There was a motorcycle lying on its side in the street, but we went out anyway, which I know, I know, is stupid. But Bear was like, “I’ll go, you wait here,” and I was basically like, “I’ll die with you!” and then I just ran into the street, with the stop sign slapping frantically and the wispy potted trees next to our building bending all the way over, like they were doing yoga. The wind hit me so hard, I dove into the nook of a boarded-up building, where there’s usually a bar, dragging Bear after me.
The East River had washed up the street, all the way up past the coffee shop with the exotic roasts.
Everything was eerie and glistening wet and dark. It was supposed to be somewhere around high tide, 7:30 pm. Two dolls on a string whipped back and forth overhead, where someone had tossed them over a power line, mocking the shoe tradition or playing with it. I tried to get a picture and Bear yanked me out of the street.
A shop door was flung open by the wind, the glass shattered.
“Can you shut it?” a guy yelled from a window, and Bear stopped it with a cement block.
“You’re a good man!” the guy yelled.
“Take care!” I yelled inanely back.
“This isn’t safe,” I said to Bear.
“Should I take you back?” he said.
“Let’s just go to the bridge.”
There were other people there, hoodies pulled up, like mine. We were all lumpy shapes in the dark, with the river washing right up around our ankles. It had swallowed the park and it coursed down the road. No one said anything to each other. We just watched it. It surrounded a sign and a phone booth. Someone was smoking. An ambulance sloshed around the corner and then paused for a long time, like it was waiting for a tragedy. We were asking for it.
(that’s the Manhattan Bridge, above)
“That’s enough,” I said, and we went back, ducking around corners in a neighborhood that looked like it had been abandoned after war. Maybe there would soon be zombies.
We walked up seventeen flights of stairs and I thought my heart was going to explode and I thought that it was a really bad place for that to happen, because Bear would have to try to carry me down, and he’d be panicking, and even if the ambulance was still by the bridge, it’d take forever to get to a hospital. The bridges are shut down. The wind is pounding the shingles off buildings.
The lights flickered in the lobby.
Back in the apartment, we gathered candles and filled water bottles. We looked up photos, and it’s much, much worse in other places. Connecticut and Atlantic City and before that, Cuba. The water is in people’s homes. It’s carrying people’s histories away.
I want to enjoy this—the forced rest, the romantic potential, the drama—but I’m scared. That wind out there was not joking around. It was throwing things. It was relentless.
I kept saying the same thing, accidentally. “This is for real.”
It sounded dumb, but maybe there’s something to it.
Bear said, in the kitchen, “It’s good to be reminded of how fragile the city is.”
I think I can’t believe how fragile the city is. New York City feels like this whole secure, locked-off world to me. I walked through its mile-high gates four years ago and they shut behind me and that was that.
New York is always buzzing, rushing, vaulting forward, towards the promise of a fancy, gleaming future. But outside my window, the Manhattan Bridge has gone dark. There are no cars, there is no progress. The subway isn’t rumbling eternally over it. It’s dead still, a lumbering dinosaur of a structure, almost steampunk, mechanical and shadowed.
Now I am sitting here in the living room as Minute the cat chases the ball around her scratching pad. Around and around, because the ball sits in a circular groove and she’ll never be able to get it out. It seems a little sad, but she looks cheerful. The financial district has gone dark. The usually wastefully well-lit billboard outside my window is dark, too, and it leaves a hole in my view. I can tell which buildings in the neighborhood have lost power. I was watching the local news on my laptop for a while and then it cut out, just like in a movie where the aliens are about to attack. In that movie, the front of this building would be suddenly ripped off. That actually happened, on 14th street. The whole front of a building fell off.
Bear is asleep. It’s past midnight. I feel totally alone, which is sort of stupid. I’ve been off all day. We should be cuddling and watching movies and having sex and laughing a lot, cooped up together in our little cubby in this apocalyptic city. But I feel distracted. The ceiling in the bathroom keeps creaking and creaking, and rattling. It sounds dangerous. The world feels dangerous right now. I guess because it actually is.
And I feel like I have no idea what to do with myself.
(a mural in my neighborhood, creepy and awesome in the weird dark)
So I check Facebook, where everyone is posting that they’ve lost power. And Twitter, where everyone is sending prayers to the NYU hospital where the backup generator failed and they’re bringing the NICU and ICU patients down nine flights of stairs and into ambulances. Oh god, I am so compulsively thankful to not be one of them, and to not love one of them. Thank god. But at the same time I think about Bear and how he needs insulin to survive, and it scares me so much I am floored by it. I want to read a hilarious, riveting book and never stop. I want there to be a fascinating TV show. I want to turn something on and turn my brain off and disappear into someone else’s story. Which I think I try to do a lot. Because it sucks so much to remember that everyone is exactly the same and we’re all so hopelessly sensitive and we all have this thin, taut skin stretched over plaited muscles and snappable bones underneath. And it’s kind of a miracle every moment that we are breathing and moving and thinking and complaining about how we aren’t famous enough and don’t make enough money and aren’t where we’d thought we’d be at this point, when we used to imagine ourselves at this point, back when we were seventeen and didn’t know much.
I can’t sleep. The wind swings the rain around in swirls and silvery swaths, like flags waving come here, no, go back! Go back! Because I can’t see the city, I wonder what’s beyond it. The ocean, I guess, somewhere. That’s what’s pouring in. It’s all this water from somewhere else. Manhattan always looks like it owns the water, like the water is small and meaningless and casual. It’s decorative– there to be pretty. But today the news anchors are talking about the tides, because suddenly the tides matter, suddenly the water is bigger than the city. And it makes me feel like maybe the city was never as big as I thought, after all. Maybe it was always small, compared to the things that surround it. With all the lights out, it looks like it isn’t even there. And I can’t remember why I came here in the first place. What I thought I would become. Why I thought I’d change so much and become this slick, impressive person. When actually, I’m just thin skin stretched over plaited muscle and snappable bones.
(the carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park, a few blocks away from where I live. source)
* * *
I hope everyone is OK!! Please be OK, everyone! Let me know how you are and what’s going on in your neighborhood.
Unroast: Today I love the way I feel when I look down at myself dressed in a white cotton dress that I wear as a nightshirt.
22 Responses to “new york city goes dark and the river comes up my street”