Do you remember how at first you carried Google Maps printouts to guide you from SoHo to the East Village? Do you remember how you stuffed the folded maps in your bag, how they’d crinkle, how months later you’d find them crushed in a canvas corner, edges ragging and begrimed?
Remember the moist tension of those first weeks and nights, the way the yellow lights ate up the dark of the streets, the way they made stages out of them. Remember the scant layer of soggy yellow leaves squelching underfoot, remember how quickly the leaves disintegrating became unbeautiful. Remember the trash scattered on sidewalks and streets like leaves, how you didn’t understand it, the aggravation it stirred in your throat. Remember how the trash too disintegrated into the pavement and concrete.
Do you remember how ugly every unbeautiful thing used to be? Do you remember the day those unbeautiful things stopped being ugly, started just being?
Do you remember the first day when emerging from a midtown subway station didn’t send the opening notes of Rhapsody surging to the sliver of a sky?
Remember when you saw that man masturbating on a subway car. Remember how his mouth hung open, how his eyes were closed, how his face and shoulders twitched and shuddered, how he moaned, how he hid his dick in a blue Doritos bag and pulsed his legs in and in and in. Remember how distant the disgust felt. Remember how much more present and urgent was the knowing what a story this would make, the high clammy man masturbating on a late night F train. Remember it was the F.
Do you remember the first time you took the N train over the Manhattan Bridge? Do you remember crossing over the East River for the first time, and remember seeing the vertical giants of Lower Manhattan rear through the smeared window?
Yes but do you remember how it felt, seeing that glass concrete and steel manmade massif? Do you remember wondering how the island didn’t buckle under the weight of the buildings piled upon it, how the buildings didn’t teeter into the water shimmering all around them?
Remember the days the water didn’t shimmer, the days the river was flat, a floor of rooftop gray. Remember too the days it came alive with wild sprays of rain. Remember the N-train day Lower Manhattan stopped hulking so huge for you, the day that scape diminished to a tableau framing the woman who stood south and east of it, her back to the window. Do you remember not understanding how N-train riders could turn their backs to the sight of Lower Manhattan?
Do you remember the hours you spent kissing in subway cars, aware but not caring what anyone was thinking? Do you remember the hours you spent crying in subway cars, aware but not caring what anyone was thinking?
Do you remember how many others you watched kissing or crying in subway cars?
Do you remember the day you thought about coffee, about millions of cups and mugs and pots and vats of it sloshing around in the city, millions of pools of hot black liquid contained in cardboard, ceramic, glass, steel, passing from hand to hand and rising up elevators and shooting through tunnels and into offices and up to lips, all those instances of almost identical liquid sloshing and splashing and spilling on white shirts, burning pink tongues, marking sterile rooms with acrid aroma? Do you remember the coffee you drank that day? Do you remember whether you added milk?
Remember wondering whether the city contained more trees or buildings. Remember wondering whether the city contained more coffee cups or windows. Remember deciding the city must contain more leaves than windows. Do you remember deciding whether this would still be true in winter?
Do you remember the trail of pink bedbug bites constellated on your calf? Do you remember the trail that dotted your lower back, the one that braceleted your wrist? Do you remember how wary you grew of your crimson down jacket?
Do you remember the night on that sagging rooftop with no railing? Do you remember the other night on that other rooftop with the F train snaking through the black distance? Do you remember the cold gleam on the Gowanus canal the first time you walked over it? Do you remember how romantic that night seemed to feel?
Remember you compared the scene to moonlit Venice, though you’ve never been to Venice.
Remember the lusty dawn gleam of the Empire State Building from the Sunnyside 7 platform, the rosy gold of midtown from a morning distance. Remember orange sun glinting off countless windows.
Remember when you started saying you thought too much about trains.
Remember how many times you stared over the shoulders of people reading books on trains. Do you remember how many times people noticed you staring? Do you remember how many times you determined what book a person was reading?
Do you remember dragging your dirty laundry tote along the sidewalk even though you knew you shouldn’t? Do you remember how it finally burst, scattering your dirty clothes like leaves on the concrete? Do you remember the face of each person who helped, and each who laughed?
Remember every apple core lodged in every gutter. Remember every word of every language you heard spoken everywhere.
Remember the first night you felt like the loneliest person in the world. Remember the third, fourth, fifth and seventeenth nights you felt like the loneliest person in the world. Remember the obese scooter-bound lady ahead of you in line at the grocery store. Remember how she bought a quart of ice cream and you thought maybe you weren’t the loneliest person in the world. Remember the taste of guilt for connecting the lady and the loneliness. Remember paying for your eggs.
Forget nothing. Forget nothing.