On the subway, a warning: “In NYC, it is illegal to paint a real gun to look like a toy, and it is illegal to buy a toy gun that looks real.”
On the sidewalk, springlike, chartreuse, my new beginning, then three teenagers. One pulls out a gun that looks like a toy. He tells me to hand over everything. (No.) I don’t even stop walking. I look like I know where I’m going.
I stop to watch a man try to move his gigantic sofa into an apartment elevator, and it can’t be done. The mover says you’ll have to leave it at home. He means wherever it came from. The man says he loves this sofa. The mover says, move on.
A letter lost on the street. The envelope is sealed. A man bends down to read the address. Because it might be for him.
My niece wrote: I am polishing my snow globes, waiting for something to happen.
I had moved out of New York, temporarily, and so I read it across the ocean, in a flurry of paint chips like Spun Twilight and considered the Borrowed Light of a Silver Cufflink kind of city turning satin, glassy, glossing over the lack of sequins with flurries of glamour, desire, adventure: no, really, what I meant to write back was: be careful, don’t crack. But I didn’t say that either. Then reached out for my sparkle pen and distilled, that is, dispensed some glitter.
Outside, a discarded cardboard box says: Become Your Dream. The message is written in thick black marker. But the box is ripped, a little soggy. It will not even be a box for much longer.
A man walks into the hardware store and tells the clerk: I need something for cutting a skull in half, you know. The clerk asks: how old?
The painter who lives next door to me put three of his large canvases in the trash room. Each one was an abstract composition with splashes of pink and black and gold and white. What was he thinking? All three paintings looked the same to me. Later, however, I saw that two of them had been taken.
My black-and-white 1948 postcard of the midtown nighttime New York skyline has splashes of gold and pink. Someone colored it in.
When I bought it, I thought I’d frame it and hang it up, but I didn’t. I already lived within that world (down near the ground) and didn’t need a reminder of it. So I put it in a box and moved around and then, one day, took out the postcard (which I had forgotten about) and propped it up on my desk in London. Where I had moved all of a sudden.
Where every evening, I could look at my tiny vision/version of New York City and imagine how fantastic it would be to live there. I remembered the shimmer across cross streets. Was it possible to return and get back in? Where was the entrance and then? What would you say to people?
A man on the street says the end is near. A man on the subway says Abandon Ship! A vendor on the sidewalk says fresh coconuts. A man on the steps says America, the beautiful. A man selling jewelry gives me a poem to read. It is written on joss paper from Chinatown, a rough square of brown paper with a gilded center. The paper is more beautiful than the poem, and I keep it.
I keep at it, that is.
Tara Deal is the author of Wander Luster (poetry chapbook, Finishing Line Press) and Palms Are Not Trees After All, winner of the 2007 Clay Reynolds Novella Prize from Texas Review Press. Her work has also appeared in Alimentum, Blip, Conium Review, failbetter, Sugar House Review, Tampa Review Online, and West Branch, among others. And her shortest story can be found in Hint Fiction (Norton). She lives in New York City.