at me carefully from head to toe.

“He looks like an icky homeless guy” she said decidedly. “What’s his name?” she inquired.

I looked up, a little surprised.

“Ben meet Natalie—Natalie meet Ben,” he said in a slightly restless way. After this cordial introduction Mike quickly took a seat in front of the television and resumed his concentrated video game playing. I smiled jovially at Natalie to show that I wasn’t annoyed, she merely looked past me. I proceeded to sip my coke quietly as we both watched Mike play Nintendo silently. As we stared out into nothing my eyes drifted to Natalie’s; those black holes in her face. She looked up at me and for a split second, her eyes begged for sympathy and escape.

“Excuse me, I need a Perrier,” she whined.

She quickly turned from me and went to the furthest point of the kitchen to get one. Mike turned to me with a look of enthusiasm in his eyes, “how ridiculous is this house?” he exclaimed enthusiastically.

Before I had a chance to answer he resumed his playing and began muttering exactly how rich and how nice Natalie’s house was. A raspy almost seductive voice called from the doorway:

“Mike! You’re here, finally it’s been so boring here, let’s go somewhere! Do something already!” she exclaimed desperately.

This voice belonged to a girl wearing a blue slip with feisty green eyes. she had a voluptuous body which filled her blue slip nicely.

“Yeah, whatever soon, just chill! I’ll figure something out” Mike said coolly. He turned to me and shot me a smile as if to say: hey look I’m in charge here.  

I stood up to introduce myself, and just as I walked toward her she walked through me and sat in my seat at the table.

“I need another cigarette. Pass them here Ashley” whined Natalie.

“You know those things will kill you” I said teasingly.

She abruptly turned to me and glared out from the black holes that were here eye sockets. She smoothly turned her back towards me once again, and proceeded to take another cigarette out of the carton bringing it to her lips and slowly lighting it.

A small, black poodle which defied Darwin’s laws of Natural selection pranced into the kitchen yapping and jumped around. Ashley picked up the dog and placed it on her lap; she took a drag on her cigarette, and subsequently exhaled a cloud of smoke into the dog’s face. The dog, assaulted, leaped down and retreated to the safety of her cage.

A small grin slowly creeped across Ashley’s faces, and faded just as slowly. It was the first sign of emotion I saw from her all night.

“Let’s get out of here, I’m like so bored just sitting here!” Ashley winced almost painfully.

“We could go to John’s house, I heard that he was gonna have people there” suggested Natalie.

“Eww I really just don’t like John, his house is so cramped and small” Ashley complained.

We all sat in silence for a few moments until Ashley finally got up and proceeded to the kitchen door; she paused and shot Mike a seductive smile. Mike quickly followed her out of the kitchen.  

This left Natalie and I alone in the kitchen together. Natalie sat at the table while I sat on the floor.

“So do you have these sorts of gatherings often?” I inquired.

Her eyes remained fixated on the wall ahead of her as she answered me.

“Meh, they just sorta show up” she paused looking a bit downtrodden “I don’t mind though, their friends of mine” she continued with a twinge of forced cheeriness in her voice. We sat in silence for several moments until Natalie went to rejoin everyone else in the bedroom. I sat in the kitchen alone. I let myself out and rode the elevator back to reality. I walked along the deserted Madison Avenue under the pallid glow of the street lamps overhead.

Haiku Series

Ciudad is breathing

Music plays, everyone sings.

The air absorbs sound.


Old woman dances,

the river of cobblestone

flowing below her.


A young girl in bed

tosses and turns in her sleep.

She waits for the morn.


Awakes to the sound

Of a bustling calle

Her home never sleeps.

Washington Square

A cigarette butt lies next to my foot, still emitting a trace of smoke. Nearby on the dusty asphalt a pigeon waddles self-consciously, bobbing its head as if pecking the air for some invisible food. A squirrel churrs a threat to his brother, challenging him to romp.

The walkway before me never becomes silent. A buzz of voices blends with the city soundscape of cars driving and trucks backing, swingsets squealing and sparrows chirping. A toddler, holding tightly to his sister’s stroller, yells “Achtung! Achtung! Achtung!” at a squirrel that crosses two inches from his foot. His mother comforts him, in German. A man sits down on the bench across from me, eyelids dropping on his creased red face as he stirs his cup of coffee.

The bench I sit on is green, painted over years of dents and names scratched in wood. My backpack sits to my left with its main zipper opened just wide enough for me to extract my notebook and pen. At my right is my suitcase. Its pockets are crammed full like the subway this morning, barely room left to breathe, creaking and complaining of the overburdening load.

The subway. A couple of hours ago it brought me here, and soon, I will hike the blocks back to the station, shoulder chafing from the suitcase, and it will bring me to the train station. I’m going home today.

At home, the mountain overshadows our farm in the same way that the thirty-story apartment building a block north overshadows this park. They both recede as they rise, shadowed places standing out against sunlit sides, seeming to hold themselves back from too much involvement with their surroundings. This building stands behind a wall of brick rowhouses like the low hill of alfalfa fields blocks a view of the lower reaches of the mountain.

The rowhouses’ potentially beautiful façade is marred by rusty air-conditioner units and a high trim of metalwork, corroded to a bright green, contrasting with the clean brick and the white window frames. Trees obscure my vision slightly, holding onto their last few dirty-brown leaves. A puff of air, cool enough to make you shiver but too warm for a jacket, rustles them.

Strains of harmonica waft from the park bench opposite me. A street musician of sorts has opened for business, a blue-green flowerpot at his feet. His nearly empty bag is next to him on the bench, surrounded by his array of harmonicas. A contented Labrador Retriever disinterestedly glances toward him, not missing of beat of his lazy gait. “Swing low, sweet chariot…” The man plays each line of music, then sings it. “Coming for to carry me home…”

Two benches to his left, a couple of students eat their lunch. One feeds pigeons that strut in a semicircle around his feet. A sudden crash from a nearby construction site sends every pigeon in the park into flight. Their wings create more noise than the blast that scared them.

A lady sits down next to me, lighting up a cigarette. The noxious gray fumes begin to flow from its burning tip. I think it’s time to leave.


There must be more to life—

Graffiti on the walls

Announcing that he loves her.

Marked it on the walls,

Marked it on her with the shiner

She wears around town.


There must be more to life—

Windows with gunshot wounds.

I sit and wonder,

Cigarette between my fingers,

Do the windows ever bleed?

Is the glass pane long dead?


There must be more to life—

Life plays like a TV with the reception knocked out.

Everything is undefined static.

One day drags into the next without

Any distinction.


There must be more to life—

Mascara flakes off onto the tissue

In my hand as I wonder how

I’m going to get out of here—

My Urbania.