LETTER FORTY-FOUR

March 13, 2017
A Café On Broadway, 10:30am

DEAR FRIEND,

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote you about the view from a Starbucks window in spring. This is my follow-up to that letter. A year later.

I’m trying to remember what we talked about… croissants and buttered-noodles? Does that sound familiar? It was something like that… I remember you had eaten something gross, but the specific details of what that gross-thing was are escaping me at the moment.

Anyway, here is my now: I’m sat at a round marble-top café table sipping a small cup of very burnt coffee. Black t-shirt, black jeans—almost the exact same as how I was dressed a year ago, that much hasn’t changed—but my hair is shorter, oh! and I’ve grown a beard—well, as much of a beard as I can grow (so barely more than soft blond stubble). In this last year I’ve written some couple hundred pages of new work, and yet I feel hardly any closer to finishing my Great American Novel... It’s a long slow walk, this foolish career I’ve picked. The café I’m in just started playing some very French music, (gentle accordion, you know the type…makes you think of waltzing by a river and girls in yellow dresses). I’m by the window, sitting in sunlight, watching people pass on the street. The air in this café smells like bagels and newspapers. There are a thousand people on the street. They’re still all bundled up, but they’re starting to look hopeful about the warmer weather. See them there, beautiful young people, their breath catching and visible in the air as they walk slowly with their hands deep in their pockets. Look, over there, on the corner by the Duane Reade at 111th, a group of six kids (maybe 9-years-old) in bright-coloured puffy jackets. Why aren’t they in school today? And there, an old woman, ruby-red hair and fur head-to-toe; a true New York grande dame of the old school. And just look at all the cabs! Sometimes you’ll see a huge procession of them like this; a parade of yellow cabs, polished and shining as they trudge eternally along these dirty streets. I haven’t ever taken a cab here. I never had the need, and besides they’re expensive. But look how beautiful they all are, in a long line up Broadway, bright against the grey, and brown, and red-brown, and yellow-brown, and white stone buildings on either side. There’s this one restaurant just up the road from here, and it’s got massive front windows with yellow frames all around them. Same yellow as the cabs! I pass by it nearly everyday, and I see the nice tables with wine glasses and the big round Art Deco lamps hanging low. It’s about the nicest looking thing ever. It makes me wish I had lots of money so I could go get dinner there all the time, and become a regular, and get to know all the staff and the guys in the kitchen. That one table by the window, the I pass all the time, that’d be my usual table. That’s a dream for another day though. One day, some future day, when the weather is better and I’m older—after I’m done with all this damn school.

Actually, I shouldn’t even joke about that, about being done. Already, in March, I can feel the end of the school semester coming close. And then what? Your guess is as good as mine, Sally-Boy. I’m honestly not sure how much time I have left in New York City. It could be that I have only a few months, maybe until the end of the year, or until I run out of money. The thing is, that I just don’t know—so I’m trying to savour it all, and make time go real slow. Enjoy it while it lasts, right? Two nights ago I sat on my porch at midnight and tried to memorize everything: the way the moon lit the roof on the house across the street, the orangey tint of the streetlights on the sidewalk, those precise nightsounds (the trees clattering whenever the wind rose and the soft Spanish music that sometimes keeps me awake at night coming from the apartment building just next to our house)... I figure if I can just memorize it all then it won't matter if I have to leave. If I can just memorize every last bit of it, then the stories I tell about New York will be good stories, real stories—New York just as it was! I think that's what this letter—(like so many of our letters)—is, my way of sketching this moment right now, the people on the streets, the cars, the cold weather, this bitter cup of coffee—all of it! just as it is right now, because I know in a moment it might all be gone.  

I will have to go soon. From this café I mean. This, writing you, was my few minutes of rest before I have to get to work. Lots to do today. Lots to do.

I hope you’re well. Sorry for the delay in writing you. I have a letter half-written but I just haven’t been able to find the time lately. That’s a poor excuse! Poor, poor, poor! I will write again soon! For now, be well my friend. Be well!

H.

P.S. There’s a blizzard coming tomorrow. Stay warm.