Michael leans against the rust-encrusted pillar. He, like the El, has seen it all. From Saturday night drunks to woebegone suckers, the city has hardened him. His PhD in Romance languages didn’t grant him success, nor did his comfortable Cambridge upbringing prepare him for sweat-filled days. His depression changed him. Coming to the Bronx changed him. Falling in love with a Brooklyn girl changed him. He lifts heavy crates in Hunts Point for a living. He believes he could change what hasn’t happened yet.
The train pulls into 149th Street. Amid the crowd descending the stairs, the Brooklyn girl comes into view. He can tell by her long auburn hair, particular saunter, and the sound of her heels on the iron steps. She runs toward him. For someone who stands all day at Gimbels, her energy amazes him.
She is also young and single, and middle age is ten light-years away. She kisses him, massaging his biceps. She keeps her sexuality “uptown.” Her “downtown” ride will happen at his walk-up on Willis Avenue.
Once in his apartment, the Brooklyn girl kicks off her shoes and throws her bag on a nearby chair. The Bronx heatwave is no different from Brooklyn’s. She asks Michael to open the bedroom window. She removes her stockings before sitting on the fire escape. The large Ailanthus tree offers shade from the red-tinted sun. Michael hands her a Schaefer beer from the icebox and takes one for himself. He moves the black rotary fan to face the window. The breeze, shade, cold beer, and warm lips are prescriptions for love. Time is slowing down. It’s Friday night and they both have tomorrow off.
The roar of the El mellows. They drink and defy etiquette. Michael offers the Brooklyn girl another beer and she accepts. She is happy now, living in the Village—far from her abusive and strict Catholic family. When she was a kid, Uncle Charlie molested her. He was her father’s brother and no one would believe that he would hurt his niece. She hates selling and the disrespect from floor walkers and customers. She plans to study art history at City College and maybe, become a teacher. Michael is sweet yet secretive. His accent and mannerisms show refinement. In spite of the economy, he could do better. Perhaps he needs encouragement. She believes she could change what hasn’t happened yet.
They share a cigarette. They share another beer. They share their secrets, stripping away years of doubt and disillusion. As they watch the sunset, Michael hugs the Brooklyn girl. They hear the roar of the El again. They finish their beer before going inside.
Patricia Carragon’s publication credits include The Avocet, BigCityLit, Bear Creek Haiku, CLWN WR, Clockwise Cat, Danse Macabre, Drunk Monkeys, Home Planet News, Inertia, Lips, Levure littéraire, Long Island Quarterly, Maintenant, Tribe Magazine, Yellow Chair Review, and others. She has two forthcoming books: Cupcake Chronicles (Poets Wear Prada) and Innocence (Finishing Line Press). She hosts the Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in-chief of its annual anthology. She is an Executive Editor for Home Planet News Online.