On the corner of Eastern Parkway and Franklin Avenue is where I stand as I eat my egg and cheese roll. I bought it at Sal’s Restaurant, on the corner, where they know us by now. Sometimes Sal’s is full to bursting with students grabbing their breakfast, but this morning I am early and the wait was short.
As I open the bag I feel a waft of warmth rush over my face, and I smell hot egg and melted cheese. There is a pang of guilt as I wonder how this deliciousness is even possible for $1.75. I know the answer, but I am not ready to go there yet. My stance so far extends to refusing a plastic bag, to actually giving the bag back if I get one. I can’t yet tackle that bigger issue.
At this hour, about 7.15, there aren’t many people about and I find a moment of peace as I stand at the top of subway stairs. Usually I feel self-conscious and make the effort to walk further to sit a park bench. But today, I can save time and stand here for a moment. Only a few people pass me and it’s easy not to feel the pressure to move on.
Across the road I see the bench where A and I sometimes sit and I feel slightly wistful as I realise it is something we haven’t had time to do for a while. Our routine is changing. Me leaving early, him still able to sleep late. Me coming home tired but wanting to make up for not seeing him all day, him having busied all day and ready for Netflix and chill. We’ll work it out.
Trucks and traffic rush past this corner and the noise of them intrudes on my peace. Eastern Parkway is a big street, and pedestrians take second place. It’s one of the few roads I encounter on a daily basis that is difficult to jaywalk across. In NYC, like inner-city Melbourne, jaywalking is king. Even though crossing the street is dangerous. People live dangerously here it seems. Just at the weekend I saw someone nearly get hit crossing the street. Is NYC a dangerous city? I get freaked out by the number of bicycle deaths, fires. But still, I go about my life without changing what I do. Like a real New Yorker, I am learning to keep my wits about me at all times. I worry about my Mum if she come’s to visit, the New York I frequent is too fast for her.
I am not cold here on the corner. I have been surprised not to be more cold yet. It is a warmer than average November, all though only 6 degrees (fahrenheit) warmer so still cold. I can’t find the right combination of layering – a problem I have had all my life when trying to dress for heart-elevating activities in cold weather, like cycling and cross-country skiing. Here, often too hot whilst walking, as soon as I remove my coat I am chilled. And even when I’m too hot, my fingers, toes and nose can be chilly, and I can see my breath. Maybe this winter in NYC will finally teach me how to get my layering right.
Before I take the last bite of delicious, melty cheese, salty roll and non-free-range-non-organic-cruelly raised egg and head down into the ground, I look up and down the street at the trees. The sunlight is catching the last of the leaves and I realise I am surprised that there are still any leaves at all. Surprised at the difference between different trees in different places within the city. Central Park still has many fall-coloured leaves, Eastern Parkway has almost none. And yet with the sunlight and clear blue skies, it could be summer.