Grave Expectations

I woke up agitated, my shirt soaked in sweat. I woke up and had to pee. I woke up to 150 comment spam but only seven had slipped by the guard. And in the midst of all that had been approved, there were some really hateful, retro comments as well. I never know what to do with that sort of thing, the anonymous graffiti along the walls of crumbling, old posts.

At the gym my favorite piece of equipment was occupied. And normally I don’t let it get to me. After all, I don’t own the thing. But today, given my morning, I embraced anger. The woman using it had 57 minutes left to go on her workout and the one just like it has had a broken TV since I started going there 5 months ago.

I once went to an Italian restaurant that had a menu stuffed full of edible goodness. When the waiter came over to take my order, he responded to each request with a head shake and a sigh. “I’m sorry we don’t have any noodles left.” “I’m sorry, we ran out of broccoli.” “I’m sorry. We don’t have any bottles of wine.” “I’m sorry, the lettuce never came.” When I finally asked what he did have, he said, “Pizza. We have just pizza.”

At Maxim Health and Fitness it’s not unheard of to have at least 5 machines down at one time. And if the actual machine is working, the TVs aren’t. And if the TVs are working, the DVD player is on the fritz. The gym is huge. And there are a hundred choices but sometimes only a few of them are actually attainable.

In the end, I used the elliptical machine with the broken DVD player.

“Pizza. We have just pizza.”

I hit Bagel Smith’s on Bedford where two skinny, gay boys made a large black woman move over so they could sit together. Her huge body forced me into the corner behind the newspaper rack. She continued to gab on the phone with a friend about the friend’s boyfriend and how he didn’t respect the friend’s elderly grandmother. I was wedged in there so tightly, I felt claustrophobic. I was an old resident, yesterday’s spot. The gay boys were happy to have two seats next to one another. But their happiness cost me my personal space and these days my personal space is the single most important element in my life. I immediately got up; I made the three of them stand up as well. I threw out the rest of my bagel and I left the store.

I hit the deli at the bus stop in order to get some toilet paper. The man behind the counter blew a filthy mixture of heinous morning breath and smoke into my face. His breath, like ugly weather, expelled me from the store.

The bus didn’t come so I walked home slowly along the ice. I’m not as agile as I once was. The white blanket of snow from last week is dotted with brown and black soot. The mounds of snow line the streets like lumpy, dead dairy cows. Cars shot by me with destinations of the utmost importance in mind. Their tires left wet, oil-streaked marks, the temporary fingerprints of cars. I watched them dissipate and then disappear.

A few doors down from where I live I asked an older man out walking his dogs if he knew what was going in where the old gas station once stood; the gas station that, up until a month ago, sat open for repairs. Three weeks ago, a massive black fence was erected to block the construction off from the street. They have torn down the pumps and the marquee. The lot that once held old cars bears a deep hole, next to it lies a fresh mound of pristine earth. And if I didn’t know the mound of dirt to be a gob of fresh paint next to an empty canvas that will one day hold the eyesore of a developer’s dream, I would have coveted the virgin dirt. I haven’t seen dirt that lovely since I left the country.

The man, like the 7 others I have asked along our very street, shook his head at me and shrugged; he simply did not care, which baffles me greatly. These people – these men who own houses in Brooklyn – don’t seem care about what is pushing them out, uprooting their dirt, deleting their views. Their lackadaisical way of shrugging it off brought me both astonishment and envy.

I visited an Italian restaurant one night and asked the waiter for slice of pizza. He said, “Can I interest you in a delightful little Peruvian dish instead?”

I am home now. And the bulldozers hum behind me; I can see them working from my window. My view of the city has entered the last few years of its life and it’s a little sad that there’s nothing I can do about it. I might be here long enough to see the eyesore grow – tall, fat and ugly – as it towers above the rest of our roofs. Or perhaps I’ll just be here long enough to meet its displaced inhabitants of rats and roaches.

I live in a city where the only consistency is how quickly things change.

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