I got in my car and went to the store and got a bagel with butter on it. I thought about maybe getting a chicken cutlet on it too, instead of butter, but then thought the best way to make that good would be to have mozzarella cheese and maybe marinara sauce on it. That would be like a chicken cutlet parmigiana thing, just without a breaded chicken cutlet. I opted not to do that, because I’d already eaten a lot.
I got in the car and started eating the bagel -- a whole wheat everything bagel -- and it tasted really good. Chewy and soft. I don’t really get the hooplah around bagels in New York City. It feels like people are unaware that you can get a bagel pretty much anywhere in South Brooklyn or Staten Island or anywhere that isn’t annoying downtown Brooklyn or Manhattan. Geez, New York is just insufferable now. The people. The noise. The construction. The expensiveness. What is the point.
At some point I got to the edge of the Island, right before you get on the Goethals Bridge to head into Jersey and i realized that i didn’t want to go that far so i veered off to the left. The left turn brought me to South Avenue, which runs in the opposite direction, and brought me around the area where my mother lived before she died. I figured now was good a time as any to visit the block she lived on, just to see if an earthquake I hadn’t heard about might have swallowed it and her former residence up whole.
When I got to her block it felt like something I’d done so many times before. Make the left turn, past the rickety old church, down the narrow suburban street, with homes built so close together you wondered whether this was truly the American Dream everyone was so illustriously promised. There were more cars on the street last night than I’d remembered before. A decade changes things. People have more stuff now, I suppose. More families with second cars. More families, period.
The block seemed cramped and quiet -- it was always quiet there -- and so I didn’t stay long. Drove down to the end of the street, where it suddenly ends with a pair of mailboxes, then circled back around it, in a loop-like turn, and drove back past her house. I stopped momentarily, just long enough to look at the driveway, which had a big SUV in it, and the door. It didn’t look like it changed much. The house was always sort of non-descript. It lacked personality.
When I came driving down the block, I looked up at the window in the house next to my mother’s, and the shades were open. There was a light on in the staircase hallway, and someone was on the stairs, perhaps walking down in the middle of the night for a snack or something. Maybe they were going up the stairs to bed. Who knows. It was late and I don’t imagine many of the people in that area are staying up past their bedtime. Only freaks like me are driving around at that time of the night, looking for action and taking trips down memory lane.
I did stop to think, however, about what that person might have been doing up there. Something about them, caught in that evening pose, on the staircase, seemed so innocent to me. It was warm outside, but cool inside my car because the air conditioning was blowing, and so I didn’t know whether it was hot or cold in the house. But it felt like cold, because it looked cold, and so I just got an image in my head of someone nice and comfy inside a warm house, despite the fact that it was warm outside. Whatever. The thought was better than reality.
I don’t particularly know what that person was doing or why they were doing it, but I thought they might have seen me come driving down the block, what with my bright headlights and all. Who would be driving down the block at that time of the night. That’s the type of block, in that part of town, where everyone knows who everyone is. All cars are cars you know. My car, a 1997 Mistubishi Galant, looks like a piece of shit, so anyone could be suspicious about what I was doing there. That’s why I didn’t stay long.
And so when I looped back around, I hoped that the person on the stairs didn’t see me stop, didn’t run to call the cops, so that I’d have to explain to someone cop about why I was driving around at that time of the night, and why I was on this random block in front of this random house. It would be weird, and would sound like I was some guy who couldn’t let go of his past, even though I was some guy who couldn’t let go of his past.