14th Street Down

It was too hot already, too sunny, I pulled my cap low, too tired to run, so I walked along Hudson, close to the hardhats drilling too loud. The spray of broken tar stung my face. I kept walking close to the workers and watched the blacktop break. It felt good inside her with nothing on and just us. Just us. Beginning words. First-week words. Fooling myself but allowing myself to be fooled. I’d kept my eyes open to watch her eyes and her mouth and her body underneath me. I took a left on 14th Street and walked west past the trucks picking up meat at the warehouses and I waited for an opening in the traffic, ran across the West Side Highway, walked back downtown along the river this time. I listened to heavy breaths and footsteps behind me then next to me then the runner passed. The old man wore shorts and a sweatshirt. He moved slowly, deliberately, his hands clenched tight, the struggle not just in his legs and lungs. I looked over the rail at the Hudson, almost flat. A few boats cutting wide-spaced ripples. A cruise ship moving slow-motion, but faster than the boats. People on deck, wearing white and waving at the shore and the liner white against gray water and the sky too-bright blue, all like a scene from another time, around the time Mickey Mantle hit homeruns, around the time color TV wasn’t the right color. I couldn’t see the people’s faces, couldn’t see into the people’s eyes, couldn’t see if the waving was just a cover, something they thought they were supposed to do. I didn’t wave back and when I looked the old runner was pretty far along.

Adam Berlin