We walk the streets of trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn, our scarves wrapped high above our chins and coats tucked tight against us, the fabric bunching between arms and bodies. The black wool of my coat clefts the wind—a Midwest wind if I ever felt one, though how it stumbled to Brooklyn is a mystery—but my bare ears turn cherry-red from the cold.
An old bookstore, “New and Used!” is bright in the darkening street way. Christmas lights drape from storefront to storefront, uniting the neighborhood. We step through the wooden doorway of the bookstore and it smells like old pages turned by old hands, new ink on new white paper, both new and old exquisitely braided in Brooklyn.
Katie browses the old tomes. I, being useful, find The Best Restaurants of New York City, 2010. “Bam, I found the address for the place. Now we have to convince Din—” and like a predicable movie, my phone rings.
We find each other through shiny dark cars and blinding headlights and Katie and I run through stopped traffic, curved yellow cabs, and suave black chauffeur-driven Fords to find Dina on the Brooklyn street corner. She stands under looping green garlands with her skinny jeans tucked into short boots, hair frizzy underneath her knit hat.
“Chinatown?” we ask, and walk towards the subway, the orange line, without waiting for an answer. We have no idea if the orange line goes to Chinatown, but we’ll figure it out.
If you’re ever in Brooklyn? Sometimes the orange line doesn’t go to Canal Street. We transfer twice. Finally journey up the brown-gray cement steps pit marked black by lost rejected bubblegum and enter the Orient. Or as close to it as you can get in New York City.
The streets are loud with cars and subways and languages I can’t understand. From the subway station, to the right, is the first fish market, and the odor of fresh fish is pungent, embedding the scent in my nose. Their eyes watch, unseeingly, shiny silver scales fallen from wet skin and flaking the cloudy white ice that has become their home until some Asian woman points a finger and the sinuous flank of flesh is wrapped in white paper and handed over.
Asian markets line either side of the street, their signs unreadable by my English-only brain, but we step in the grocery, the full body of a pig hanging from a string in the front window. Advertisements plaster the door, bilingual for those who want to “Look beautiful, the Korean way! (Beauty products straight from Korea).” The woman on the front is so beautiful; I’m tempted to shell out a ridiculous amount for face cream I can’t read the ingredients of.
Katie is tempted by little cups of gelatin, a small piece of fruit suspended mid-cup, colorful little swallows of sugar. I convince her to buy it—ulterior motives because my favorite is red—and she does. We peel back the plastic covers and suck the gelatin from tiny plastic cups, Dina’s first experience. Then, throwing out empty cups into the overflowing trashcan and pretending we don’t see when they tumble down, we head back to subway.