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Under the Upper East Side, 10029

Neighborhood: Upper East Side

It’s brick outside, thermal-brick, coffee cup lids have coughing fits and a blind man with two good legs gets into my pocket by saying that I could be him one day.

At the 116th stop Jane runs into Dick, all surprised and shit, she says, Wow, when did you move up here? Dick gives her the inside on a dirt cheap condo going up on top of his favorite bodega.

This dude I know from Wagner–I remember him because he liked to be called Lucky after Lucky Luciano–steps on the train and as soon as he sees me he starts talking about open cases, offers, pleas, and deals and I look for something that can hold the weight and there’s Emily Dickinson, a poem in transit, talking about planks and experience–twice.

Two doors down a heart-broken voice yells, “Damn, why don’t you fucking say excuse me.”

Jose from Lenox Hill Hospital (it says Jose on his shirt) rushes for a seat and taps out a happy hour blues with his Daily News.

A walking confectionary almost went to hell with a sweet tooth when he damn near stepped on Lucky who had just finished saying that he was looking for an excuse to lose it. Lucky has a grill contest with a blanco’s steel toe eyes. Damn, he lucky we ain’t in the yard, he says.

Two nickels miss and hit the Section Eight Gospel Trio.

That’s the thing, though, with these trains…they promise good skin, better memory, ghosts jump turn-styles and right after the conductor’s static announcement confuses you, the quietest person in the car stands up, right in front you, and starts talking about Heaven, who going, who staying, and before we get to Brooklyn Bridge, Lucky tells me that if the judge offers him a two-to-four, he’s gonna take it.


Willie Perdomo is the author of Where a Nickel Costs a Dime and Smoking Lovely, which won the PEN America Beyond Margins Award. He lives in New York City.

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