Together in the morning.

9 Mar

This morning was heavy with humidity and low-hanging clouds and that color of green that portends an ill wind. I stepped out past the smoking door man to grab a cup of coffee at 6AM. I had not slept.

The early hours around Times Square West, as my neighborhood has become, are a flurry of scatterbrained activity. There are a few like me, craving caffeine. We walk quickly, avoiding signs and traffic lights, as the crow flies even, to our deli of choice. We wear baseball caps and eyeglasses, props we will dispense with after a good hot shower. Some poor schlubs have begun the morning schlepp to their desks already. I look for the look of determined ladder-climbing in their eyes but all I see are the hollow cavities beneath the cliff of their brows. The hierarchy of the animal kingdom is visible in their attire. Ties for execs, pique polo shirts for the lesser managers. Women in suits and sneakers are not as extinct as you might think. They are just semi-nocturnal. They trod, all of them, most of them with ear buds and a playlist entitled “Get Me Through The Day” rotating through their sleepy heads. More recently and troubling, the Meth Amphetamines, a group of small superhumans, have returned in greater number.

The Meth Amphetamines add a certain tension to the landscape. In my youth, I would occasionally tune my guitar too high and the E-string would snap. The Meth Amphetamines are tuned too high. I’m always waiting for one to slice across my unshaven cheek. They have been up for days. They do not eat. Their eyes are like the tarsiers of the Philippines, impossibly wide and darting along with their irregular quickened heartbeats. They move quantumly. One moment they are on your left, the next moment they are down the block. One senses that all around deals are being made, drugs are being parsed, panic is being fed, and averted, and all of it is magic, sleight-of-hand, as one knows it is going down but moving way too quickly for we mortals to see.

The one constant of the pre-morning morning is the quiet. The mellow, soft, noiseless street that in any other town would look crowded, but here in the West of Times Square, it is an absolute prairie to these urban eyes and ears.

This morning, that changed. A female Meth Amphetamine crept up behind me on Eighth Avenue. I felt her presence, but could not locate her in my periphery. She was jumping lanes the way electrons jumps shells when excited. And then she let loose with the shriek of a Harpie. I turned and caught a glimpse. She was tiny, wiry, and wired, dressed in the filthy rags that were holding her bones together. Her left hand darted around her face, her mouth, and her nose, as though she were being invaded by something horrible and invisible. She stopped right in the middle of the avenue.

“Echo!” she screamed with unmitigated terror.

Up and down the avenue, all around me, under me, over me, “Echo!” the wail continued. It was so frenzied, so full of need, that I thought she would break right in front of and behind me. From storefront to storefront she hopped and hoped, looking for an answer, looking for what she lost, the answer to her plea, her friend, for whatever that was. And then the mountain of Manhattan graced her. From what sounded like 39th Street, I heard the faint but equally frenzied response, “Here! I’m here!” Echo had found the other half of her voice. They would meet on 42nd Street somewhere, I supposed. And all would be well. For the moment.

It is hard to be a drug addict. Mornings are green and nobody wants you on their street and few people try to notice you unless they have been in your shoes. It is exhausting and full of dread. It takes the strength of a demigod. And the only joy in your life is when you find against all odds another like you in a cavern of sadness and together maybe you can score just one more bag of peace of mind, together, because that is all you really wanted in the first place: together in the morning.

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