Day 306: The Key To Tudor City
I’m running late again. But I know I’ll have to wait forever. The air is surprisingly clear as I shuffle down 42nd street. But looking deep into the horizon, I still can’t see Queens. A signifier that the air quality is still not up to snuff. Later on, in the waiting room, I’ll read that it’s due to the fires in Oregon and Canada. “Fires in Canada. What a concept“, I’ll think to himself. But for now, I shuffle a little faster, as long as my lungs can take it.
In my low stepping, I kick a key on the ground. Still clean and usable-looking. If I weren’t in a hurry, I’d pick it up and try to solve the mystery. I would also do it if I was 20 years younger. I’d do a lot of things if I was 20 years younger. A utility van sits parked on the side of the street, every door ajar. Without warning or anticipation, the stereo starts blasting familiar trumpets.
Rico lost the bet. He’s fine with the fact that he lost the bet, but he’s not fine with the fact that it seemed rigged in the first place. He had never been to that deli before, how was he actually supposed to know how evenly they would distribute the mustard? But a bet is a bet and Rico is a man of his word. He puts his hard hat on, grunts and the guys take their turns slapping it.
The trumpets start playing. Suddenly, he’s much more pumped than he thought he’d be. He doesn’t even like the Rocky movies, but you can’t deny the intensity of the theme song. He knows his cue. And when it comes, he jumps out of the van.
The music fades, but he can still hear it as he rhythmically jogs up the stairs. It’s definitely a lot steeper than he thought it would be, but the song in his head and in his ears fuels him. Also, he had 2 too many Red Bulls at lunch. Barely breaking a sweat, he makes it to the top and hops around valiantly. The kids in the playground don’t even notice, already desensitized to the crazies of the city at such a young age. He makes his trip back down the stairs, arms raised in victory.
When the hardhat leaves her view, she shakes her head and focuses her attention back to the playground. She’s wasting time. There’s still so much to do. She needs to do laundry. She needs to pick up the dry cleaning. She needs to figure out what’s for dinner. She needs to pick up the things to cook for dinner. She needs to cook the dinner from the things she picked up. She needs to eat the dinner that she cooked. She needs to call Brad. Fuck, she doesn’t want to call Brad. Why is she here? She needs to be prepping the guest bedroom. Why does she feel the need to go to the playground every day? It’s been 15 years. She needs to pick up prescriptions. She needs to get an oil change. She needs to find out from the oil change place what the clicking sound is. She needs to get up. She needs to make reservations for Saturday. She needs to
He would ask her for directions, but she seems lost in thought. So he goes back downstairs, past a group of chuckling construction workers and further down the sidewalk. That’s when he sees it. Glistening in the hidden sun. A shiny new key without a home. He picks it up and studies it. Where could it go? Or rather, where did it come from? Did a scorned lover toss it to the ground after a messy breakup? Was a kid left to be in charge of it and fail miserably? Was it the product of some sort of freelance key maker that makes keys and leaves them on the ground for no reason? Or was it picked up by somebody like him, who pondered it’s origin for a while before ultimately giving up? He wants to try it in the first door he sees, but he doesn’t want to look suspect. So he keeps walking, thinking about the world of opportunity or disappointment that the key holds. Lost in thought, his sandals splash into a puddle.
His job is to guard the puddle. It’s not actually that, but sometimes, it feels like it is. He’s there to direct traffic, but there’s no traffic to direct. Nobody goes down this service road unless they’re really lost. Also, the whole area is blocked off by cones, tape and his pickup truck. What a life. Getting paid to do an inanimate object’s job. While those objects are still there, probably doing a better job. So what is he guarding? He supposes that he should be protecting the cones, making sure people don’t move them for some reason.
A suspect-looking dude comes up, eyeing the cones carefully. Showtime. This asshole thinks he can just take the cones and move them to a different location, probably to set up some sort of obstacle course for his rollerblading videos. Good luck, Bub. Not on his watch. But to his surprise, the slacker doesn’t even touch the cones. He was just being mindful of the puddles, so they don’t ruin his Birkenstocks. Or at least that’s what he wants him to believe, he believes. Pfft. A fat guy that rollerblades. What a country.
Must be good work if you can get it, guarding a puddle. This area feels familiar but I know that I’ve never been here before. I’ve only watched it from afar, up above, for hours at a time. I might’ve been watching the people that are sitting on the benches right now. I can’t tell. I was too far away, I didn’t have my nocs and it was a whole 3 years ago. Those bench dwellers are probably long gone. Oh well. Good riddance. I navigate the rusted vending machine with ease and try to figure out where I’m supposed to stand.
It’s a rather dumb idea to have a heliport right next to the ferry dock. It just adds to the patient chaos. Or at the least, makes it difficult to have a phone conversation. I remember watching those helicopters, the day everything fell apart. I wanted so badly to jump into one of them and fly far away. But instead, I just watched them from above, just like I did to the ferries all day, every day, for months. I thought about the people standing in line. What their day must’ve been like, what their hopes and fears are. When you’re looking from the outside, the possibilities are endless. And now, I’m standing in that line, while someone just as scared and lost as I was is probably looking down on me. I am suddenly one of the envied. I get to sail away from it all.
I relish in that moment, but then realize that I’m holding the line up. Embarrassed, I stumble to the gate, put my mask on, get my ticket scanned, get my bearings straight, get my seat occupied and before I know it, I’m staring out the window. Up to the 18th floor. I can’t tell if anyone’s there, so I decide not to wave, as that would be creepy. But it feels hauntingly symbolic. I spent so much time wishing I could get on this boat and even after we left the penthouse, I needed to get away from it metaphorically. And as the boat starts to move, the buildings suddenly become less symbolic. It’s just a part of the skyline. Many tragedies and triumphs have happened in all of those buildings and there’ll be many more to come. But for now, it means nothing. She’s good now. I’m on my way to being good. And as we pull away further, I notice a small cluster of quaint brick buildings. They’ve probably been there for centuries, but I’m just now noticing them. They even have their own sign. It reads,
The fuck is that supposed to mean?