When my neighbor said “Are you OK?” I was on my back, on the hood of my own car, right in front of my fancy new building, just this morning. I was holding the ticket the vehicle had just received, at 8:36 AM—notice how I’m able to differentiate myself from the world, the vehicle—and I was screaming, also singing about the New York Department of Finance, to which you write checks when you find bright orange envelopes on your windshield.
I was on my back, having just seen the Hotmail Alert (Move Car!) and rushed downstairs, and exchanged pleasantries with the nice woman who was writing the ticket. I didn’t know what to do except to look up, so I laid on my back on the hood of the car and asked God for some guidance.
I was pretty loud about it, though, knowing that God is an asshole. The world, the vehicle answered back with alarms, it’s not used to these bodily intrusions. The headlights blinked, everything else started honking. The car moved, it was cooperating, just not with me.
I sat up when my neighbor said “Are you OK?”
“Chevon,” I said, that’s really her name, her ex-boyfriend poisoned the other dog, Jack the pit bull mix remains and he’s a sweetheart, he pays no attention to anything except the elevator door, somehow he knows it’s always opposite of where he got on. “Yeah, I’m OK, gimme a kiss.”
I rolled off the hood of my own car and we walked toward Lenox, she was about to go for a run on this already punishingly hot day, I was getting ready for the trek to the shrink off Lexington on 82nd, where I would announce that I can’t do this anymore, it’s too hard, the weight of my past can’t be borne, not by me anyway, somebody else has to do this.
On my way back I did something you can’t do if you want to stay alive in New York, or anywhere else for that matter. The crowd streams up the stairs from the emptied train, you get out the way or you move gingerly down, knowing your descent will be slow. Today though, a man heaves his way through the middle of this subterranean crowd, he’s in more of a hurry than anybody else, and he bangs into me, and I’m already trying to stay out of everybody’s way. Harm’s way.
But then I threatened a cab driver just an hour ago, told him I’d kill him if he said another word. He kept talking.
I turn on the stairs at 86th and Lexington, halfway to the bottom of the world, I’m addressing this man in a hurry who has burst from the crowd, now I’m actually holding his wrist, impeding his escape from this underground, and I say, “Calm the fuck down.”
He stops on those stairs, he looks at me very carefully, no sunglasses to protect his eyes, and he says “Yeah.”
I think that’s what he said. He was running up marble stairs. I was on my way down.