Like an island before ocean’s rise, I floated just at the surface. I don’t know why exactly I stopped to sit in that street median all afternoon that day three years ago. For six hours, stranded in thought, I sat on a bench on Broadway. On south Harlem’s downward slope to the Upper West Morningside, I gazed at automobile flow above and below 116th street’s horizon, as footprint traffic swelled the dense concrete rock, dancing crashing waves around me. (Back then, I didn’t know the symptoms of disillusion as sensorial drowning).
Broadway is the only road on Manhattan Island that curves, the forgotten body of an ol’ Lenni Lenape native trail turned blossoming monument of glitter showbiz and high-rise glamor. For four years, I hurried blindly through this stop, swimming circles around a labyrinth of higher learning, barely catching my breathe bubbled under buzz words like ‘bachelor’s degree’ and ‘future’s progress.’ Having just graduated, I thought I knew everything that I needed to make it on the main stage, theater of budding adult life. (I could not yet imaginatively intercept my playing role beyond an institutionalized identity).
Contemplating future at crossroads, I held the paper cup of coffee emit heat in my hand. Slowly, I sipped it. Though I never touched a coffee plant, let alone peel its seeds, I already admitted addiction to its active ingredients. Like the majority of big city inhabitants, I operated daily like a machine on the supply of caffeine and spikes of sugar that sparked this continent’s colonization for commodities. The same traffic of trade still blood dripped here, delivered in the bodies of trucks. Tobacco, milk chocolate, iPads, cotton undies, sweatshop fashion and toilet paper: all foreign products that served a point, a purpose – where did I belong? (I could only formulate questions in the face of industrial feedback noise).
As rubber-wheeled vehicles whizzed pass, bringing the spinning globe to this strip of earth, a whiff of Chinese dumplings, Belgian waffles and halal fried falafel filled my nose. Smells of smoky memories arose: the arepas of Miami, tortillas of Mexico, meatballs of Ikea and smog of Cebu. Goods and foods of the world presented in bite-size proportion to origin’s distance, with a choke of pollution to flavor east to west’s difference. (I rooted myself in the slippage of recollection).
Immobile, merely my eyes followed clockwork’s movement: busy business professionals, students, professors, partners, families, friends rushing in-and-out of bars, restaurants and shops, towards their compartmentalized rooms called home complexes. I sighed in solitude. I remembered how each member of metropolitan society touches through plastered walls and paper money, how each ‘I’ is enfolded in street corners, tucked in pockets of lifetimes. I interrupted the rush using a moment of reflection. I stimulated stillness and mirrored mid-air, floating like dropping cash. (I drifted in the disassociated circuit currency wiring skin).
I didn’t know why I stayed in place so patiently. Or why I could not communicate, not a syllable nor a sound. I suppose I wanted to let the sun penetrate into my core after months of bitter northeast cold. I wanted tropical island sunrises from childhood Decembers coil around my throat, like a knitted scarf of entwined embraces, when winter wind shuts tongues silent. Prior to diaspora as cellular assemblage, my equatorial descendants and me, we never experienced such chills up our spinal columns – except through electric dreams. Pioneers to stranger’s space-time, we re-centered senses inside familial w/hole dwellings. (Lost in the shadows of past and present future, I searched for a portal door out).
Perhaps I let my attention err off under the weight of anticipation. This act of waiting, for something coming amongst the sounds of rustling storms, turned me mute. Still, I never imagined the hours more I would wait, solo on the side of the road, hitchhiking through France, the Balkans or below the American border. Plus bus stops, airports and train stations to delayed destinations beyond the singularity of clock time. Perhaps this act of waiting, this perpetuated pause, engendered a fundamental imbalance fixed on the edge. (Before the miscommunication or misadventures of love seeking, I needed a lesson alone).
Or perhaps I sat on the bench for a rest, ritual healing. On the processional passage of pilgrimage, el tiempo y la tierra transform the flesh shelled in-between worlds. This fissure is at once an opening to be entered and a wound to be closed. This internal fracture complicates the complete picture because distortion is inherent by structural design, just as modern buildings architect a subatomic theater of static life. Still, this inner realm will require a ritual purge to keep the tempo of light equilibrium along the moving journey. This necessary remedy is not unlike writing, or hiking up mountains. Or like the surface of the cut skin, healing. (Withdrawing into mind’s I, again and again, I return to the medicinal rite of writer’s time).
In a matter of twenty-four hours, I would embark on a journey to the peninsular continental shelf known as Europe. The summer prior, I finally received my American passport and finished my first long-distance terrestrial trip with a partner, across the United States and through Mexico, from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego, from Tijuana to Cancún. Two summers later, after a solo hitchhiking journey south again, I would call La Sierra Madre del Sur, Mexico a kind of home. Of course, I could not fathom even a hint of this future turn, nor the reason for all this seated sentimental reminiscence to preface the hereafter. Soon, this earth day would get dark. I finally got up to throw the coffee cup in the trash. Pizza boxes, soda bottles and plastic wrap grow over the garbage can like red tulips in rich spring soil. Soon, this too will rise.
I blank out from the scene. Forgetting the spilling of excess in the spell of development, while walking, I start to draft a story in my head.