July, Week Three [ 2005-07-17, 5:36 p.m. ]

On Broadway and 18th Street, a girl leaned against the wall of a pizza place or an Illuminations or a deli, I don’t really remember what it was. She had her knees drawn up against her chest and her head was tucked into her arms, folded over her legs. A sign rested against her shins. “I’M JUST A HUNGRY GIRL…” I don’t know what the rest of it said, but as I got close enough to drop a dollar into the cup next to her feet, I realized that she was sobbing. “She was crying,” I told Kent as we turned and walked towards Fifth Avenue. I kept looking back at her. The week before we had walked past a little black and white cat mewing, crouched under a car, and I kept going back to the cat and trying to coax it out from under the car. It just mewed at me with cloudy eyes. I told Kent I wanted to go back to the girl, I should have given her $50, not one, Maybe she just needs someone to talk to, Is she hungry, Did you hear her crying, I said.

He wouldn’t let me bring the cat home with me but I still kept thinking that maybe this girl just needs a night or two in Brooklyn. I am embarrassed at my naivety but was still caught in a post-dinner, post-wine cloud of pathos and ethos and oh-no’s. Am married, can afford designer shoes and just had dinner that cost $175, and will return home to air conditioning and cable TV and new makeup I just bought at Sephora and I will talk to my mom and dad on Sunday night just like I always do. Am on my way HOME and my biggest worries of the day were that I felt fat and also that I needed to scrub the shower, which was looking a bit mildew-y. What’s the worst that can happen, I ask my husband, still caught up in rescue fantasy. He looks at me. Baby, this is not an episode of Family Ties, he tells me, This is not how her story ends.

Sometimes I think this city is trying to break my heart. There is a man who begs for change near 34th street, and he has no legs. Not legs that end at his knees, not deformed legs, no legs at all. He has a torso, and that is all. No wheelchair, no crutches, no prosthetic. How on earth am I supposed to enjoy my Real Simple magazine after that? Every day I pass the same man on 33rd, usually sleeping on the ground at the bottom of the subway steps, sometimes just leaning against a wall, head to the corner. Can I really feel good about finding Laboutin pumps on sale at Bluefly.com after that? If my biggest problem is dealing with my hair in the humidity, perhaps I need to shut the fuck up for a while and enjoy my air conditioning and cable TV and new makeup from Sephora.

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I am taking my first business trip in the next few weeks. (I also just got business cards for the first time in my “career.” Some of us move at a slower pace.) I am going to Columbus, Ohio, which amuses my husband to no end, as I make fun of Ohio like it is my job. He is heading to Aspen for work. We both could use a break from the sticky, sticky city, I think.

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Two weeks ago I came home and found a pigeon wing in front of our door. On Friday there was a dead bird at the top step leading down to our front door. (‘Dead bird’ is actually being generous. It was the outside of a bird. Inner bits were not present.) New York, it is possible that you are trying to tell me something. That I am totally disgusted by and afraid of birds makes this either a freakish coincidence or a total coup on the city’s efforts to make a point. In actuality, I think we have a bit of a Pale Male situation on the roof of our townhouse. And who am I to interfere with the circle of life anyway? Some scrappy outer borough hawk or falcon has found his way to the comfortable enclave of Cobble Hill and sits on the roof eating smaller (slower, stupider) birds and tossing their carcasses overboard like empty Domino’s boxes. That they are landing directly in front of my door is unfortunate. Especially for my husband, who – as the only member of my household with balls – is made responsible for picking up the bird shells and GETTING THEM OUT OF MY EYESIGHT.

In the past month my little household has had to deal with 1) mouse infestation, 2) broken toilet (replaced with cheapest toilet ever, thanks Landlords), 3) broken DOORKNOB, trapping me in the apartment until I MacGyvered my way out with a screwdriver and some rope and a MetroCard, 4) corroded drainpipe under sink, aka “What is that dripping sound and where is all this water coming from?”, 5) cabinets that won’t close due to ungodly humidity, 6) ungodly humidity, due to lack of ventilation in stupid floor-through apartment which has non-functional windows in front and sliding door in back and NOTHING ELSE to open for air, 7) THE MICE, DEAR GOD, THE MICE WHICH STILL MAKE ME SHUDDER. We are renters, and have long been contemplating moving on to the land of mortgages and kitchen renovations, and now dead things are literally falling from the sky and landing at our feet which makes me think that perhaps it really, really is time to call a mortgage broker because while I am a big fan of nature, I like my nature the way I like my porn, which is to say, in magazines and on television.

