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Fifth Street Memoirs
Excerpts . . .
She . . . sits in a rotted folding chair at the entrance to the “Tuesdays Free Soap Laund-ro-mat”, staring out at nothing. A young boy crouches in the street along the curbside. He is busy grasping fistfuls of pebbles and stones, carefully plucking out the smallest to save the largest stones in his hand. A five year olds past time, they are released just a few seconds later, only to be retrieved once more from the pavement. Retrieve the stones, inspect and release, grasp, inspect, and release, over and over again, while he waits for his mother’s laundry.
He . . . stands on the street corner, ruddy red faced, happily holding his dog’s leash, watching each passer-by with intense concentration, yet speaks not a word. Every day, at all types of hours, he stands his guard. From across the way he seems a pleasant enough sort with his short pear shaped body, stubby legs and large generous hands. Yet, upon closer proximity, just before your own eyes reach out to say a silent “Hello”. The warmth has suddenly chilled. His smile does not waiver, it’s pasted to the corners of his mouth but not quite able to reach his eyes, just not able, to fill their emptiness with joy. He is the clown man.
She . . . pokes the barren, plastic covered box spring with the toe of her shoe. The floor is littered with trash, stained with drippings left to ferment on the tiles, her nose crinkles. “There will be roaches flying into your room tonight!”
Roaches? You mean . . . cockroaches?
He . . . turns the corner to enter his room and low undertones of murmurs follow as he begins to close the door. She sits on the bed, peeking around to catch a quick glimpse before the door is shut and locked. What a pretty young girl, long black hair smooth and shiny with tiny ringlets at her backside, wearing slim pants and a matching coat of black nylon and goose down. Sometime later, the door opens and the man emerges, pulling up his pants, while trying to clasp his belt. Rage boils up and fear for the girl hits the back of the throat. “You can’t make a living on your knees or on your stomach for the rest of your life!” One of the maintenance men in the building is heard yelling through the door the next day. “If you don’t have a hundred dollars, it’s time to go. “
She . . . shrieks and runs, leaving the old man in a heap on the box spring. The men pack his belongings in heavy duty plastic bags, grumbling and complaining of the mess. While the old man slumps against the wall repeating. . .
“Where did she go? Doesn’t she know I love her?”
Sirens blare loud enough to wake the dead. Where is the fire station? Raising the thin white blinds with a yank, I squint down four flights to the street into the blackness. A flashing blue and green neon sign announces Corona and Bud Light available in the ‘Bella Villa Billares’ below.
The shrieking persists, echoing off the surrounding buildings. Where is the fire? Slowly, the rhythm of the neon light overpowers the alarm in my head. No red and yellow warning lights appear to confirm the sirens, only the blue and green, the blue and green soothing the senses.
It is my first night here in my new, tiny, little, Itty- bitty, microscopic room. It is yet to be seen why I’ve come to reside here. The rooming house is in the very heart of the city, is this a city? I forget. It doesn’t matter, I have enough to worry about with two bars beneath me, and I and not a drinker have a low tolerance for drunks. Which most people end up being by the end of the night at bars, I would assume, yes?
Nope, I haven’t been a very social animal lately at all, come to think of it.
I’ve moved. Or shall I say? I have been thrown? Into the lion’s den, an extremely crowded one in my opinion, but I’ve recently been informed that most cities are just that, crowded. Is Chelsea considered a city? I remember it lost the privilege of that title many years ago when I was just a child. It’s a black top jungle out there from what I can make of it.
Welcome to its memoirs.
Hopefully, the days of talking to the walls are over.
People who are alone for extended periods of
time do just that, talk.
Continuously, to a wall . . . or another human being makes no difference. Not in my case anyway. It feels sort of unhealthy. So I’ve made a decision.
Let me put it this way. I had a very animated discussion, on my capacity to have a worthwhile conversation. It wasn’t that I was talking to myself, I just happened to be alone at the time. The outcome came as quite a relief. It was decided without a doubt that I happen to be great company, the life of the party, so what gives?
