Thirty-Fourth Avenue

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
A visual of unexpected occurrences

Submitted: May 09, 2013

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Submitted: May 09, 2013

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Thirty-fourth Avenue

It was a Wednesday, if I recall correctly. I was unemployed again and home unoccupied. I took some time to stand in my doorway on that early-fall afternoon. I watched the rain fall and knock the yellowing leaves from the branches, which fell on the damp ground and created a colorful carpet on the concrete sidewalks. The wind-swept street had a slight glimmer under the gray sky and appeared cleaner than usual. Cars flew down the street as they always did, but they were not as disruptive as they could have been when the sun was bright, the ground was dry, and there was some warmth in the air. It was peaceful. On days such as that one I enjoyed walking under the smoke colored sky so I could feel the rain knocking the brim of my hat. I gladly accepted the moistness under each step and its comfort.

I was standing there for several minutes. I persuaded myself to venture out into the beautiful, afternoon rain. I swiftly dressed, locked-up the house, and stepped onto the pavement. I had no particular destination, but I wanted to walk. I thoroughly enjoyed walking down Thirty-fourth Avenue towards Jackson Heights. The avenue was a two way street that ran from the Grand Central Parkway all the way down, passing the Brooklyn-Queens expressway, to Woodside, and snaked its way around shopping centers and into Astoria. The two lanes were separated by a median decorated with trees and small bushes. Though I lived there for my whole life, I marveled at the scenery and the sudden change in architecture. Old three-family homes, built in the 1930s, lined the avenue here in Corona. Some were torn down and replaced by apartment complexes. They were an eyesore and altered the aesthetic integrity of the community -- so did the other transplants. But I never took a great deal of time to carefully analyze their integration into the neighborhood; it was just a brief observation.

I passed the homes of old friends. On these walks I made a habit of slowing my pace and inspecting an old friend’s house, just to be sure all was right. It was on the corner of one of the busiest streets, in the neighborhood — Junction Boulevard. Across from his house was a park that I played in as a child and parallel to that was a supermarket. The sight of supermarkets always reminded me of how much I despise them. When I was child my father would always drag me into the packed food labyrinths. We would spend hours picking out necessities. I never considered preemptive food shopping as detrimental and still couldn’t. I found it to be a waste of time to walk into a supermarket when it’s at its busiest and attempt to purchase everything needed for the next two weeks. Supermarkets are mad houses and it was silly.

I crossed Junction Boulevard and once on the other side of the Boulevard, Corona was no more and that’s where Jackson Heights began. Houses no longer lined the avenue. There were only apartment buildings on this end. I enjoyed studying the houses in Corona, but I have always been interested by the apparent structural integrity found with apartment buildings. The apartment buildings seemed to be built in pairs, some in herds, and some as stand-alone. They all, somehow, complimented each other -- working in unison to create a mood, an aura, or an environment. Each respective herd or pair had their own unique design; a signature of the architect. The only signature that was available to the eye from the street. I thought of all the people I knew that might have lived in any one of these buildings and how many I’ve actually been inside of. There were only a few and the tally abruptly ended on one hand.

My stroll, so far, had landed me on Eighty-Sixth Street. I thought to give Lilith a call. She had just moved into an apartment building on 84th street. I couldn’t pass her street without attempting to pay her a visit. She was a good friend and I cared for her deeply. I pulled out my phone and dialed her number. The phone began to ring and the ring was long and drawn out. It rang at least four times and I was about to give up just before I heard her voice.

“Hello, darling,” she said.

“Hello to you too. What’s up?”

“Nothing. Actually, I’m at home. I’ve been cleaning up a bit. Today is one of my only days off.”

“Oh, really. I hope I’m not interrupting too much. I was just out on a walk and I’m about to pass your block and I thought I’d see what you were up to.”

“Oh, yeah? Do you want to come by? We can have some beer and hang out.”

“Yeah, sure. That would be great. I guess I’ll see you in a few minutes then.”

“Ok. See ya.”

