His vacant eyes saw without seeing. He greeted well-meaning visitors with a perfunctory smile, a remaining trait that had been embedded in his youth for a veil had settled over his mind making it impossible to withdraw memories, such as when his arms held his firstborn, or the time he buried his only boy. Perhaps receding memories protect our failing bodies during the slow retreat to embryonic stage. Yet, when he saw his childhood friend, his eyes registered recognition. A broad smile cracked his chapped lips. “Andres,” he whispered. The moment faded quickly, and he retreated to the impenetrable miasma.
The plane rattled with every bump on the road. She shifted in her seat dramatically as if to defy the crew that insisted everyone sit tight during take-off. The plane gathered enough speed and lifted from the ground. Her heart sank as they soared. Drifts of clouds rushed by, and a lump formed in her throat. She had not been born there but the roots of the island gripped her heart. She felt a pressure on her shoulders as if the land below insisted she stay. She made the sign of the cross with a promise to her ancestors that she’d return.
Vermont Street marked the edge of East New York. Queens to the east, Bushwick to the north, and Brownsville to the south and west. Blacks, whites, and Latinos, all homeowners, coexisted peacefully at the edge of town. They helped each other during winter storms and shared recipes at summer block parties. But as the aging population began to move on, the block became a gateway for renters, changing the face forever. Houses began to sag under the weight of indifferent residents. No more beautification, sharing, or helping each other. Ennui filled the air of the once thriving edge of town.