A loud electronic beep rings in my ears. I try to open my eyes and keep them open, but it's very difficult. My lids are heavy like the rolldown gates of the city center fruit shop in the early hours of the morning, except there are no tired brown-skinned arms to force them open. I try harder though because I can see the shoes of people passing by through winks of darkness, and the slim recognition of cheap sneakers tells me that I must be in some American city. I feel the familiar rumbling and trembling of the dirty concrete beneath my cheek followed by the loud heartbeats of a train that's gaining speed.
I half want to lose the battle against exhaustion, pretend like I don't have to deal with whichever world is out there and just plunge back into sleep, but that's the thing about reality, once you get a glimpse of it it's impossible to ignore.
Reality. I've always hated that word. It sounds too much like responsibility.
The silence left behind is a sign that the train is gone and it's time to get up. I groggily push the floor back into horizontal position and look around the now half-empty subway station, avoiding the rude stares of the remaining commuters as I try to deduce my whereabouts. I feel around and realize I'm wearing someone's oversized coat, and try to locate my hands through the long green sleeves. As I get up on my feet I stumble upon a soft object, hear a jingling sound and look down to see a black hat filled with dollars and quarters. Smiling with irony I pocket the money and shrug, thinking- hey, I might need it later. I walk down the station in search for a sign but there's almost no need, I can already tell by the people and the dusty smell that this is a subway somewhere in the Bronx.
As I walk I begin to feel an intense headache and the taste of whiskey in my mouth. It must have been a fun night, but I can't remember a thing. My smiling watch signals 6 in the morning. A lonely flute starts grieving from the other side of the station and it reminds me of the muffled sound of someone crying, but I can't remember who. There's a lanky white old man who's playing the melancholy tune, and I wonder why he's playing in an almost empty station. Walking past the movie posters I look up at the wall and read "149th Street." I start wiping my cheek with the inside of my coat sleeve but even if the grime comes off the disgusting feeling of filth on my skin won't go away so easily. At least I still smell of perfume. Man, I really need a shower. A groan from the darkness announces the coming of another train.
Well, here we go again. I sigh, put on a rueful smile and the little black hat just for kicks and make my way inside the train. Now that people can see my heels I hope they confuse me with an avant-garde runway model or a quirky artist and not with a homeless person. The doors close with a loud beep as I find a seat next to a really fat Puerto Rican man displaying his flag in almost every piece of clothing he's wearing. As I squeeze between him and dignified old black lady I run down the list of New York contacts in my smartphone and think about whose place I could crash in today.
I missed you, New York.