food and a beer
The lamp on my desk burns a low-wattage energy efficient bulb that barely cast a dim light across the keyboard. I don’t know if this saves me money or waste my time. I get up to turn on another lamp across from me, on a small bookshelf, one which has a reasonable amount of wattage and when on, brightens up the room in a pleasant yellow glow. I twist at its power switch and pause and look around, assessing the change the light has made. It is not too harsh, which is what I was afraid of. I feared it would burn into the quiet silence I had created. That it would conflict with the faint darkness of my small corner office. The little womb I had made. But it doesn’t. It warms the area a bit; a gentle shine hugs the room. I let this happen for a moment, and then I go back to my desk. Now I can write, I think.
But there is a hunger in me. And a thirst. I think of where I will go while staring at a blank word document. My window is open and a cold breeze pushes in and beneath my oversized sweater I feel chills upon my skin. It is cold out. I look outside my window and see car lights reflecting off the wet street. It rained earlier. In the reflections I see the noises of the city. The corner boys’ bullshitting in front of the bodega. The breaks wheezing under busses as they hit a red light. The neighbors calling to each other from across the street. A jetliner beating across the dark sky. I decide I need a beer and I need some food. I go to grab my jacket.
I catch one of the cats and lift him up and put my face next to his. His patience is thin and he pushes from me, annoyed. He lands on the couch and he sits and stares at me, into my eyes. Then he crawls from the couch to the floor and walks toward me and rubs his head along my shins and purrs. I put on my jacket and as I'm walking to the door he follows me and waits at my feet.
You aren’t going anywhere, I say to him.
The door rattles in the wind of the hallway before I even unlock it. There is a gap between the doorjamb and the door, and it has a good half-inch to sway if the wind hits it just right. So all day it rattles, like ghost fighting to get in. the kitties sit in front of it, hunched low to the ground, waiting for it to open. Its sort of cute, but creepy at the same time. I’m always afraid they know something I don’t. One day a ghost might just get in.
I make sure I have money in my pocket and I open the door and close it and lock it behind me. I sit and stare at the bottom of it, at the gap on the floor beneath the door, to see if his shadow moves. But there is nothing, at least nothing I can see, so I walk downstairs and out into the street. He’ll be in the same spot when I get back, this I’m sure of.
In the bodega a teenager wearing jeans that hang below his butt cheeks is waiting for a sandwich from the guy at the deli. I huge woman stands in front of the beer coolers, her size taking up the entire aisle, talking in whispers on her self phone and flipping aimlessly through the energy drinks. I say excuse me and squeeze pass her and she doesn’t notice even though our bodies scrubbed against one another’s in the tiny space we were afforded. It was almost intimate. I grab a beer and go to the counter, the huge girl on her cell phone now standing in front of the register eyeing the impulse buy candies. The teenager with the sagging pants tells the deli guy to hurry up, and to make sure there is no mayonnaise. The deli guy grumbles something none of us can understand and the register guy shoves the huge girls crap into a paper bag and takes the cash he hands her. He looks at it and frowns.
I’ll get you that other dollar later tonight, that’s just all the cash I got on me. You know imma come back! she says. She says all this while slightly tilting her phone below her lips and covering the mouthpiece with her palm, as if to spare her caller the inconvenience of hearing this particularly unpleasant exchange. The register guy sighs and waves her away and she goes back to her conversation and walks out.
The deli guy comes around and lays a sandwich on the counter, right next to where I placed my beer. The teenager with the sagging pants cuts in front of me and wordlessly puts a five dollar bill on the counter, grabs his sandwich, and leaves. The register guy shrugs at me as if to say, you should have been quicker, what can I do?
I walk across the street with my beer in a brown bag and head into the Caribbean food spot across from my apartment. The wind picks up and the awning in front of the $0.99 store flaps loudly. The guy that stands in front of it nods at me as I walk by and into the food joint.
I’m behind a woman who looks to be of grandmother age, but is probably a great grandmother knowing these kids today. The surveys the buffet spread of island treats. Jerk chicken wings. Barbecue wings. Fried chicken. Oxtail. Red beans and rice. Cornbread. Chicken stew and stewed chicken. Candied yams. Plantains. She looks over each dish as if she has never seen them before, as if she is studying ancient art in a museum, and the pieces are fascinating yet confusing to her and she is filled with so many questions.
She orders five different things and after each one she repeats what it is to the line cook. That’s Oxtail. The line cook nods. Those are stewed vegetables with cabbage. The line cook nods. That’s three pieces of cornbread. The line cook nods.
When she –the line cook— finally comes to me, I order some jerk wings and a large macaroni and cheese. It is a quick and simple decision. She bags my order up; I pay her and leave.
When I get up my stairs and open my door there he still is, this time she’s with him. The kitties. Her tail raises and puffs up in excitement. He jumps on the nearest platform and looks at me expectantly. I pet them both. Letting my hand sweep across their bodies but concentrating mostly on the head and ears. I put my food down and I go back to my computer. Again I feel that the additional lamp truly satisfies the mood of the room. I stare at the blank document I left. I wonder what I'm going to write. I think of my first sentence: