I was out for my walk and I looked across the street and up, and on the second floor of a teal clapboard house was an old woman looking out. Her hair was white and the snow on the street was still somewhat white.
I went to the doctor and she said, “I can give you something different to sleep,” and I considered if I wanted to take anything else. I took the prescription. I took the elevator. I walked into the pharmacy and unfolded the prescription. It said, “Christine Emerson.” I left the pharmacy and went back into the dark, over the blocks, up the elevator. “I’m so sorry,” the doctor said. “It’s okay,” I said. I went to the train the second time, and bought tickets to a play, and went to the play alone, and sat next to a man who was also at the play alone, but we didn’t talk.
When I stepped out of the theater, snow as light as heavy light filled the air, between the theaters, in the whole space of Times Square I could see a piece of, over there, like the snow was hardly in a hurry, hardly going anywhere, and it was against the dark and the perfect blare of Times Square, as soft as anything. The play was nice, I wasn’t lonely, the snow holding the air and making all the air space understandable and real was much better than the play, I thought I had never seen the theater district snowing before. It was the neighborhood snowing itself, everything New York self created and perpetually birthing.
The next day it snowed and snowed and snowed. I sat at a table in the living room and our window open a pinch, the radiator so hot, I was warm as four or five piercings of snow blew in and touched my face.
I walked from the subway to the bus stop, and on the sidewalk were some pages of notebook paper folded in fourths. I picked them up and opened them. A child had drawn vases of flowers, diamonds, a girl with a top ponytail. On the next page, “your the best Ms. Polly.” On the last page, inside a cloud, “from Symphony.” I got to the bus stop and looked around for a kid who might be Symphony. Was that a name? To get your bus ticket, you had to stand on two inches of packed snow and push start and put your Metro card in. I stood on the bus, and sitting next to me was a man with a cane who had fallen down so far, asleep, that he looked dead, homeless, suspicious, but when we got to his stop, he perked up like a watered flower and got off, appearing quite clean and sober.
“Look, I don’t even know you, but I’ll be here hoping it goes well for you.” I had set pencils on each desk and put stickers on essay booklets.
I walked in circles and straight and turning lines, wearing more wear into ninety-year-old wooden floors, which had holes in them that had been filled, like they used to have the desks bolted to the floor. The lights were hung crooked. Painted above the closets in the back it said, “Day School,” and “Night School,” and “Teachers.”
“Miss, how much would I have to pay you for the answers?”
I considered. “Ten million.”
“Miss, what does ‘ratify’ mean?”
“You know I can’t tell you.
“And anyway, what if I told you wrong? That would make it worse.”
I kept walking around, and my heart opened and opened, as it has before when I was looking out the window at a school and realizing I was the teacher and I was thinking hard positive thoughts for all the kids who were taking tests, they ground out the tests, taking breaks, mortar and pestle they ground them down, three hours of near-complete quiet and me doing nothing but walking, sitting, looking.
I walked up to the window where I get my coffee on the way to work. There is a circle cut out of the glass for your fingers so you can open from the sidewalk to the restaurant. On the window is painted, “BAR” and “OYSTERS” in gold letters. My new barista has shaggy hair and a birthmark on his left cheek and he calls me “love.”
“Sorry, I can’t. Our power’s out.”
“I guess that means I don’t have to go to work.” He smiled.
I walked to write, finally, and on the sidewalk was a white plastic hat printed with American flags. What did that have to do with January?
Image: Houses in the Snow, Carl Krenek, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
(Aside: I love lots of this guy’s other work, too, and he seems relatively obscure, Carl Krenek, of Vienna, 1880-1948.)