Words by Sean Welsh
I started at Fifth Avenue and Grand Army Plaza, because Fifth Avenue and Grand Army Plaza was as good as any place to start. The smell of horseshit made some tourists smile. There was a rolled diaper along the sidewalk resting on a sewer cap; The Plaza was covered in netting, blue scaffolds, blowing breezes of urine from behind the pine construction walls. The smell of the carriages and the lazy beauties that pulled them intertwined with the brushes of the busses, the charcoals that warmed the nuts and the pretzels, and an occasional couple that would stroll by smelling expensive.
I started walking south. The Sunday feeling over mid-town came as easy as the sun falling over the buildings; flush green leaves, and the throngs of people that wandered aimlessly enjoying all of it.
I had no where to be. I had not worked on anything in weeks and my last project I was unsure of the quality, and its point. So when the ideas started to come new and clear, I decided to just try and remember them later, not taking notes that way, my subconscious
would help my initial edits greatly.
At Fifty Seventh and Madison there was a street fair. Bloated from the previous night’s activities I decided to sweat out as much as I could and hold off from anything the fair had to offer except for water, which felt like it had been in the ice for days, slightly against my cheek, down through my system.
The summer fairs are all quite the same in New York except for the Ninth Avenue food festival and some other once in awhile ones sprinkled throughout. But the first one of the year is always a welcome handshake and I have to walk through start to finish at least once. The woman who sings about her lemonade for a dollar, the over priced sign guy with his thin metal cliché Coca Cola signs and pop advertisements from the 40’s and 50’s. The garage reggae stand with sounds you’ve never heard with a thick groove that keeps me there for a minute and some before repeating itself in every other song played. Pashminas and socks laid out in bulk prices, sheets and pillows, rugs, thick, long, enormous Persian area rugs, and antique furniture with no chance for delivery.
Burning charcoal rising to brown the corn on it’s grill, and Mozzarepa’s always with little girls and their Fathers standing in front spreading the cheese arm’s length after their tongues get burnt from the heat of the corn shell. Generators humming in back of almost every stand, right next to the trash and all of the other loose garbage in puddles of green, purple, and sometimes black water surrounded by flies.
A fat old woman yelled out in rhythm to come eat her sausage and peppers while her fat old man bearing a striking resemblance to her, banged the steel of his spatula against the steel of his grill cutting the sausages hot, and sweet, turning over peppers and onions spreading the pile even, turning the whole pile over again.
Nearing the end there was a striking lady cop voluptuous, her frosted hair in a pony tail. She was surrounded by other cops, inapproachable, and they all had thick pink smoothie drinks from the last stand of the fair, which was run by a Chinese family that looked very happy, content and very hard at work.
I thought about him, and then I thought about her. I was sick of the “whys?” and the “hows?” and I was especially sick of myself and the constant questioning that went on when I went to sleep, and then when I would wake up hung -over, crazy from the fear.
There became light breezes that cooled off the sweat streaking down my face. The back of my shirt was damp as well as the insides of my thighs, my shoes starting to loosen and my breath heavy, always the heaviest in the humidity. I thought about sitting to catch up, but I wanted to make sure all of the fear was washing away with all of the sweat flowing. All of the thoughts on the things I have neglected, on the un-knowing parts of the future, all of the people I hurt, and even all of the people that didn’t care for me, all brought on by two straight twelve hour days of drinking on an empty stomach. To drink well you have to eat and exercise well, and I had been using my pain as an excuse not to.
Tufts of cool air swept almost in moods, most from buildings’ revolving doors and cracks left open. Traffic would go by as the New York traffic does hurling one massive yellow, black and silver snake obnoxious horns, occasional sirens, a mad fist weaving left and right all at the dynamic speed of twenty five miles per hour.
Though it was definitively Sunday traffic, the difference is that at rhythmic points it lets up, and the streets breathe. You can hear the coolers and heavy machinery atop the buildings and far off comings and goings, and they would come in waves, and standing still at any one point during these breaths, it’s as if you were on a beach of brick, and the sun sparkles off the glass and steel, swallowed by the concrete, for blocks and blocks, along the shores of curbs.
At the Empire State I was reminded of the night I took Katherine Michaels to the top. She was so happy to be there so careless and genuinely giddy, and the night happened to be a touch humid, and the visibility miles, just enough to sweat, enough to make the tan on her face accentuate under the street lights and again through the off set iridescence of the white halogens.
She begged me to have her and then she begged me to stay away. Then growing particularly ugly when her boyfriend found out, forcing Katherine Michaels to move.
She began to sob the first time I kissed her stomach and feel her breasts hiding underneath the white satin of her bra. Then she put the guilt away giving herself over.
I was friends with her boyfriend first, but he quit having sex with her. She turned to me knowing all of it would end not caring how. But the particular night of the Empire State we just kissed. I decided on Pete’s for lunch and kept walking.
The bar at Pete’s is old and agreeable. I ordered a pinot grigio and some King Edward’s mussels. Different Motown tunes played over a satellite hook up, reminding me of my Father and the Drifter’s, there were no ball games to watch. The mussels were sandy the wine was good enough, better by the second glass. I spilled some into the broth and over the shells and they tasted sweeter, not better.
You hurt the ones you love most over time, rarely in one shake. You wear on them like water, corrosion. Maybe that’s what happened. Maybe that’s what happened to him. Maybe he just gave up. Maybe she did too, before she could not. I finished every mussel off, drank my last drops of wine. I thought about him and his body bag. I thought about her sleeping and the window to her drive, and how I had lost them both. I asked, and paid for the tab.
I walked out and the day was coming to settle. It was the day I was not in the front of her thoughts, her security. It was the day of potentiality holding hands with horrific lows existing at the same time, confronting me.
I thought about him, his face, his disingenuous, his generosity, his music, his depth, his hand shake and short time, and for all the madness there was serenity. Gardens of it. There was brilliance and loyalty, and from all of it bore the day I came out of the death of a friend, and the final gasp of a love that had let me go. So I kept walking.