West 34th: Chapter II

West 34th

I got a little fern for my apartment. I guess I wanted to try to bring a bit of beauty home. Maybe I was thinking of Fern from Charlotte’s Web and innocence and all that happy shit, I don’t know. I kept it for about three weeks, and then it died. It probably died because the water from my tap is brown, but I bet it was also the smell. The stink of my life.

My apartment stinks like a public bathroom because the super won’t come and fix the goddamn toilet like I’ve been calling about for the past week. I walk out to the street and step over walls of rotting garbage that hasn’t been picked up because the city is bankrupt. The subway stinks like piss and shit and sweat and stale sex and spray paint and I have to watch out for rollers and shanks. Most days I walk to work. Better to just smell garbage and backed up sewers than the subway.

I got a job in a call center in the Flatiron Building at 23rd & Broadway. I call up housewives on the Upper East Side and try to sell portrait packages for Olin Mills, and mostly I get yelled at and hung up on. It’s brutal. I hate bothering people, and I feel like a royal asshole for doing it. And then I get yelled at and I take it personally. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s killing me, and my bank account, since I almost never make commission. But I don’t know what else I can do.

At lunch I eat a peanut butter sandwich that I made in my apartment, and I listen to co-workers discuss where they’re going to go for their lunches. I hear them talk about weekends in the Catskills, where the air is fresh and sweet and the water is clean and there are no visible garbage piles anywhere. At night I try to scrounge up enough money for a cheap bite, cop a few bags around Madison Square, walk home, shoot and listen to sirens. When I can get a signal I listen to the radio, but the Empire State Building gets in the way, and mostly I just get static.

So that’s my life. Mostly I just try to avoid garbage and the stench of shit.

I don’t mean to sound so disillusioned, although I’m really getting there. It’s not all bad, and I’m working like crazy trying to make it. But it’s frustrating.

I think of my parents starting out here twenty, thirty years ago, just after the war, when the city was the economic engine of the world, the manufacturing center of the universe, tuition was free for residents at city college and the subways were clean and safe. Now the streets are filled with garbage, burnt out cars and needles, the crime rate is skyrocketing and President Ford is telling the city to drop dead. And I killed my fern, the one beautiful thing I had, with poison tap water.

I know it will get better. But sometimes I get so sad and frustrated and all alone, I just….just……..I just…………



  1. Kate said:

    I’m feeling more than a little sorry for this guy. It’s sad when even the ferns give up on you.

    • It was an evil fern, so no big loss.

      Great having you here, Kate! Hope you’ll stay a while.

      • Kate said:

        I’ll try my best!

  2. Fraha said:

    This was actually one of the first things that I have read in a while from anyone that I follow on WordPress. And I very much enjoyed the read.

  3. I think this is the life of so many even today. You transport us, your words .. your words are so hopeless and yet there is that grain of hope.

    • So true, right? All we can do is go for the grain sometimes. I definitely try.

  4. Is he going to OD and die in the alley like a musician friend of mine did?

  5. Dana said:

    Wow, fantastic Brian. I can see him telling his story as he gets his drug stuff together and then just fades into a painfree state. All your stories come to life. I loved his honesty and goodness underneath it all.

    • Dana, thanks! I definitely always try to find some honesty and goodness under the surface, I’m so glad you found the same.

      • Sorry I’m such an irregular visitor. I did reblog your story on my other blog though – hope that’s ok?

      • I’m so honored, thank you!

  6. Grea stuff Brain – you can feel the mental elastic snapping with this guy.

  7. Great writing, though a little sad. Great Charlotte’s Web reference!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: