I am supposed to be finishing an article on sofas and flooring right now, so I can write an essay on a 17th-century play later, so I can write an essay for Theory of Rhetoric tomorrow, so I have time to research and write a 15-pager on the observer in Blood Meridian for Friday. I'm sitting at my kitchen table, which has been up against the livingroom window since we moved it for Friendsgiving. I'm surveying 99th Street. The massage therapy clinic, Pagan Tattoo, Mill Creek Animal Hospital, the bakery, and the gas station ("ICE ATM PHONE CARDS) are all about to lose two very faithful observers.
We made breakfast this morning to eat by the window as we have done countless times, our apartments overlooking the street from two storeys up, cresting the lilac tree in the front yard like ships. Dylan told me about a man he's been watching walk a huge shaggy dog to the cafe and back, every day for four years. I've only been here for one.
Isn't it funny how we are probably fixtures in strangers' lives? Perhaps our actions become predictable and comforting--someone else knows even before we notice that we always leave the house at 4 pm, when sitting at a computer becomes unbearable and we go for coffee partly in order to put on pants and maybe talk to the girl at the till--that we get home late on Saturdays because we go for Vietnamese food after class, late on Mondays because of a weekly seminar. If we give up these habits abruptly, some stranger finds himself disoriented.
Wouldn't we would hold on to these fixtures if we could? There is an old woman, impeccably dressed, so hunched over that I wonder whether she ever knows that it's safe to jaywalk across 99th Street. Dylan always said she was the lady from Kieslowski's Three Colors films. I haven't seen her in months.
Apparently the man with the dog used to wear jackets like nylon marshmallows. I don't remember that. But I tell time in the morning by whether or not the bakery sign is turned on. I spent all summer eating my dinner on the front steps, the traffic almost too loud for reading, but almost every night, someone I knew stopped to talk to me.
We're moving today. I still haven't knocked on the door of the luthier who seems to live in his shop beside the old gutted metal bar. When I walk past after midnight on my way to the Empress, he's still there, hunched over a bench or just surfing the internet, his room lit with gooseneck work lamps. By three the windows are dark and covered with cardboard. I daydream about showing up with a couple of beers, introducing myself, asking about his life. Is he getting away with living in his commercial space? Does he make any money? Does he want to?
The woman who works in the front of the bakery warned me that I wouldn't want to carry a purse with me on 118th Ave. Maybe I am naive but I am not worried.