Prose: Sweet Bitters


I wanted to say something profound, but nothing came out.

“Ma’am, would you like to stop police brutality?”

Ma’am? “Yes, but not now.”

“Not now?! But it has to start now!”

Her voice trailed off as I scuffed down St. Mark’s and over to the #6, only to be transported down to Brooklyn Bridge, up, over, and back down to the #6 Uptown almost missing Spring Street. I got distracted. I could have walked, but it was nice to sit and ride.

I wanted to hold his hand, the one not holding the cane. Lace my fingers in the gaps between his and lead him back. I helped a little, I’d like to think. So did everyone else he asked. What if she were on this subway, lost, elderly, but not afraid, just in need of a little assistance? I can’t imagine it, but I do anyway. And my heart races.

Are you happy? T’is the hour. Post 5 o’clock corporate shadow. Smiles, everywhere. The hostesses are nicer, more polished, less frantic than usual. Moustache. Striped socks. On the phone. Why does he push his belly out that way? Boxes. Packages. Just stopped by for a drink. Lips, martini kissed. Waiting on the tartare, and a friend. What are you wearing? “Confidence,” she replied. He pours her a Belvedere. She asked for a twist. Stirred, not shaken. His bright blue eyes pierce my way. How did everyone get so fucking beautiful? Who are these people? They’re alive. I’m alive! What are they looking for? What do I need? Bryan Ferry nibbles at my ears. Don’t stop the dance. Another world. Pinch me. No don’t. If I close my eyes, they’ll think I’m sleeping. He looks familiar. So does she. They all do. What movie is this? My eyes are open. The bleached blond Russian across the bar replaces her Pradas, and sits, texts for another half-hour. The sun’s in his eyes, but he doesn’t squint. Simply lowers his shaded Saint Laurents. I like the way his phone makes a permanent mark in his jeans pocket, reminds me of Skoal can indentations back home. So. Far. Away. She laughs. Her fro doesn’t budge. Everything’s changed. It’s all different. Everything changes. Always. He warmed it up with his hands. He is young. This city fits him, embraces him even, like a virgin sacrifice. Not me. Only sometimes, as an observer. One toe in, nine out, just like I like it. Faceless. Speechless. He smiles. I smile back. All toes in.

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