when i’m not deep in the trenches of my internship and navigating my way through the boroughs of new york city, you can find me stationed in SoHo..
slanging drinks, cleaning tables, chatting with people - all of that. coming here with the minimal amount to make it past my one month mark here in the “big potato” (as rose nyland so confidently put it), i chose to hustle my way to the top and even out the playing field to make a means to an end.
this of course, was no option. but i digress.
much like most jobs located in the central nervous center of new york city, you’re likely to see all which makes this place such a melting pot.
there is a little bit of any and everyone in this city and the coffee shop that i work at showcases just that in its entirety.
i work just off of the campus of NYU and now that the students are back in school for the fall term, the clientele we come across exceeds far beyond what you could imagine.
young and old, the bevy of patrons seeking that straight shot of espresso or a simple blended beverage is mind-rattling (especially considering how exhausted with customer service i have become), but the bills, jesus.. the bills.
apart from such a wonderful lifestyle i’m offered here is the wide acceptance of sexual orientation and [generally] everything that comes with homosexuality.
as we know, this can either be really good, or really (very) bad.
today was quite the day. i saw a homeless man singing beyonce on 7th Ave, I saw a 6’2 black man in a leopard-print top and cream-ish booty-shorts on broadway. i thought i’d seen it all (and enough).
boy, was i wrong.
beyond the discoveries of the streets en route to work, i later would be greeted by something that did (and will, in this piece) turn me sour.
hours have gone by at this point. i look up, and no sooner had the sun set. the nyu students filling the streets, some even entering the coffee shop to study - utterly amazing how it is the first day and i have already seen some students with the “final exams” look in their eyes.
after hours of laborious stirring and mind-numbing chatter amongst an idiotic coworker, two patrons of the store enter. in the beginning, nothing major.
he was tall, wearing black frames and a blue shirt. the other, shorter, same length of hair. no glasses, and a grey hooded sweater (the fall weather has hit new york with little reluctance).
i’m quickly learning to multitask - hearing orders while preparing others prior to. i hear from across the room “two hot chocolates!” while finishing up another.
i usually keep my small-talk at a minimum with customers, considering how busy we are and keeping in mind that i just find that a lot of the people in that particular area are far too pretentious for me to be able to carry 6 words out aside from “thank you, have a nice day.”
this was no different. which is why the words are here.
i look up. the two matching beverages were for the gentlemen.
but these were no ordinary gentlemen. well, they were. but they were. extra. yes, extraordinary. the view was (as a friend and i have been humorously stating): “progressive.”
they were a couple.
ah, i can hear the “how did you know?” already. and it is very simple.
they were your average plain college-looking “adam & steve.”
though i named them “christof & Bern.” let us just pretend that is the legal names of these gentlemen.
christof (the taller of the two), glanced over in my direction, as i’m beginning to prepare the drinks. i immediately pause and witness the calmness amongst both of them. he rubs Bern’s hair. then his har. finally, he kisses him.
look at me. “finally.” yes, i was waiting on it.
"ain’t. this. bout. a bitch," i say internally. i over-steamed their non-fat milk for the hot chocolates as a result of my ridiculous admiration.
the sight was really something. and this is no embellishment.
and it all just seemed so normal. it would be another moment of clarity. probably the 10th “i really live here” moment that kicked me in the head.
no one either noticed, or even cared. and i’m 100% sure of the latter being it. lovely.
they looked perfect. hell, they even sounded perfect. after finishing their drinks, i broke my speaking rule and sparked small chat just to hear them.
"do y’all want whipped cream on these?" i asked. still trying to collect and stifle my sheer jealousy and level of "i hate you bitches because this will never happen to me" in my heart.
i topped the drinks off.
"they look lovely," said christof.
christof better quit flirting like this bitch Bern isn’t standing 7 centimeters from me.
they walked away and all i could do was shake my fist at God.
"you couldn’t just make my life easy, huh? you couldn’t make me white?"
white gay men are just unbothered by it all. this couple had the makings of everything of a burtka/neil patrick harris engagement.
and look at me. mopping floors and fixing these bitches’ beverages..
the other day i had no idea how i was getting to work. i misplaced my card for the subway and was in pure horror of missing my shift. i sifted through my belongings in the red-walled room high and low.
no avail. but fuck that, i’m not allowing this to stop me.
this was a day before i had to actually report to work, by the way. instinctively, i knew that spending the last of cash in my pocket to taxi cab my way from brooklyn to nyc would put me at odds. and at this point, attempts at finding my golden ticket seemed futile.
plan b. ask someone to take me. but to know me, is to know that that pride thing is something i’ve gotta shake off quickly.
take the two-foot-freight and make it a hike. done.
i had a good two naps during the late afternoon. google-mapping the directions of my job address from my place of residence walking distance.
two hours. two whole hours. on foot. just me.
i had woken back up at 3:40 AM (with no alarm clock). Popped up, got dressed. book bag on. no time to even brush my gums. fuck it, just take the listerine with me.
at a swift pace i head out through the dewy park, taking shots of mouthwash and preparing my nerves for the rain droplets falling to my face and mice scurrying over my feet.
this was my initiation into the big city. my limits were tested. my stamina, all the same. this truly is a concrete jungle.
i got lost. i got confused. i got winded. my brain was everywhere. 16th street. hamilton is a long path, let me say.
the panic of not locating the stairs to the brooklyn bridge at 5:30 AM (had to be at work at 6) was something i’ve never experienced before. sheer nervousness.
i just knew i wouldn’t make it.
