Newsletters From Manhattan — The Spanish Harlem
I’ve never been good at journals. Off and on when I was younger I would keep them a bit. It was always horribly depressing writing. I was horribly depressed. Manhattan urges me to write things down. Maybe because things will never be like this again. I will never feel the shock and surprise in my body in this space that I am new to. I am in New York City and no one else will ever have this particular constellation of experiences. And after a while I won’t see things like this anymore.
The following are short chapters from my time here, Newsletters from Manhattan.
The Spanish Harlem
The very first thing I did when I got to the apartment was take off all my clothes and walk around looking at everything in an excited awe. Pirate was still airplane sick and didn’t know what to think. Eliot’s mom had somewhat furnished the place with necessary things like soap and dishes and some breakfast cereal for me. It felt like a hotel without the beds, just empty hardwood floors, shiny kitchen appliances and white towels folded on the back of the toilets. She had placed boxes of kleenex everywhere. On the kitchen counter, the bathroom counters, every single window sill. I could build a kleenex castle. My bedroom is the biggest with a small bathroom and a twin size air mattress on the floor that has since begun its slow decline. It was lonely at first. And it rained and I had no one to talk to inside the apartment.
Eliot’s stay at the hospital kept being extended. First he had a rough couple of days and then his medical equipment and bed hadn’t been delivered to the apartment so he couldn’t leave. So for the first two weeks I mostly took walks in Central Park. It’s like every park in Portland shuffled together in one. Parts remind me of Laurelhurst with its winding paths and lit up lanterns posted along the way. Other parts are like the secret woody trails through Mt Tabor. There’s a pond you can fish in and a big empty swimming pool in one section and little creeks with bridges across in others. The park is much much bigger than this small northern corner I took two weeks to explore and it comes with the voices of a million birds singing as a soundtrack. The birds are so loud they fill up the thoughts in my head when I listen quietly enough.
There is a squall outside on the balcony. It started with a ferocious warm wind and then the rain. The rain turned into hail and then back again. Now I can hear sirens.
I’ve taken a break from Eliot. From helping him take a shit while sitting on a shower chair into a bucket on the floor. I have to put it underneath him in just the right place where I think his poop will land. The bowel routine. I have to take a break from his ceaseless monologue regarding his very own self and everything that is specially wrong with him and no one else. Ever. How very soon it will be senior dinner time because it’s almost five thirty and that’s what time they ate every evening in the hospital. Even though he’s not a senior. He’s only 33. I think he wishes he was still in the hospital. I do enjoy his company mostly. I can be myself like we’ve known each other forever. And it doesn’t matter what comes out of my mouth at all. I don’t have to be careful or afraid he’ll hate me, think I’m stupid or treat me any differently because sometimes I fuck up. We have fun and laugh. We talk things right out of the day and then find we have to start over. It feels incredibly natural that I am here having answered his call for assistance only this time I’ve come all the way to New York City.
Everything is older here and the raindrops are fatter. I feel like I’m in the movies because I’ve only ever seen New York in places like Seinfeld and NYPD Blue or Die Hard. There are Delis on every corner, sometimes two. But they’re not really Delis, they’re more like corner stores with different things to buy in each one. But then there’s a corner store on every block too. Sometimes three. I always want one of those sandwiches or plates of halal they advertise on the windows like a colorful giant lunch menu. I thought that’s what you got inside a deli. Nope. You can buy the ingredients and make it yourself. But they’re usually sold out of most of them.
I try to look mean when I walk down the street so nobody fucks with me. Eliot’s dad told me not to look people in the eye because that would make me seem vulnerable. And I wasn’t supposed to look up because then everyone would know I was a tourist. People are mostly nice I guess. I stick out because I’m white. The sidewalks are much more interesting and loud here and sometimes, huge, almost block long piles of trash are stacked in black bags along the curbs. Rats run like leaves skimming the sidewalks and no one seems to notice, or care. I met the boyz in the hood the other day. They hangout outside the laundromat next door or the barbershop around the corner. Sully introduced himself, short for last his name Sullivan, he was in his mid fifties probably. His first name was Cornelious but most people on the street called him Coke. A couple of the younger boyz offered to find me any drug I wanted. A complete list. It was kinda funny and I told them I don’t even really do drugs, none on their list anyway. They were all sweet and promised to protect me, and Eliot too. Sully told me “If anyone fucks with you just say ‘You know Coke from the east side?’ Ok? Just say that.”