On the sojourn back to the city of the homeless and the dreamless, I sat next to a shady, mildly attractive man in his mid-thirties. He was wearing a fedora and he smelled of earthy musk. I was both repulsed and attracted to him.
I got the window seat. The bus started to grind along the throughway from Kennedy Plaza and I inhaled his cologne – duly noting that his jeans were the notorious BDG brand. This made him exuberantly less admirable, but it also humanized him.
Three hours go by. Actually, it was more like four and a half. A tear trickled down my cheek as we screeched by East Harlem to West SoHa, before inching down Broadway. I pass 72nd street. My hand grazes against the thigh of the BDG-jean-wearing man. My inner goddess has goosebumps.
We reach Port Authority. I do not ask for the man’s number.
My mother wants me to take a cab, but knowing I will need the extra cash, I opt for the grimy underground. I clench my luggage as I ambulate the turnstiles, seeing poor men play music for their God and poor men preaching for money. Who is to say which is worse?
The subway smells like piss and the people riding it smell like piss and the city smells like piss…so I guess that means I smell like piss. In one hand I retrieve my container of hand sanitizer as I use the other to balance in the subway car while attempting not to touch anything. The woman beside me has a faded leopard coat that smells like mothballs, and she is wearing purple lipstick. She is beautiful, and for a brief moment I question if I am bisexual.
Columbus Circle. I get out and walk to take in the city, with its simultaneous scent of gasoline and cherry blossoms, horse manure and waffles and dinges. I drop off my baggage and head to Greenwich Village.
I am at the intersection of Greenwich Village and Greenwich Street when I meet my old SAT tutor, a man in his late twenties who has a beard because he has no time to shave – he is too busy teaching the unlearned and working on his novel. If his novel is ever published, it will probably only be read on kindles and nooks and iPads. This acknowledgment drips into our overpriced coffee and makes it bitter.
I can feel the free Wi-Fi in the air. It is electric, unlike this night, which runs on rechargeable batteries. We walk to St. Mark’s Place and amidst the plethora of tattoo parlors and piercing shops, I confess my love for him.
We consume each other in front of the bubble tea store, but he has to leave because he must be getting back to his wife now.
My mouth tastes like bitter coffee. Three-dollar slider in hand, I hail a taxi.