As the floor disappeared from under their feet in a matter of long yet dissipating days, the town quieted down.
The false-fronted stores, ordinarily lit-up with neon lights, escaped the usual tumult. Its clerks retracted behind counters, avoiding proximity, eyes reflecting painful uncertainty. Toxic bleach, carbonated water, candy bars, cigarettes, lottery tickets. Everyday items, but only necessities, they said. The walls seemed to be narrowing down and sucking the air from the room, even when outside.
Remember the moments from just days ago, when you stepped outside of bed, combed your hair and dressed for another identical day of work. The clothes smelled like delicate lavender, because your wife insisted on getting the fancier kind of laundry soap. It’s been a good few months, indulgencies of such kind were deemed possible, even though the promised vacation down south will have to wait. Kids will be disappointed, but they understand. They always do. School is in full swing anyhow and life is not always easy. That’s a lesson to be learned, a lesson that his father passed down to him, harshly yelling words about an unforgiving world. Only God and hard work can saves us. Feelings are neglected, emotions are weakness, family ties are the foundation. But none of it really matters anymore.
Remember the conversation at the dusty neighborhood bar, surrounded by far too many familiar faces. Unkept beards, oily hair, dirty finger nails. His friend’s sour beer breath, spitting out complaints regarding his stale sex life, piling bills and spoiled kids. As the young, pageant looking waitress turns her back after delivering another round, he glances over her light jeans shorts, allowing his mind to wander, even if just for a second. “Life has been breaking my chops” he says with a frustrated demeanor, as if life itself could never be enough. This town is not enough.
Distance, proximity, contact. Words gaining new meanings.
Space. Unsaid feelings and anxieties spread, thinning out and becoming mere steam. Ideas float around like airborne, an unknown virus, an invisible enemy. Being in this place right now feels like a sad intercourse performance, an exhausting household chore, or a desperate glimpse in time.
This town has old secrets. It runs on raw electricity, traveling from one apartment to the next, transmitting people’s energy through geometric patterns. Window to window. Busy alleys, small markets. The town has been sensing its inhabitants emotions through generations, constantly fostering more people. Creating room to dream even during crisis. A sense of community here is not the same as in a small town in Indiana or Missouri. It’s a singular kind, as an unspoken connection, laying on people’s gaze, often chasing something, someone. Tension can be found at any given time, but so does wonder. Discomfort rides the subway everyday, but so does falling in love with the beautiful girl that is about to get off. She is gone.
Remember the lights. It’s too bright, it’s bright enough. Remember the crowded streets. Remember walking down 7th avenue during a humid summer day, smiling and feeling whole. This is a place where you see everything, but nothing seems to see you. You are seen all the time. You are insignificant all the time. Nothing is new, everything is new. It’s too hot, it’s too cold. It’s too loud or it’s frightening lonely. People’s pain and joy, walk side by side, forcefully trotting around vibrant streets.
But now everything is different. When summer comes, kicking winter out through the front door, it will stay for a while, like an old relative or a missed friend that you haven’t seen in years, and he will stain the air with comforting stories of everything he’s been up to. It’s been a while since you two sat down together and there’s not enough hours in the day to properly catch up. But when this time comes, the conversations that were left on hold, the folded chairs that gathered dust inside corner restaurants, heavy rusty gates that remained closed for months, the friendly bodega clerk, the empty basketball courts; it will all open again and receive each one of you with the same warm and reassuring energy that only this town can provide.