Look for the Clock Tower



30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11217

Neighborhood: Brooklyn, Fort Greene

Heather stopped and pulled down her pants. Adam and I stood in the shadow of a large building on the still Brooklyn street, allowing no person to see. Urine trickled down the contaminated sidewalk as we left. The journey commenced, and on we walked to the worst place in New York to buy coke, Kokies.

After being permitted to enter by a large man that looked closely at us three, we walked up to the wooden bar where Heather grabbed three warm glasses of water that had been sitting precariously alongside many others. The bouncer watched as Heather handed me a half empty glass, her baggy shorts hung below her tiny hips, her belt clasped loosely around her small body, she wore a thin white tank that revealed the outline of her tender breasts. Adam kept a bleak expression on his face as we found a table in the back room.

I reached into my pocket and took out all of my money, a few crinkled dollar bills and a handful of change. I flattened the cash and slid it over to Adam across the card table.

I sat nervously, Heather’s hand clutched inside my inner thigh. We were junkies, or at least in a room filled with them, we became them as we walked through the metal door into the back room, and yet I wondered who ‘them’ represented. Adam guarded our shabby table while Heather and I waited to enter the backroom that was again guarded. I could feel her warm breath as she dipped her house key into the white powdery substance from the small bag that we had just purchased. I leaned back against the wall in the small confined quarters, her soft body pressed against mine, the guard watched. Heather looked at me and slowly held the key up to my nose; I tried not to exhale so that nothing would be lost.

I watched the people around me, but I remember their faces as one might remember any other stranger that you quickly pass on a crowded street. I watched a well-dressed couple buying coke for their night out, a man sitting alone at a table, so many empty faces and so many with the same story as mine.

We sat one week later in Heather’s apartment with the leftover coke in a small plastic bag and the addition of Bob. We all lived next to one another on the fifth floor of and old warehouse in Brooklyn. Wooden floors, high ceilings and the added atmosphere of rats, gunshots, sixteen-year-old mothers and kids without enough to eat made my loft apartment affordable.

Bob directed a cooking show on some cable channel that I didn’t have. Bob didn’t have cable either. Adam and Heather had dated each other for years, moved to New York from Washington State with only a few bags. Bob sat to my left. I liked Bob in the way that an old woman gets dressed everyday just to spend the day watching soaps on the television. I never watch television.

I pushed lightly on the gray door to Bob’s apartment to find him standing in a pool of his own blood. He had stabbed himself in the leg with a knife as he was doing Karate moves in his apartment. It wasn’t called Karate, he always corrected me when I said Karate, but I never listened. It was almost impossible for me to stop laughing as I looked at the homemade bloody bandage wrapped around his hairy legs, his faded tattoo that I could never make out and my white pillows covered in black cat fur as he swayed back and forth on top of me.

It might have been a Sunday or even a Tuesday, I wasn’t sure. We sat at one of the card tables provided in the backroom with two guys that were like us. They invited us to a dance party, the one that Wilson would go to on weekends in downtown Brooklyn, but we would never go. I am not sure that I could hear what they were saying. I examined their hands motioning as they spoke and watched as their mouths open and shut. One guy was black and the other was white like Othello or some other Shakespearian tragedy, and something must have been in my pocket because I could feel Heather’s hand moving up my inner thigh although I had already given Adam all of my money.

The water rushed against my body, I stood behind Wilson but could hardly recognize him. He looked so different when the water straightened his hair against his face.

In bed I thought how strange he seemed. I always stared at the clock tower outside his window, it never mattered what time it was to me, I just liked the way that the big hand would go around and around as Wilson and I stayed in the same place. Jim told me once that if I ever got lost to look for the tower and I would know that I was home. Wilson kissed me as I walked away too the subway. The rain was pouring and I had on sandals, so I tried not to fall.

I looked at Wilson lying on top of me, “Why do you suddenly seem like someone else?”

It was one of those questions that I really didn’t think anything about when asking. I watched as the minute hand moved.

His voice sounded uneasy as he told me about the coke that he had just snorted in the bathroom. My heart quickly sank. This was the first time that he had not offered me to do it with him. That was all I had to hear to know it was over, but nothing was over yet.

It was Bob’s turn first; Adam had already separated the coke into four equal lines. My part was last. I was never one to snort twice, get it all in one go. It’s like writing your name in the fresh cement poured by the workmen in their yellow suits. I wasn’t looking for happiness in drugs, I wasn’t trying to be cool, I wasn’t trying to find a deeper meaning in life as I snorted from a rolled up dollar bill on the kitchen table. I wasn’t even writing my name in the cement.

Sometimes I did drugs everyday, but coke was always a special occasion. Mat did too many drugs. We would get fucked up and have sex until the time I passed out and ended up in the hospital. That’s when I started dating the doctor.

Dag, the Jewish doctor, was cute and would make up stories about paintings, “It looks like an airplane.”

I found his naiveté to be sweet. That was the only Jewish doctor that I ever dated. Later that summer I found out that I had had a stroke that night at the party, I was only twenty.

The rain was pouring as we sat around the table one more time. I sat in the yellow designer fiberglass chair made by that famous architect whose name I can never remember. Heather had the window open. We laughed. I had a beer in one hand. Bob was to my left. Adam sat to my right.

Heather stood, “Have you seen Ghost Dog?”

Heather listened to the cat meowing for days until the super let her up to the roof. That’s when Heather found her. The cat was halfway dead by then, but you have to understand that in our Puerto Rican neighborhood raising pigeons and flying them from the roof is more than a hobby, but our roof, being the tallest building in the neighborhood, was primarily used as a lookout, so when it got shut down Ghost Dog was the solitary survivor. Her job was to keep the pigeons away, but she was given no food or water so she cried out from rooftop as one last attempt at survival.

Heather had managed to turn Ghost Dog into a cat, a real cat the kind that cuddles with you at night and waits for you to get home. In many ways she belonged to all of us in the way that we shared bread or butter.

I think I heard her calling Ghost Dog’s name but it was as if the subway was passing outside, not knowing if it was coming or going. Heather was gone for maybe a minute or an hour I do not know. I heard her screaming. The rain was pouring. Heather just kept screaming.

I am not sure how long it took us to realize where she was or what had happened until we saw her, until I saw her eyes.

I am not sure what she said or how long it took us to find the towel to wrap Ghost Dog’s body in. The limp cat’s eyes were open, mouth open, blood pouring out of them. Heather kept screaming.

“She is going to be alright, isn’t she?” she yelped.

I am not sure what my reply was, but she was still alive maybe even more than I was at that moment. My heart pounded quickly as Heather held the unconscious cat and screamed, “She is not dead, is she?”

I am not sure if she was dead or alive at that moment.

The screaming didn’t stop.

Sometimes our lives become the long walk. Sometimes I see myself hanging from the trees, my face is blue and my legs dangle in the wind alongside the street. At first we may not realize why we keep walking or why the crowds keep cheering, but we keep walking.

Bob never got cable. Heather flew back to Washington State that next day to visit her sick father that died that summer. And for everyone on the fifth floor, I made margaritas. All the veterinarian had to say was, “We only take cash.”

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