photo by kevin berger
Julie Bolt teaches writing and literature at Bronx Community College. Recent publications have been featured in The Fifth Street Review, Slow Trains Literary Magazine, Literary Visions, Radical Teacher, and Apollo's Lyre, among others. After living in California, Arizona, and New Mexico, she has returned to New York City with a husband, son, and two dogs.
My Window, My Threshold
“I could see your mother’s legs in the air.”
“Yeah, I could see them in the window when I walked by. They were raised in the air. She was doing it.”
Mortified, suspecting in my gut he was making it up, trying to get a rise out of me, I said, “No you didn’t. You’re sick.” But there was a part of me that hoped he was right. Who would have known my mother was still doing it?
That was Max. He was known for his tact. Until you got to trust him. Like the other boyfriends of my youth, Max had the opportunity to stop on the street and look straight up into our apartment window prior to buzzing the intercom … or scaling the wall.
Of course, that was the problem with living on the second floor in New York City. There’s no way to avoid being a public spectacle, unless you want to be a hermit, shades closed, all shriveled up due to Vitamin D deficiency. I say: you gotta have sun. Still, I always felt I had to glance over my shoulder, out of the corner of my eye. Did anyone see me changing my shirt, picking my nose, sobbing when life just plain hurt?
There was one time when I moved to the music on the radio, and as I moved the music filled me, so that all the molecules in my body turned into sweet blooming notes. My hips swayed as if there were hands around them and other hips upon them. My breasts felt full of dark roses and my arms and neck were free of gravity. I surrendered.
Turning, swaying, gone.
But then another sound found its way into my ears, flat and distant, from the street. The sound grew louder. Right below my second floor window. Hands clapping, steady, and slow.
There was that guy with the mohawk, who went to my school. There he was, just enough older than me to instill pangs of discomfort. He was digging me and didn’t mind showing it.
“What’s up?” I asked as my head poked through the window. Inside I’m thinking: you stole the music in my breast.
Now that guy was hard to shake. He’d turn up as I was rounding the corner from Sixth Avenue to Tenth Street, or would materialize while I lingered by the fountain at Washington Square Park. I was partial to the power I had to attract him, but disliked the lack of muscle I had to shake him. I didn’t know what to say when he would slink into my realm: his mohawk was too high, his thoughts too remote, his face almost too angular to bear. He was beautiful and frightening, and when abandoned by music and strategy and words, I was clumsy and small.
His name was Zane and he graduated high school not long after I had begun it. Then, all at once, he vanished from school turf, from the park, from the lamp-lit street corners, and from under my window.
When, years later, I encountered him in a corner of The Palladium, entwined around a girl so striking that my very heart felt plain, I desired him. “What’s up,” he stated later in the evening when he saw me by the bar. He was aloof and immediately back in her arms.
Now, it does seem that over time everyone passed under my window. “Yo! Yo! Crazy girl!” It might be Courtney from the neighborhood, who always cut class. Or Ali or Omar from the arcade. It might be Adam from the Rocky Horror Picture Show --- sexy and agile, and the most competent at scaling the wall to my window. Sometimes it was Max’s buddy, an agent of reconciliation, on whom the window was promptly shut.
On warm and breezy nights my window stayed open. On one such three a.m., my friend Bianca was sleeping over, when Lance and Julio whistled from the street, followed by attempts to scale the wall in less than sober conditions. After several failed attempts, they collapsed in piles, vanished, procured a unstable ladder from an open lobby, swayed to and fro on said ladder, and climbed in while mother and her transient boyfriend slumbered in the connecting room.
During that night Julio lay entangled with Bianca. Unlucky Lance lay unentangled with Bianca, unentangled with me, and I lay unentangled with someone who wasn't there. Sometimes one of us would laugh, burp, or generate some other sound that might alert the elders to our transgressions. But the sun would rise, and Julio and Lance would scale down the ladder unapprehended.
They would depart, ladder in tow, returning to the street after ten minutes, interrupting our giggle-fest. “Yo!” called Julio and Lance, and they proceeded to throw up clementine oranges, no doubt stolen from the 24-hour corner market. Some of these oranges rolled unceremoniously into the gutter and some we caught. Peeling the fragrant clementines we hung out the window watching Julio and Lance brag en route to the subway, mere specks, heading for the drear-light of Queens.
And the sun filled my window, my room, my eyes. Each day, before I left my room for the great waves of the city, I opened it, thrust out my head, bent out to see as far as I could, and wondered: who, what, where.