In my bare room over Times Square I sit with my back to the wall, hands on my knees looking out my dusty sun streaked picture window. My bicycle leans against the wall.
In my room I have a postcard with a picture of the President tacked up. His coat is blue, his skin hot pink. He holds his hands out before him like he's coming clean. I wash out my clothes in the sink. I listen to the news one neighbor keeps blaring. He keeps the radio on when he's gone. He’s got his radio plugged into a cord spliced into the sign below the window: girls Girls GIRLS. We're all squatters here.
I arrived sick with visions, crawled out of the transit, two days on the sidewalk at 42nd Street, others huddled under an old movie facade with a great chunk taken out of it, a crane with a wrecking ball standing idle beside. The crane went back to work next day.
Some old bum dragged me away. After a week I was okay but he had gone. I saw the ad for messengers in a week-old newspaper I picked up off some poor bundle of coats and bad dreams passed out against a news stand on Fifth Avenue. I found my bike at the bottom of a canal in Hell's Kitchen. I spent many days that only come back to me in flashing kaleidoscope glimpses when I cannot breathe. You go out and walk the streets searching for air.
The Landlord comes by crashing the door with heavy knuckles. The old man will be back in an hour or so with who knows maybe a half gallon of liquor. He takes a percentage for the peepshows breaking down in totally unnecessary but strangely endearing crying jag confessions. A bastard half-Cherokee with the deep set blue heartbreak eyes of a preacher, he goes to some greasy spoon diner on Tenth Avenue under the old West Side Highway and begs for what they're going to throw out, moldy rolls and hairy carrots. Some days, bad days all he gets is potatoes.
There's a family living out of an broken down Country Squire Ford station wagon from Jefferson City, Missouri. They will be here with a bunch of farm kids in feed bags for sweaters running in and out of the halls of the old hotel.
Tonight the Landlord's back early with a few quarts of Night Train Express and chickens in greasy aluminum foil baskets. The two whores who live above me both dying of AIDS come in through the window. I can hear them chattering though I don't take my eyes off two of the country kids, red haired, freckle faced. They've got a knife out and hold their fingers splayed on the floor moving the knife through the spaces as fast as they can. If you flinch when you bleed you lose. I turn away when one plucks the blade through his knuckle.
Outside below us blocking traffic kids stand around a car set afire in the middle of the street. Every night around this time there's fires: movie facades, abandoned cars, tables, desks, and chairs end up in flames. Earlier I watched a horrified hot dog man get his cart taken away. They swooped in on him trudging home as sunset turned excruciatingly into dusk. There’s an endless supply of gasoline.
I can stick my head out the window and see another fire on the corner. Lola, the guy whore who comes on like a lady says she saw it start today.
"Wh-why'd they do it?" Somebody, maybe the Landlord asks.
"Is he kidding?" Lola says.
He scratches his breast, pulls a wad of stuffing from his shirt, lays it on the floor as he sips a slug of liquor passed to him and sucks off a place on his arm.
"It’s the OTB," adds Cola, the woman who comes on like a guy.
"There were some guys still trying to lay down bets even after the place was on fire,” Lola’s laugh is laced with an ugly rasp of a cough.
Lola and Cola are thin as smoke, like the next good wind could blow them away. In here now it's stale and close. Everybody's sweating.