Thursday, December 16, 2010

Under the Arches

They lived together for a while on 3rd Street, between B and C, and in spite of her mother's quiet scepticism for a while they did alright. They lived in a railroad flat on the north side of the street, they got sunlight in the morning and she brought some pretty blue curtains from Mays. He painted the walls, mopped the floors, and at night they made love while the Puerto Rican kids on the corner shouted and laughed.

He wanted to be a painter but he didn't know where to start. He didn't know anyone. He'd take his cardboard portfolio around the city and stare into the windows of the Leo Castelli Gallery on East 77th. Once he saw Franz Kline standing on the corner of Waverly and Broadway, but he didn't dare approach the man. He didn't know what to say, and so he stood there as the lights changed and Kline made his way towards Washington Square. He set up a little easel in the kitchen of their apartment and found a job with the Brooklyn Department of Welfare. On Saturdays they'd walk along the East River, and on Sunday mornings he'd paint.

She missed Texas. She missed the hills, she missed her family. She had never seen junkies before and they scared her. She had never seen garbage piled high on the street. They didn't have a phone in the apartment, they didn't have a television. When he went to work she locked the door behind him. Most days she would go to the library opposite the park and read, it didn't matter what. She would spend whole afternoons in there, oblivious to the comings and goings of the people around her. At four-thirty she would head back to the apartment, doing her best to ignore the city that was so quickly closing in. And when she became pregnant she was terrified, and put off telling him for as long as she possibly could.

He walked. He walked all night and all the next day. He walked all over the city, Inwood and Washington Heights. South Street, Spanish Harlem, he walked through the gray areas between areas, places he didn't know and wouldn't see again. He walked and then he went back home to East 3rd Street and she let him in. They were trying to make it work.

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