"if i get to this bridge and it’s 6 o’clock, i might as well jump off of it."
i kept reading the signs, and the discovery of those steps mirror exactly what i’d assume the steps to heaven were. with a few people sleeping on them in route to the destination.
new york city at 5:30 in the morning is ravishing. the smell, not so much, but the dampness in the air made breathing bearable. i tried to blend in with the morning runners who knew where they were. they didn’t know that i didn’t. i jogged midway.
at this point, i’d long been lost and just going with instinct. phone dead. no direction. just forward.
6 o’clock was nearing its arrival and i could feel my closeness to the building. just keep moving. bobbing through delivery trucks, SUVs, taxis, you name it. get out of my way, i have somewhere to be.
5:54. i’m ignoring any light that tells me that i cannot move. kind of like a naysayer. move right through ‘em, you’re on a mission.
we’re asked to show up 10 minutes before work. i turn my dead phone back on hoping that there is some little power left to call with a “i’m on my way.” before i could even fully boot the dumbphone, my boss sends: “you coming in?”
i look up from reading the text and realize that i’m right outside of my job.
"yeah, i’m coming," as i walk in (jokingly).
aching ankles from the walk at dawn, i sit on this bed wondering why i feel so good from the fatigue. pardon the narcissism, but my grind is tight. still such a far distance from where i am to where i’d like to be, but i am grateful.
have you ever felt a relief? i’m not talking financially or romantically.
i’m referring to the relief of fulfillment. the sense that you’re doing what you were put here to do. or in my case, beginning to do. no greater feeling; nothing can bother you.
not the chagrin of vulnerability, the doubt nor the discomfort matters once you’ve completed a task to its fullness. keep moving, navigate, go through the twists and turns. you’ll get there.
by the way, my metrocard was in my other pants’ pocket.
this boy is trying to fill the shoes of someone of importance to him. his memories are benevolent. romantic, even.
in a space he calls home, his girlfriend soothes his pains. medicine bottles on the nightstand. porn on the other side of the bed.
10-inch color television against one of the bare white walls that close him.
his family, some 600 miles beyond.
dealing with the strifes of his illness, he depends on his woman and the camaraderie of his motorcycle gang brethren.
skip, D, chuck and valencia. that’s the crew there.
they sleep all day, and peddle ceremoniously throughout the evening. he loves this life, he loves them. his pain from the ever-moving lifestyle stays a constant battle.
weekly hospital episodes leaves his family on pins and needles.
sweat trickling from his forehead to his chest and a stillness in the room every time he gains consciousness.
he’s well again. bring on the good time. he is the epicenter of the group, so of course he has to return.
his own burdens he refused to release kept him from the life he’d chosen. the people who’d adorned him remained a constant loyalty, as did he. from the first to the third floor of the gang’s club, they all knew him. they all shouted his name. love.
of the genuine kind - unconditional. and he was afraid.
afraid that much like with any of his demons, the one that stayed with him the utmost would be the one to end his legacy.
it was his outward truth that would in turn shine further than his internal. the darkness he’d experienced with his eyes, he let sink into his heart, and the illness.. continues.
the pain gets worse. his family in a frenzy and as time proceeds, the calls lessen.
the confusion increases and they wait idly by the phone expecting answers with stoic expressions. and once the phone rings, that same stillness from his drawn breaths [this time] would not be in the same regard.
the demon….. among demons have diffused. burned into the ozone.
no more is he, but his affection expands. further than he’d ever wanted or expected.
his influence is celebrated.
"no sleep till brooklyn"
i had no idea what i’d be getting myself into upon my arrival in the big apple.
if my feet could talk, expletives all around. the smell of everything you could imagine in these streets lingers from the cloth of my work shirts.
job 1 and 2. let’s pray that the third one summons me, once it’s time.
no sleep. ah, what a tangled web i’ve woven. so true to the name, did that beastie boy group claim this city was about.
as unhealthy and distasteful not allowing myself the proper slumber, i’ve been reminded and practically beaten over the head with the culture of ridding myself the luxury (such as it is) of unconsciousness.
"every hour you spend catching z’s, there’s someone doing what you should be"
what i should be doing. i should be moving. that’s what my mind tells me, but my limbs are aching. bloodshot eyes.
albeit, don’t stop. keep that grind tight, lil’ fella. this is only the beginning.
i hate the taste of this culture, but i have to let it sit. an acquired taste - of sorts.
a rich taste. one that i’ll soon get intoxicated from and indulge in the drunkenness that is comfort in this place.
champagne is gross, but i have to keep drinking.