It Hardly Matters

Monday, September 18, 2006


It might be raining. It’s dark, and I’m sitting on my deck under an aluminum awning, presumably attached to the wooden slats over the back door of my apartment by my landlord, Joe, when he and his wife lived in the entirety of their family home. It has since been sliced into four apartments, where a family of three live upstairs, my roommate and I live downstairs, and next door, their son, Tommy, our handyman, lives in the unit above his father and mother.

The house used to be grand, for this part of Brooklyn, with a large front sitting room, in half of which I now sleep on a hand-me-down mattress. I imagine Joe and Marie, just married, moving into her family’s house just after their honeymoon down the Jersey Shore, maybe Florida. Every Sunday, her mother cooked veal in the kitchen and looked out her bay window onto what is now my deck. I would bet a hundred million dollars that she wore a white apron over a housecoat, and would win. Marie and Joe probably took over our part of the house, setting up their married salt- and pepper-shakers and butter dish in a light-finish hutch that stood where my kitchen begins. They were happy because they were supposed to be happy. They were married because they were supposed to be married.

I realize now that the crackling I hear is not rain, but the sound of someone frying something jumpy in a pan near the back window of a Grand Street apartment, across my landpeople’s landscaped backyard upon which the Virgin Mary forever stands quietly in her husk. It’s eight-o’clock, and someone is frying something for someone they love. From their kitchen window, this formless wife or husband can see the same morning glories that I see when I’m up before ten, the ones that wind thickly through a now-obscured fence and up an ancient iron ladder that was once used to adjust newfangled telephone wires.

In 1962, Joe waved to the telephone man and slammed specialty nails through my aluminum awning. His hair was black then, and done up with pomade. He was handsome, and gentle, the perfect complement to Marie’s curls and demands. She told him to put up the awning. He wouldn’t have thought of it himself, even though, like all of us, he wants to emerge from the rainy street, shake his umbrella twice, maybe three times, before he unlocks the door to his house, his warm, yellow home, where his wife will stand, sweaty from the stove, not looking, but stirring, waiting for her husband to enter.


Post a Comment

<< Home