This City I’m not kidding. I’m dying in this city. I was a prude when thunder struck and gave us memory of spring. But now I’m sick of eating garbanzo beans saving for rent so goddamn high even last year’s ghetto has a waiting list. It’s been too hot to go outside this summer. The cats long abandoned by breakups and unrenewed leases snore under the dumpster, ignoring rats swimming for cigarette butts floating like dead minnows in green pools that stay deep without rain. There’s a bum on my block I see sometimes. He sits on an orange crate and doesn’t ask for money when Bushwick crawls home after last call. He doesn’t ask for money at noon when Germans ask him to point out Roberta’s on a map. He doesn’t have time to hustle. He’s too busy making drum loops on his cell phone. I said hi to him once and he introduced me to his brother-- another bum named J Bird. He was chewing his bottom lip and told me “The pigeons here eat better than most people. they’re fat as turkeys, stuffed on the best pizza.” J Bird was an expert on pigeons because he made all his crack money off of them. He said he crippled the birds with a stick and sold them (boxed by the dozen) down in Chinatown. An hour later the Chinese would put them on the special menu as all you can eat squab. J Bird told me he must have killed a million pigeons. But he never ate one. “They’re too dirty,” he said. I thought about the things I’d done to pay my rent in New York. All the bags I carried and the times even the tips couldn’t make my back feel better. You know you’re dying when you envy the pigeons. Beaten up eaten shit out done. They tried to do that to me, too. In those hotels I clocked in every day. A servant with no chains. They tried to do that to me, too. And they came close. I would sit with the housekeepers on my break and wonder “Why don’t they just finish me off?” It was my smile I think. I kept it on no matter what. Even when they asked me to get them ice to touch their wives to touch them when we both knew there was no tip coming. I kept the smile on and they saw they could take my back and my time but they couldn’t take my heart. I either stopped it from beating or hid it very well. Sometimes I had to pinch myself to see if I was actually alive. I spent most of my shifts flipping between murder and suicide. Always one call away from telling my mother goodbye. But then it would end like it ended every day. The moon always low and the garbage piled so high you could climb it for perspective. I studied it all. It meant my freedom. It all did. Even the rats silhouetted at the base of the moon. They were mine, too. We were all part of the city's refuse.
Scott Laudati is the author of Hawaiian Shirts In The Electric Chair (Cephalo Press). Visit him on social media @scottlaudati