So right as I am all WAH WAH WAH, I want a new apartment, and my husband is all BUT WORK BLAH BLAH BLAH SPREADSHEET BLAH BLAH BLAH HOUSING BUBBLE and I am all WAH WAH WAH NOW!!!, we go out to dinner and see that girl sitting on Broadway, crying. Hungry and crying and looking about as alone as anyone ever has.

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It is impossible to write about a crying homeless girl without sounding like an asshole, I am convinced. Unless you are writing about a crying homeless girl in your memoir which covers your stint in rehab/ escape from the tsunami/ loss of loved one(s)/ the time you went rock climbing and had to cut your own arm off. In that case, you can call that poor girl a cry-baby and throw gummy bears at her because I call UNCLE, you win. But me and my comfy life have no way of talking about the crying homeless girl without sounding either condescending or ignorant or like a giant asshole. I have bounced rent checks and eaten a lot of pasta while waiting for payday but never slept anywhere worse than the loft bed in a fraternity house.

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And I don’t know if it’s related or not but I could not sleep last night. Chances are it was the filthy dog stretched out in the middle of our bed keeping me from sleeping, (35 lbs of dog which can either curl up into a ball about 11 inches across or sprawl to fill the entire bed. During the day when she naps, she’s a nice little ball; at night she sprawls while I try to keep both legs on the bed. Bitch.) but I kept waking up with my mind fixated on certain seemingly un-solvable problems. Like, if Kent and I had a kid, and the grandparents wanted to come and meet that kid (which seems likely), where would they stay? And would my in-laws be okay with coming AFTER my parents, because I can tell you right now that if I ever have a baby, the first person I want to see is my mom. The second person is Miuccia Prada and I would like her to come bearing new clothes and some whimsical Miu Miu mary janes. Also, if I were to have a kid, when the time came to deliver the baby, what would we do with the dog? If I went into labor during the day, we could swing by doggie day care en route to the hospital but don’t babies have a tendency to come in the middle of the night? Would we ask a friend to take Tuesday to doggie day care? Is that too much to ask of someone, especially since all our friends have jobs? Could we call the dog walker from the hospital and ask her? And what if we live someplace else, someplace not conveniently located near a doggie day care facility? What do people do with their pets when they go to have the babies? And if we are going to move, potentially to an apartment NOT near doggie day care (which seems like a very bad idea, now that all these concerns are evident), do we have to repaint the apartment all white before moving? Because if so, I am worried about the bedroom because when I painted it bright blue, I got a lot of paint on the ceiling which means that repainting it white might requirealso repainting the ceiling and I am just not sure I can do that. How much would it cost to hire painters to paint it all white for us? And what about the ugly ceiling fans – they are pretty dirty and I don’t remember ever cleaning the blades, not once in the time we’ve lived here, and that seems pretty gross but no one ever talks about cleaning the blades of ugly ceiling fans so how am I to know what is and is not appropriate in the upkeep of ceiling fans? And if I can’t keep ceiling fan blades clean then there is SIMPLY NO WAY that I can have a baby because that seems much, much harder. And if we are moving, where to and when and how much will it cost and should be buy or rent again and so on and so on and so on. And then I would remember the poor homeless girl and I would nudge my husband and say, Baby I can’t sleep and I feel really depressed about the girl we saw and I just can’t relax and I’m worried about a lot of things…and he would say, GRDDFXHLLLJRBBBT and kick me.

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I read a book called The Mole People, which is about the homeless communities in the tunnels under New York City and at one point in the book, a homeless advocate makes the point that the term “houseless” is preferable to “homeless.” A house is a physical structure and a home is all the stuff inside and I totally understand her point but it sure looked like that girl on Broadway was missing her house as well as her home.

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Kent and I are both cranky today. The air outside feels like someone’s sweaty armpit and all the surfaces in our apartment are sticky with humidity. We’re reaching the time of year when New York says, Fuck it, I’m not gonna take a shower today, this tank top is totally work appropriate, no I will not scoot over and give you a seat on the train, and while we’re at it, 11 a.m. is a great time for a beer…

I am inclined to agree.


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