Sunday, January 27, 2008

silent night




From the windows that faced South Oxford Street I could see the clock at the top of the Williamsburgh Bank Building, grey in the daylight and glowing in the night. My lighthouse in the heart of Brooklyn. The apartment was always too hot, you couldn't shut the radiators off and they hissed and steamed and I sat there, wearing just underwear, staring at the tower against the fading December day, cassettes of a law book scattered around me but Joey Ramone screaming instead through mammoth JBL headphones plugged into a huge old Heathkit Amp I'd bought used on the street for way too little. It was filled with vacuum tubes and lit up the corner of the room like a mad scientist's laboratory while adding it's own great heat to the situation.

As I stared snow began to drop from the dark clouds and the tower's edges faded behind a white curtain until only the glow of the clock remained, a false red moon, and then, I had switched now to a tape of a friend's band, the snow came much faster and the landmark completely vanished. The street below slipped back into its own time. I leaned against the window, elbows on the center rails, looking down on cars and asphalt made invisible and streetlamps reduced to ancient wattages by the thickness of the crystals in the air.

I heard a knock at the door. An impatient, obviously second or third knock. That surprised me. You had to be let in downstairs here. No direct access and no buzzer system either. No one would just knock unless it was one of the guys who owned the brownstone and lived on the ground and first floors. But, they had become friends, so I dropped the headphones and opened the door. Katie stood there, wrapped in wool, covered with snow. "Oh," she said, "Mark told me you'd be naked and to just come on up. But I guess, not quite." "I can solve that really easily," I told her, waving her in, perhaps putting a finger to the waistband. "Put your pants on Ulster boy, don't be afraid of winter." She paused, let her eyes roll across me. "We're going out into the storm."

I put on clothes, and a sweater, and a jacket and scrounged around until I discovered a misplaced hat and gloves, and we went down the stairs and out the door. The stoop we stood on, and all the buildings left and right, were from the 1840s, and now, that was obvious. There were no sounds, the city had gone into hiding, leaving this path to the past to us alone.

We walked toward the park and climbed the hill. Manhattan, usually a backdrop so close you were sure you could touch it, was gone. I laughed, and kissed her. Then we went back down, walking toward Fulton Street, hardly speaking. The snow was so thick you couldn't see more than a half block in any direction, so buildings suddenly appeared, as if ghosts in a Dickens Christmas tale, and just as quickly receeded. It was perfect.

We walked all the way to the bridge, and out to the middle of the river, where the wind swirled the flakes into van Gogh-Starry Night streaks. "Let's go back and find hot coffee in the Heights," I whispered. "Sure," she said, "but hold onto me first, right here."
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copyright 2007 by Ira Socol - photograph is the Brooklyn Bridge in snow.

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