Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Days

Gypsy girl from Turkey wakes up every morning and feels that today is like all the rest. She wears a red robe around the apartment, it looks like silk but was bought in Wall Mart for five dollars. She smokes in the balcony and underlines her favorite parts of “The Stranger.” The summer sun makes her red robe look shiny like those worn by movie stars. Gypsy girl from Turkey left her town and her father because she wanted to be a movie star in New York City. She now wears short black dresses with ruffles; she walks in platform shoes and has two shiny diamond piercings in her wrists. She takes Ballet lessons, voice lessons, acting lessons.

We walk together to the subway stop in the evenings, after our Ballet class. Sometimes a summer breeze from the Hudson blows in between her legs and she opens them, they are long and they must have resisted many men who attempted to…because in her home town, life was worth nothing. I heard that her father would drink and lock her inside a bathroom. I also heard that her father would drink and fall asleep with his cigarette lighted, and that he would start fires in the house. I listen to her stories and feel empathy, but this city has left me no strength to feel pity or compassion for anyone anymore.

Gypsy girl from Turkey left her town to be an actress in New York City and enjoys talking to me because I am from Argentina. This means that we both speak broken English. This evening before class she fixed my hair in a tight bun, and offered me some hand lotion. We now walk down seventy eight street and men turn around to stare at her long legs. We get inside the six train and sit together. I don’t talk much and mostly listen. She tells me about her latest purchase of underwear that says OPEN DAY AND NIGHT. She makes a joke about this and later asks me if I go to the tanning bed and if I like sex on top. Her anecdote reminds me of a confession by another friend of mine who recently told me, also while riding the subway, that she doesn’t know what to do to get her husband to pay attention to her. She has tried green underwear, red shimmery underwear, leopard printed underwear! I don’t understand underwear. But overall I don’t see why friends would ask a single person what underwear to buy or if she enjoys having sex on top. And I don’t understand why people always begin these conversations with me while riding public transportation.

The subway stops at Union Square and is delayed for thirty minutes. Passengers begin acting less and less patient. A man decides to express his anger by cursing loudly in my train but most people ignore him. A drunken lady is walking through the wagons singing out loud, her pants wet from her own urine, but most people ignore her. A homeless man is asking for some spare change, but most people ignore him.

Thirty minutes go by and passengers in the crowded subway get even more impatient, but gypsy girl from Turkey appears to ignore the crowd and enjoy my company. She opens her leather bag and puts on more hand lotion. She offers me more hand lotion. I see a big stack of twenty dollar bills rolled inside her bag and wonder how is it that she makes a living in New York City. I find out that she studies philosophy at Hunter College, and that her favorite subject is Ethics. I ask her how is it that she can afford to live in Manhattan, and she tells me that she has “Sugar Daddies” who help pay for her Ballet lessons, and for her acting classes.

I tell her that she is such a New York story, and she smiles at me like this is the best compliment anyone ever gave her. She smiles like if she just heard something she was eagerly waiting to hear. So I tell her that I will write about her. She hugs me good bye and I transfer to the seven and head back to Queens with fingers still greasy from her hand lotion.

Back home I find out in the local news that there was another suicide attempt in the Union Square Station tonight, and this is why our subway was delayed for so long. I wonder if this would have made a difference to those who complained. Probably not. I think of the violence in this city. I think of the racism I see everyday inside my subway wagon, not as much between whites and blacks, but rather and so bluntly between Asians and Indians, Dominicans and Mexicans, Indians and Chinese. I think of my latest conversation with another friend of mine who recently got into an accident and is required to wear a brace covering her entire upper body. How she confessed to me her biggest fear: “I fell yesterday on the street, and was afraid somebody would just step over me!” And that famous line in “Heart of Darkness” comes back like a song from the frozen sea. I remember the horror and then I realize that this world can be pretty sad, no matter where you go, no matter what big city or what small town.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever see you again. I wonder if you ever feel any empathy. But I don’t blame you for feeling nothing but hundreds of neurons firing through your brain. I don’t blame you anymore. I blame this world which can sometimes be a sad place, no matter where you go. I think of the frozen sea and write about gypsy girl from Turkey instead.