Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fourth Avenue

The rain was whipping up Fourth Avenue, and the air was brittle with salt and impending cold. But here on this third floor it was crazy hot as the radiators sizzled. Everybody was awake, the kind of wound up anticipation to be expected. I was too, certainly, but I was working on staying in character, so I was pretending to sleep, lying face down on one of the beds, wearing nothing but Irish flag colored bikini underwear, my arms stretched out above my head, as I breathed the smell of my own sweat.
When I had found my way here an hour ago after the run through the chill wet streets from the Smith-Ninth Street Station, unexpected routes on both trains and streets, slipping through the narrow alley alongside the Bodega around the corner, climbing the fence and then through the stair window of this place, I'd been soaked to the skin. As I took in the team that would cover me tonight, and make all the collars, I peeled my jeans, my jacket, my shirts, my socks off, spreading them out on the old porcelain topped kitchen table stuck next to one of the overheated radiators. There was nothing I was wearing, nothing I was carrying, which would, I sure hoped, suggest to anyone that I might be a cop. The others were dressed for other purposes.

I'd stripped, to try to get warm and dry, spent about fifteen minutes talking in whispers to my Lieutenant and the Sergeant who was leading the sniper team while those here who did not know me wondered who the fuck this weird deep cover guy was. "I don't get these kids," one older cop said, "I mean, what's with the Italian flag panties? Is he a fag or what?" "Irish flag you color blind moron," I heard Jimmy say behind me, "and he might be a fag or he might not but don't think he's gonna fuck someone who looks like you." Jimmy was good people. You have to know, when you have a job like this, who the few people are you can trust absolutely. Jimmy was one of those. Frankie was another. Sergeant Keneally, especially when he had me covered with his rifle, was a third. The rest of the room really didn't matter to me. And I wasn't going to put wet shit back on to make them feel better about me. So I decided that I needed to slip away, and faked my pass out on the bed, separating my brain from the room.

Twenty minutes passed, occasional bits of talk bouncing through my attempts to shutter my head. "Look at that mook," I heard an unfamiliar voice say, "sound fucking asleep, dreaming of getting fucked in his little bikini ass." "Probably what he's dreaming," Frankie answered, "but he ain't asleep. You asleep Mook?"

"Shut the fuck up," I mumbled to the guy I knew always shadowed me, the guy who kept me alive day in, day out, and went back to convincing myself that I was actually sleeping. I tried to tell myself that I was dreaming of an icy day in a pub atop the Dublin Mountains, Johnnie Foxx's, with snow squalls spinning past the windows. The picture of solitude, of silence, was what I was trying to hold on to, but I couldn't. I shifted, it was hot enough in here. I saw myself lying on a beach, maybe Rockaway, sweat and salt and baby oil mixing in the air, the sky above such pure blue. Maybe...

I wasn't scheduled to head out, to start the game, for another six hours. I needed to be here, of course, but I needed to be anyplace but here as well. It was one of those things. It was a sense of nowhere to hide that had taken over, eyes closed fantasy being the one escape, but it remained an incredibly dangerous escape.

The rain was hitting the roof, mixing in a chaotic sound wall with the conversations, the television, the feet on the floor, the opened cigarette packs, the cheap lighters flaring, the citywide radio channel burbling with Emergency Services calls. As it rolled in, in my head, the beach on the Atlantic morphed into the crowded soundscape of a summer night along a salt water marsh. Just a step further in from the sea, as Jamaica Bay breathed peacefully. I took that and let it hold me.

The salt marsh was a safer place than the mountain snow, at least if the sounds swirling would not go away.  There were a few moments, maybe ten minutes, not sure, when the surrounding noise, whatever I was turning it into, was mixing with the voices and faces of this case. There were lots of faces, I'd been in this character for two months now, and, yeah, I knew these "targets" - targets were what they were and had always been - I knew these "targets," I might have even trusted these "targets" better than most of the people surrounding me now, but that's the way the brain works.

And then, then I did fall asleep.

The dreams left the fears behind for right now. They left the lies behind. And the guilt. They left that clock ticking in the ears, eyes, and hearts of all the others in this odd hide out, and probably with the rest of the cast of characters, all those out on the streets between here and the canal who were prepping for that false play I had given them. All around the clocks ticked toward 10:30.

But I lay outside those gears of time for as long as I could.

copyright 2012 by Ira David Socol

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