Friday, February 26, 2010
The Brooklyn Connection
Everyone is leaving. What does this mean for me? It certainly means inevitable endings. All around me circles are closing, rings finish and roll on out into history finding finality behind me. In the short term it means I get away. Take a trip somewhere. I chose Brooklyn.
When I hear her song it both moves me and inspires jealousy. I'm not that good anymore maybe never was. It's like one talent suffers, wanes, pales and sputters last words as another develops new life. I crave dexterity, want to keep all those balls in the air, but I drop them all like a constant novice. Words acquired, then forgotten, inspiration kindles and swells, then Dead and Rotten. Vacillations between anger, sympathy, resentment, guilt and love plague me and surround this little one. I wonder what his daydreams are like, or if he has them at all. Can he feel sparks, circuits shorting, catalyzing impulses. When he jumps on me, knees first, his beautiful face inches from mine, I do not feel the pain.
I just see love buried in his eyes and curling up around his lips, resting in the rhythmic way he nestles his mohawked head into my armpit. I have that "Motherly Scent," Bashira tells me. He removes items from my lap, a book, my hat, a cd... and replaces them with his head. Just then my own child comes to mind.
Should she be along with me? Guilt. Always guilt. Guilt, overcompensation, burn-out, anger, and resentment, then more guilt (in that order). But I'm always with her. I suspect she needs a break from me too, so she's at Chuck E. Cheese and mama is at a cafe in Brooklyn.
Choice Market to be exact, where several patrons have just witnessed a youth of approximately fourteen years circle the corner a few times then finally snatch the satchel of a bruncher. She was inside ordering a latte and brioche. Inside his mind, he’s Robin Hood, robbing from the rich (they afford overpriced coffee beverages and pastries he can neither spell nor pronounce) and giving to the poor. HIMSELF. The NYPD show up within minutes of receiving the frantic, guilt-ridden call of the boyfriend who was supposed to be watching the pilfered goods, but was instead engrossed in a conversation about a sale on hiking goods at a camping boutique in Ft. Greene.
The police vehicle screeches dramatically to the corner of the scene of the crime, smoke rising from behind its wheels. Everyone including the fat baby with the runny nose and purple leggings looked. “Which way did he go?” The cop yells. “What was he wearing?” The plaid shirt clad boyfriend turns and points up the street.
“He wore a black hoodie and black jeans. He was riding a little blue bike with black handle bars.” No race description provided, none asked for. Was it a given that the criminal was black or was this political correct exchange a product of our assumed post-racial society?
Latte-sipping patrons look on, relieved it wasn’t them. They cracks jokes and say things like “I hope they find it.” One man wonders if the contents of the bag he lifted would be an even compensation for the bike the culprit discarded on a fancy street during his flight from the corner cafe.
I began to contemplate the contents of this bag. A wallet most certainly, probably an iPod (this is always the most heart rending and painful item to part with). “It’s so personal, like looking at someone’s bookshelf,” Bashira says.
“Or like flipping through a photo-album,” I add. Phone, keys, maybe some gum, birth control pill pack, tampons, possibly a stick of natural deodorant--the kind you wear for an hour then wind up funky for the rest of the day. Give me my chemicals over B.O any day.
The reaction of these people was most unusual. It was that of a demographic guilty of gentrification. There was a certain amount of “Oh well” in the atmosphere. Sort of like this the cost of usurping unsavory neighborhoods and bringing in fancy strollers and handbags. This was the price to be paid for attempting to stretch cramped Manhattan into resistant, neighboring boroughs. The fourteen year old fled on foot like a deer victim of urbanization flees back into his natural habitat, the forest. Should he be held to account for his petty and onerous attempts at survival?
In some humorous twist of irony, the victim, a hipster with freckles and a greasy head of lifeless brown hair, who spoke with an Irish lilt, stood holding the handle bars of the abandoned get away vehicle (which the cops had recovered and brought back to the crime scene) ...as if it were a barter.
In Brooklyn overpriced strollers are the status symbol Du Jour. Gentrification brought hipsters and the over-privileged spilling in droves, into Biggie Smalls’ old neighborhood, where they erected shi-shi, fru-fru boutiques, cafes, galleries and gently-used clothing stores pedaling the formally owned, exorbitantly tagged wares of the yuppies for a mere fraction of their original damage. I buy Sael two dresses.
Weekenders pushed $800 Bugaboos, Quinny’s and a myriad other European baby buggies, sipped 1000-calorie coffee concoctions and wore Keen footwear. Then a fourteen year-old comes in all black and steals one of their purses. Welcome to the dark side of gentrification.
But enough of that and back to the boy. At home on the Flatbush brownstone’s second floor, he flails around and screams. Piercing screams, much to his mother’s dismay.
“AAAAYYYEEEEEEE”, “OOOHOOOOWHOOOOOHOO” calls the boy as if he were fascinated with the sound of his own voice. He seems to be testing the limits of his vocal range, seeing if each yell could be louder than the last. “Shut up!” his mother screams.I scan my mind for solutions. More frustration. Autistic children refused to have their woes quelled with promises of treats, story time, fun movies, trips to amusement parks, or McDonald's. Hers were the vain commands of the futile. The exasperated pleading of a mother who has had too much.
“I have to move back to Philly,” she sighs. I nod and look up at the ceiling, knowing she will not.
I love the boy, but flinch nervously when he approaches guarding my breasts and other soft parts. I think he smells my fear. You know...like dogs do? Instead of attacking me, though, he retreats. My heart sinks. What can I do to help? The entertaining of that notion doesn’t last long. Instead I sequester myself and my electronic belongings in a quieter section of the apartment. A sitting room with bay windows, walls the color of store brand vanilla ice cream and faded burgundy carpet. It has just been cleaned the night before so I sleep on it comfortably until I wake up to see a few roaches skittering across the wall and what I’m guessing is a flea from the way it bounced along the baseboard. Gizmo, the mother’s ex-girlfriend’s cat, gives herself a bath, squints her eyes at me and turns around placing her butt an undesirable distance from my face. I frown and rollover. From the other room I hear the beautiful boy jumping on the bed. His mother bellows at the top of her lungs “STOP!” He will not.
This Brooklyn day began beautiful. I woke early, stretched out and went back to sleep. I had bizarre dreams that I can no longer remember. I sat on the stoop and watched a different world unravel before me. I even took a few pictures (see above) I wish I had a spliff--just a small thing...
A woman walking by stops to ask me if the house behind the stoop I’m perched on in my pajamas has any rooms for rent. “I’m sorry, no” I blurt out, immediately regretting not going to find out. Guilt...