She probably heard me smiling through the phone. I was smiling tremendously. I walked down to Northern Blvd and into a bodega so I could pick up a twelve-pack of beer. I walked to her apartment and through the glass doors rimmed with black steel and pushed the white button next to her name. I heard the intercom crackle and then the buzzer indicating the door was unlocked. I jogged up the stairs to the fourth floor. My frequent cigarette smoking made it feel like I had run a marathon. I was breathing heavily as I knocked on her door, which was already ajar and waiting for me to open it and walk in. She was scurrying around with a Swiffer mop in her hand when I closed the door behind me. She only stopped to give me a hug. I rested the twelve-pack on her kitchen table. Lilith was a five-foot one brunette with green eyes, recently dyed brown hair, a lovely figure, and enough vitality to run laps around anyone. Overall she was charming and she was a clean freak. She would keep cleaning even after the apartment was clean and guests were in a seat trying to enjoy a cold one. I could already tell this would be the case once again.

I opened the box of beer, but I found myself watching Lilith move about instead of paying attention to the task at hand. She was a beautiful girl or woman rather. We weren’t kids anymore; we were, in fact, adults. But, nonetheless, Lilith was beautiful. She had perfect curves for a woman of her stature and enchanting facial features. Her full cheeks lifted with her broad smile and her eyes shimmered olive in the light. I’ve thought about the smile every day and it was one of the reasons why I loved being around her. She suddenly stopped cleaning for a moment to look up at me. I was caught in mid-stare. We locked eyes. She smiled at me and I returned one. It was an odd moment, but in a satisfying way. I went back to unpacking the beer and placing them in the fridge. I left two out, one for Lilith and one for myself.

Lilith had begun folding the vast amounts of clothes covering her bed. I didn’t want to be intrusive and just walk in her room even though I’ve done it many times before while drunk. A crisp snapping sound broke the silence in the room as I opened two of the silver beer cans. I took a sip from mine just to feel the cold rush of the alcoholed beverage enter my system. I called Lilith over to the counter where I was standing. Her cleaning was making me dizzy and it was obligatory that she shared a cold beer with me and relaxed at this point. She needed it. Lilith took her time coming into the kitchen. There was a hint of frustration on her face as if my interrupting her chores was the worst I could possibly do, but it wasn’t. I could have kissed her right in that moment and destroyed a friendship; she wouldn’t understand. She took the beer from my hand and chugged away, not saying anything. I looked at her and smiled.

“You need a break, Lilith. The clothes will still be there when we’re done here.”

“I know. That’s the problem,” she said as her index finger lightly tapped her can.

“Forget about cleaning for a little while, ok? Sit here and have this beer with me; then another and another.”

She smiled. “Alright,” she said as she plopped down on her black Ikea couch a few feet away.

The living room and the kitchen were one room. Her television was on the furthest wall adjacent to her bedroom door. And there was another white couch against the wall perpendicular to the couch she just positioned herself on. I sat next to her and adjusted my feet to accommodate the lack of room due an oddly placed coffee table.

“Who’s the new guy, Lilith?” I asked as I took a careful sip of my beer.

Lilith recently began dating a Puerto Rican stockbroker from the Bronx. According to her, she met him at work and he had been trying to get with her for that past few months. She shared this much with me, but I have yet to meet the guy and I was skeptical. I was skeptical because of honest concern and a hint of jealousy. He had his claws into her now; who knows when she would wiggle herself free from that kind of mess.

“You just jump right into interrogating me?!” she replied with a wide smile. Her eyes jumped with green jubilance. The same jubilance that attracted me the very first time we became acquainted. I never intended to be 'just friends' with her when we met in middle school. But at that age I was no Casanova and girls didn't come easy to me. Then again, I kept myself occupied with video games. I stared at her over my silver beer can and softened my eyes the way I always did when I looked at her.

“He’s not that important. I promise you. When he becomes important, I’ll let you meet him because I’d want you to.”

Lilith was the over achiever -- fresh out of college and looking for love after her recent break-up. She was liable fall for the same disaster that was the previous relationship. Furthermore, I did not want her to fall in love with just any man that gave her unwavering attention. She was working too hard to save up for graduate school for it all to be detoured by some stockbroker asshole. I didn’t want that for her. The subject became sore and dampening. I quickly brought up the bar in which she had recently been working. It was the highlight of her month. For the past several weeks, Lilith was fervently searching for a position as a bartender before she got the gig at a small bar a few blocks away from St. John's University. It gave me a healthy joy to see her working hard, like anyone watching a loved one treading the sea to success.