The first introduction of one of the only male Caucasians in this rooming house came with a knock on my door. “Corinne, I’d like to introduce you to your closest neighbor. “
“Hello” he said, “I have a vacuum cleaner.”
“Hello” I responded “yes, that’s nice, my name is Corinne, and yours?”
“If you need it, I have a vacuum cleaner.” Came his reply.
“Oh do you have a rug?”
“NO!” He glared back at me as if offended.
“Okay, and your name is?” Slam, his door echoed shut in an instant, I stood there amazingly confused. “Nice intro Murph, he really wants me to use his vacuum cleaner is there something wrong with my room? Am I too dusty? Is it the cigarettes?”
“No Corinne, he was just trying to be nice.”
“Oh, okay then, thanks.”
Later, I was to be made aware that Murph had a tendency to sniff doorknobs in his spare time, (maybe once or twice every few hours,) and go through the trash barrels on each floor.
Meanwhile, my closest neighbor is a male prostitute in the Boston area, whom enjoys Heinekens and living in a rooming house with his rent paid in advance. My decision to break out of my shell and be more sociable creature had to be greatly revamped. Now was not the time or place to make new friends. Still I tried.
She . . . adjusts the strap of her bra from her shoulder. It’s black satin edges dig red marks into her ashen skin. She pays no notice. Her eyes wonder, downcast, matching the expression on her lips. And so it goes, night after night, same young girl, same stoop and the same lost expression. No one stops to talk to her, not even the dates that parole the street all hours of the day and night. It gives one pause, and the question emerges. Why is she exempt from the game?
He. . .leans against the mailbox as if guarding its contents. A job each drug dealer gets the privilege of depending on the day, time frame, or his availability. They all look-a-like: baseball hat, shirt with matching shorts, some wear socks, most do not. Not one of them is “white.” And if someone of the white persuasion were to talk to them, instant suspicion engulfs their eyes almost tangible in its ferocity.
She . . . stands in front of the burger joint, hoping to catch someone with an extra square. An older man calls from across the street. She crosses over to him in hope that he smokes a regular brand.
“So how bad is your habit?” he blurts out, unabashed.
“Your habit,” he laughs. “You’re a heroin addict.”
“What the? How the hell? Who says I’m a?“
“Your standing with four heroin addicts, birds of a feather flock together.”
“I’m not standing with anyone, I’m just standing in front of the store hoping to find a cigarette.”
“Well I’d watch where you stand.”
He. . .waits by the door front watching where she stands.
She . . . is found days later, throat slashed, slumped against the door sill. Someone mentioned as they passed how she resembled a pile of deserted clothes left along-side the closed doors of Salvation Army. No one mentions the blood. No one mentions her family. No one knew her real name.
I have to jot down my chicken dinner experience. It’s just too much to bear alone, someone tell me. How does a blind couple bake a chicken? Sincerely, how do they know if it’s cooked? Especially chicken, it’s a dangerous food to eat raw, in any form. Yet, here I am, confronted with a blind couple’s chicken dinner. Um, do I eat it? It’s about all the control I can muster not to ask one of them their culinary secrets. I have a hard enough time already trying to stop this fantasy of an enraged chicken flying down my corridor in route to a daring escape. Do not ask Corinne, Do not ask. Graciously accept their chicken and smile. It doesn’t mean you have to eat it.
See why I have this perpetual need to double check with myself?
And while I’m at it, what the heck is really going on with the gay mans fixation to his vacuum cleaner?
Or Murph’s dire need to stay up all hours of the night, walking the halls and jingling his keys like a dinner bell on the old farmstead?
Who the heck is Cuba? Isn’t it a continent? And, why is his name called from dusk to dawn? Which only makes one wonder . . .
Where the hell are the doorbells? Or, more importantly why don’t we have any?
How about mail? Are we allowed mail? I haven’t received even junk mail for two months.
Is the blind couple the only ones who speak English in the neighborhood? And if so? Isn’t it a damn shame neither one of them can read it?
Why do they seem to be the only people in the building who receive mail?
And the questions continue, the list grows helplessly longer, with no sign of relief, tune in next time when one hears the blind man ask. . .”Do you like pork?”