West 32nd / Broadway. The hotel doors shut noiselessly behind. Crumbling snow, brown dirt, rubber boots, shov-els. I’m the only one who waits for green. Straight lines, right angles. Grid. Men and women flee cell to cell as if afraid the night will catch them shelterless. Garment District, bags and watches, bags and watches, bags and watches. Puffy jackets, bristling chins. Steam rising from the water hoses. 29th, 28th, 27th, 26th. Puddles, rivers, streams. Curl your toes. Wrap your scarf. Play with your cape, on-off, on-off. Zigzag for dry land. Think of coffee.
Madison and Fifth, Flatiron, triangle of shadow on the square. Scaffoldings. Lavazza cups behind the glass. Walk in, order a single shot. Drink, pine for Rome, order a double. Venture deeper inside and get lost in sweets, wines, breads, oils, cheeses, sodas. What is this place? Raw meats, cured meats, roasted meats. Pasta, crushed tomatoes, truffle salt, crawfish on ice, red perches with glassy eyes, lamb on a spit, lamb chopped by a gleaming cleaver knife. Limoncello biscuits, Amarena cherry syrup, Strega nougat, sugared almonds—pink, limegreen, yellow, light blue . . . Orange peel in bitter chocolate. Pick a box. Cringe at the price. Fiddle with your wallet. Agree to giftwrap. Pick scarlet color for the ribbon. Snip, snip. Sharp scissors trim the edges. “Come back to Eataly.” Arrivederci, Roma.
Run down the steps, hop on the Brooklyn train, find your stop on the map. Watch the yellow light as you traverse the grid. Count eight stops. Get out into snowdrifts and puddles. Red brick, graffiti, heavy metal doors. Knock-knock. Privet! Ashtrays on the staircase, clothes on hangers, unmade futon beds, thick mended sweaters. Shy smiles of the newly arrived. Male portraits on the walls, bodies naked as souls. Photographs, postcards, emulsion liftups, Polaroid shots, coffee, cigarettes, tea albums. “Asylum.” “Refugees.” “Call next time you’re in town.”
Back on the subway, up the grid. Check email, accept its silence, make new plans. Remind yourself today is not about goals. Get out at 96th Street. Walk in the wrong direction, turn around, head for the trees. Cross Park, cross Lexington, walk toward Fifth. White-gloved doormen, green awnings. An elderly couple: black coat goldrimmed glasses (he); salt-and-pepper hair, Yoko Ono eyes (she). If John were alive, it could have been them. Cross Fifth, turn left. Walk up to the Met’s entrance. Check in your coat and your sweater; leave on the beret and the scarf. Roman copies, Greek originals, Picasso, Miró, Monet, Manet, Rubens, El Greco, Caravaggio. Botticelli. Glimmers of eternity. Skip modern art; feel no regrets. Wander. Finish a chocolate bar by the Egyptian tomb. “Museum now closed.”
Check email. Watch the phone die. Try not to panic. Study a paper map on the steps in the dusk. Ditch the subway. Walk slowly across the park’s white slopes.
Silent trees, pale streetlamps. White lab sniffs a hole eaten by the sun inside a snowdrift. Solitary runners. Discreetly look around. Believe in your inner navigator.
At last, bump into a manned park cart. Pretend like you have a destination. Ask for directions. Pretend to know where “west” is. Meander and ramble, listen to the silence of a giant city, watch the neon lights reflect off the polished darkness of a frozen lake. Keep moving, reach the exit, check the street name. “Central Park West.” Give yourself a mental pat on the back.
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