We sat there for a few hours reveling in each other's laughter. The beer flowed from the cans into our bellies and the cans covered the surface of the center table. We were becoming drunk and I was becoming restless. I looked around the room for some form of entertainment other than what had become our flimsy conversation. It dawned on me. I stood up, reached out, and gave Lilith my hand. She took it and stood.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"Come on." I grabbed several beers out of the refrigerator in quick swoops. I put on my coat and lined the pockets with the beer cans. The extra weight felt like I was strapped with dynamite, but the kind that gets you drunk. "Grab your coat. We're going for a walk."

She stared into my eyes puzzled. "What? Why?"

"Aren't you tired of being in this apartment?"

"Not really. I have work tomorrow. Not to mention I’ll be at the bar afterwards.”

"Come on. I promise we won't go far and we won't be out late." The clock above her bathroom door flashed 10:19 pm in bright red digits when she turned to look at it. "Let's just walk for a bit."

Lilith peered into my eyes as if I were crazy. She must have thought I was too drunk to realize what I was saying. But she recognized I was well aware after a few seconds. Her perplexed stare and apprehensive stance loosened and her face grew into a smirk.

"Alright. Let me put on some shoes and get my coat."

We were out the door and scurrying down several flights of stairs. The cool night air hit our skin and we giggled in its freedom and relief. Her hand grazed mine and there was a surge that ran through my body. The surge enticed me to grab Lilith's arm and break out into a light jog, dragging her behind me. The beer cans bounced against my body. Lilith broke out into laughter; it was loud and joyful. We only jogged until Thirty-Fourth Avenue; one hundred yards is exceptionally hard on the lungs. We walked south on the avenue and found ourselves at our former junior high school -- the place where we met. Nothing was different on the outside -- we knew that. We've been drinking along the way and, surprisingly, the beer was still cold. I stopped on the sidewalk, there, on the avenue and stared up at the school. I walked to the black Iron gate that surrounded it and place my hands on its bars. The cold metal reminded me of my childhood. Looking up at the brick building, I couldn't help but feel a shower of nostalgia and contempt. The moments of neglect, embarrassment, and dissatisfaction came rushing back to me and in that moment I took a step back. I hurled my half empty beer can at the highest window I could reach. The golden liquid swirled out of the opening as it flew through the air, hitting the iron bars that covered the window, then the floor.

"Why'd you do that?" Lilith asked.

"I thought the school deserved something thrown at it, and it felt good," I quipped. "Try it."

She looked at me with a ruminative gaze. The bright revealing moonlight gleamed across her face, exposing hidden anguish and temperaments. I could only imagine what she was feeling at that very moment -- though I would find out later my imagination held some validity. Lilith hurled the can at the building with all her might. It didn't get very high because she wasn't very strong, but there was a lot of emotion in the throw. And within those few seconds, I witnessed for the first time in twelve years Lilith expressing profound anger. Her eyes were enlarged with tears when she turned to face me. It could have been the alcohol that amplified the grief, but that didn't matter. I felt her pain in the pit of my stomach and I embraced her. My chin rested on the top of her head and we swayed back and forth in the misty fall night air.

"I want to go home," she muttered.

The walk back to her apartment was quiet. The only sound was the short sniffling of Lilith's nose. I wanted to leave her there at her apartment door. I assumed she needed some time to collect her emotions. But she took hold of my hand and led me inside before locking the door behind us. Still holding my hand, Lilith looked up at me. Her green eyes were large, sad, and drunk.  

"Please stay with me. I feel like shit. I don't want to be alone."

"Do you want to sit on the couch?"

She didn't respond. Her grip grew tighter around my fingers as she lead me through her bedroom door and on to her bed. "Come here. Hold me. I need to be close to someone right now… I don't feel very well."

"Sure…" I said.

I rested close to her and she curled up into my body. My arm found its way around her petite frame. She let out a sigh and her heavy beer breath penetrated my nostrils. I let my fingers brush her wavy brown hair away from her face so I could get a clear view of it. While looking down at her round face nestled into my chest, I realized the happy face I adored was now bereaved and swollen. I couldn't shake the feeling of responsibility. I had, somehow, caused a love despair and tears. And there's no worse feeling than causing a love to come to tears. If I had not hauled her out of her apartment, Lilith would still be the ray of inebriated sunshine she was before we faced the wall of that school building and our past.

