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East 25th St.

My Neighborhood

I step outside and the first thing I notice are the shadows moving across buildings like little animals. The real animals hop around in the sun making little animal noises. Here I am on East 25th St. where I live.

There are a couple trees, but they look old and dead. They are in fences, made to protect them from garbage and dogs, but the trees are still lined with garbage of all sorts. Once, there was scattered grass inside the pens, now there is a lot of cabbage. It is purple and withered and dead like the trees. Cigarette butts, empty soda cans, gum, and candy wrappers cover the space around the trees.

I pass "The French Butcher," "At Home," and countless other stores. Some are dim and dirty, others are bright and clean. Some are large, some are small, some loud or quiet. I see people in all different colors bustle around. They run, jog, skip, and walk. The streets are cracked and dirty. They are spotted black with gum.

I pass buildings that are lime green and orange. The paint is chipping off and peeling, but they are so bright and unusual it hardly makes a difference. I spot a cluster of pigeons drinking water from a leaking fire hydrant. More bids fly by and squawking fills the air.

I walk by "Pearl Paint." There is a sign in the window: "our winter prices will warm your heart." The copy shop across the street has a bold, yellow sign in the dirty window that I squint to see. Next door is a furniture store with a big "SALE" sign. That sale has been going on for as long as I can remember. A couple pieces of furniture are outside. A desk, a cabinet, and a hunk of wood crowd the sidewalk. These are the empty stores. Nobody ever goes in. As I walk down the block past a diner, a restaurant, and a deli, the smells tickle my nose. There are flowers for sale and I smell them until the man working there tells me to buy a bouquet if I want to keep smelling them. I buy a pack of gum to right my wrong and give the man a dirty look as I cram a piece into my mouth.

I walk past stores on the other side of the street and look inside at the dollhouses, hair solons, and a restaurant filled with slinky people in dressy clothes. They don't wave back at me even though I wave to them. I watch a man looking through the garbage. He looks at me.

"It's my castle," he informs me. I cross the street.

I don't see so many people now that I am nearly home. There is a group of kids on the corner who are huddling together and whispering. I catch bits of the conversation as I wait for the light to change. "Can you imagine..." a girl hisses. A couple of kids gesture and respond. I cross the street and move past "Banco Popular," (which is empty and as un-popular as a bank could be) before I step under an awning, finish my writing, and head home.

The story was posted on 2004-03-26