Turning a corner onto West Street my green shoe slipped on the stone causing me to go head first into a bubble of marble that cracked my head open red onto the marble and rain water washed onto my head as I walked disconsolate and delirious up West Street where the crossing guards watched me stagger with rain and blood on my face up West Street towards Ground Zero where I could not stop thinking if I had had the wherewithal to put my Capital One debit card into the back of my phone case so that I could bring it out in the case of an emergency, which I was in right now, as I limped up the stone walk towards Bank.
It had not occurred to me that my life would become enveloped in such a state of violence so rapidly, especially considering that it evolved out of what had been an almost incompetent state of blandness just a few hours prior. I had been trying to sleep on a living room couch that I was renting for forty dollars a night in a basement suite in Battery Park City, but the apartment had been filled with children who the owner of the apartment invited over on a nightly basis to hang out, and as I had recently learned, sell him crack.
His disease should have been clear to me as the man’s eyes were hooded and his eyebrows perched so high up on his face that he looked like a benign white caricature of Mickey Mouse. The first night I spent there, he did not sleep in his second-floor bedroom but rather stayed up all night in the kitchen next to the living room writing letters that he would never send to Nancy Pelosi, Nicolas Maduro, and his ex-girlfriend. He was below five-foot-seven and waddled through the apartment, never leaving, but pacing back and forth and occasionally picking up a dumbbell that sat next to the fireplace by the couch, pumping it three or four times before putting it down and scattering away. The bizarreness of this stout man and his actions were numbed by the presence of a young girl who also lived upstairs in a separate room but when thinking back on the situation I remembered him berating her one night on the stairs about making too much noise, to which she desperately replied, “Yes master, yes master,” indicating the level of depth of their Svengali crack situation.
It was night in August, in rain, that I returned filled with the need to rest after having done almost literally nothing all day, only to find the basement suite filled with the children who were egging the man on and selling him crack, and when I asked him to ask the children to leave so that I could sleep on the shitty couch he flew into a rage, went into a kitchen drawer, pulled out a knife, and started pacing towards me while explaining that his apartment was not a library, as the children left, not out of fear, but out of a desire not to be implicated in whatever was about to happen.
His red face was puffed with crack smoke and his eyes looked at me pleadingly as if his body didn’t know whether to tell him to kill me or weep. It was not the knife that frightened me but his ability to cross the apartment almost immediately, as if on skates, when in reality he was only on crack, but each time he approached me I nudged my head forward as if warding off a dog. During one of the moments that he was on the other side of the room I managed to put my shoes on and unlock the window before he was suddenly back again and closer than before and telling me he was going to eviscerate me, but then he seemed frightened and paced back for a long enough time that I climbed out the window and ran towards West Street while hearing him unlock the front door behind me but when I looked back there was only night.
Patrick McGraw is a writer and editor of Heavy Traffic.