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no invitation

We are at a 3 year old's birthday party in the back room of a cafe. Music is pumping from a tiny speaker. Balloon animals are popping, and waving in the air. A man in a yellow dinosaur costume dances wildly. Parents snap pictures with satisfied smiles on their faces.

A little girl approaches gingerly and stands in the doorway, straying from her parents somewhere inside the restaurant. She cannot be more than three. It must be hard to ignore all of the noise coming from this room packed with celebration. There is a perfect little pony tail at the back of her head. She hesitates, as one foot poises in the air and then rests back down. How to understand that she was not invited. How to understand the laughter, the loose jumping bodies, the presents piled high on the window. None of this connects to her. There is a little plate of food waiting for her back there, in the quiet restaurant. Maybe a warm bowl of soup, thick with noodles. I watch her for some time.

That night, her empty e…

pictures (some from the windows)

E calls in the middle of the night.
I answer, tripping over the sheets in the tiny room as a low wind whistles through the half-open window. She is shouting, and I cannot make out any words. Impulses kick in as adrenaline chokes my ears.
"I got a perfect five!" She shouts, above the children on the playground.
"Woho." I say, and relax against a luggage bag.
"It was only two or three of us that got fives." She tells me, not shouting now.
"What subject?" I ask.
"Handwriting." She says.
"And remember how yours was not so good a few weeks ago?" I tell her. "But you did your homework."
"Pop, you don't have to tell me." She says, after a moment. "I know."
"Go play." I tell her. "I'll call you when it is morning here."

I slide the window down to just a crack and go back to bed.

The room phone rings. A message is left. The 7/11 around the corner will be open for two more hours if I want to buy sandwiches or a flashlight. N turns in her sleep, but does not wake.
I dress quietly, shoving the Leica in one pocket.

Outside the streets are as silent as I expected them to be, punctuated by police cars that drift around corners. The taxis are still hammering around, splashing and gunning their engines. I jaywalk every street, ignoring the lights. I go north first, and pass hundreds of boarded up windows and sidewalk delivery doors weighted down with plastic and sand bags. Balthazar is open, and the pastries are all fresh. I breathe in marzipan, and hot tea, chocolate and coffee. A smile plastered on my face, I thank them for being open, balancing my cappuccino in one hand, the almond croissants already shoved in the other pocket.
N would not want a cold coffee.

The wind returns making plastic sheets on a half-built building snap in angry bursts. The supermarket I walked fifteen blocks to is closed. I see empty shelves inside, a lone orange rests in the middle of an aisle. It looks like the set of a tv show, post apocalypse. A cop car sides up to me, as I stand out of the rain sipping already cold coffee.
"Jubilee on Broadway and Howard is open." The lady officer tells me.

The rain has died out. I wonder if N is waking up. I realize she would like tea more than anything else.

The streets are glowing in Chinatown. I smell smoke, wondering how a place could be on fire in this pre-hurricane hour. It is a storefront, a makeshift Buddhist temple burning incense. I see a woman moving behind my reflection in the windows. Everything is yellow.

I buy a bag of steamed pork buns on Mott Street, realizing this is exactly what I would be doing if I still lived here.

Kam Man is open, but half of the lights are off. I crane my neck, looking to see if people are at the registers. Two women are there, and they wave at me. One comes to the door, turning a key, asking what I am looking for.
"Tea." I announce.
"Tea downstairs." She says. "Hold on."
She fishes a flashlight out from behind the counter, and leads me down into darkness.
"If you have tea, then everything will be fine." I say.
She laughs a little, nodding her head.
The lights click on. I find a box of Earl Grey, and realize there are no cups in the room. I find two bowls, decorated with cranes and deer and a Santa Claus looking Buddha.

The pork buns taste magnificent, as the rain paints my face and the wind flips my collar around. I do go to Jubilee, and buy peanut butter and preserves, bottles of water, some ham, some bread, some mustard.

N is still sleeping.
I call E, and she chatters on and on about various doll characters. She shows me the page that has a big red five on it. She says she misses me, but that she is ok. I say the same. I tell her I found her a diary with a lock on it, just like she asked me to. I tell her about the storm, and how maybe the computer and the phones may not work for  a day or so. She nods in silence, her chin twisted in thought.
"Be careful, Pop." She tells me.
"Ok." I say.
"Just take pictures from the windows." She explains.


Oh how I love that you're so nearby, M. And oh I wish I had a pork bun!
liv said…
Oh, on this continent...I wish I'd known. I would have sent the bicycle bell.

Be safe. Take lots of pictures. Yours are beautiful even behind rainy glass. Be safe.
Mely said…
So nice to know you are so close by. Now, I feel like pork buns.

Take care,

Mrs. Munchkin said…
I pray you are safe post hurricane sandy.
Marco North said…
exhausted, and overwhelmed we are indeed safe and sound.

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