Lilith's parents died circa 1999. It was a subject I never felt comfortable discussing with her. It was an awkward moment I feared I would arouse just by asking a question. My parents were still alive so I could never really empathize much either -- I was useless on the subject.

"When you told me to throw my beer can at that building, my mind immediately rushed back to the sixth grade. I lost my parents around that time, remember?"

I remembered.

She let out a sigh. "That time was hard on me. It was difficult to grasp at that age, ya' know? I've gotten over it through the years. But, it's really difficult not to miss them. That school, it's a landmark in my life, but also a beacon of a horrible memory. Ah, I don't want to think about it anymore. You're a good friend. You always have been. Just stay with me, please."

I was silent for a while. I didn't know what to say and I still did not want to know how they died. I had no clue how to console her. I felt indescribable discomfort from watching her sulk in my arms.

"It's ok," I said, finally, as I tilted her head up, by her chin, to face me. I kissed her gently on her forehead. Then, as if it would be further consolation, I kissed her gently on the lips. She had no immediate reaction. But then, she looked at me. Her lips quivered in confusion and then she kissed me back, as if it was the only sensible thing to do.

---+---

My eyes fluttered open. There was a thin stretch of sunlight that reached through the space between the drawn curtains in to the modest bedroom. Lilith's back was towards me. I watched it rise and fall as she let out small snores. It was curved and the smooth bumps of her vertebrae were visible. I watched her for some while before I rose from the bed. I readied myself to quietly exit the apartment, but I failed at the task because of my ignorance of her noisy floors, which made it impossible to be quiet. Halfway through the kitchen the floor creaked loudly.

"Well, fuck," I whispered to myself.

Several seconds passed and then I heard my name being called from the bedroom. I walked back in, disregarding the creaks of the floorboards.

"Good morning." I said as I looked into her sleepy eyes. "I was just heading out because, well, it's morning and I want to be out of your way so you can get ready for work."

She turned over onto her back and propped her self up onto her elbows. My eyes shortly fixated on her small breasts as they bounced in her black bra when she made the adjustment. She looked at her cell phone.

"You're right." she said in disdain. "I should be getting up for work. But for some reason I want to call out sick and just lay in bed with you. Last night was strange when you and I were kissing. And we were kissing for a while. Wow. That was so damn unexpected, but enjoyable. I always wondered what it would be like to kiss you.  And I apologize for that complete break down. That hasn’t happened before. You don’t have to go.”

“I know it hasn’t happened before. It’s completely fine. But, I’m leaving because I really want you to go to work. You know you need the money.”

“Stay…” she said once more.

She looked beautiful lying there and her offer was enticing, but I couldn't bring myself to stay. Though dampened by sadness, last night held some beauty. I felt that my lingering would ruin the memory. I rested one knee on her mattress and guided my face down to hers. I kissed her gently, savoring her lips and her morning scent. Her eyes were still closed when I pulled away and they fluttered opened revealing her green irises again. I smiled at her so she would recognize that I didn't really want to go, but I had to.

I ran down the stairs to the outside. The air was brisk and the early morning was white and bare of much commuter life. I walked to Thirty-Fourth Avenue, made the left and walked back home. I kept my eyes down most of the way because they were rusty with sleep and I had not looked in the mirror before I left. My hands were shoved into my pockets, the left one clutching my phone. I had the eerie feeling that the few morning commuters knew I hadn’t been home yet and were quietly judging me. I walked quickly and soon enough I was home. I didn't want to sleep. I undressed and made a pot of coffee. The house smelled of the ground-roasted cocoa and I poured myself a cup. I sat in my room, at my desk and wrote poems for quite a bit. There was no way to be sure of how to handle Lilith and I kissing. My personality wouldn't allow for it to be done correctly. My profound awkwardness would either leave Lilith in disgust or intrigued enough to keep me around. But she knew me. She would know what she was getting herself into if this were to go any further. My bones, my blood, and my heart wanted to run back over to her apartment, but my brain said otherwise. Time crept by and I sat there holding my coffee cup and pondering my poems and my dilemma. I decided to do nothing. But, that’s when my phone rang and I realized I was being a fool.


© Copyright 2018 Joshua Anthony. All rights reserved.

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