Kay, P., ‘New York Lights Burning Bright’ in Wills, D., Beatdom Vol. 1 (City of Recovery Press: Dundee, 2007)
By Paul Kay
Love begins with a big bang. A big bang coming out of a big beat. A big burst of light is shot out into the soul of the romantic Thump, thump thump goes the heart. Follow it. Jive with that beat bursting out. Take it for a walk.
Strutted down 5th avenue getting a contact high from every smile passing by. Cracked a laugh at the tourists from South Carolina looking at me with wild eyes. I‘ve been turned into the hero of dreams. A man walking on thin air with nothing out of reach except good credit. I kept on walking, snapping my fingers. Gave a cigarette to a blonde girl and she gave me a kiss on the cheek. Everything can touch you if you want it to.
Coming up on 30th Street I saw a beautiful woman sitting inside the Starbucks glaring at me through the window. I walked in and ordered a five dollar coffee, sat down at the table next to her and pretended to read. She seemed occupied with her writing, but kept looking over. She dropped her pen on purpose and I picked it up.
“You look familiar” I said.
“Oh yeah? I just moved here from France to study,” she replied.
“What are you studying?”
“Arthur Rimbaud. Are you familiar with his work?”
“He’s the one who wrote about getting drunk and pissing in the street.”
“Yes, one of the great romantics.” she said smiling brighter than ever.
After three cups of coffee she told me her name was Olivia. Her bright red hair flowed over the tight custom designed flower dress. Her flawless body kept wiggling in the chair as she spoke. Whenever she laughed her happiness filled the room. The smile that Olivia carried on her face was enough to get out of a hundred parking tickets.
What had I done to deserve an afternoon with her? The guys at the table next to us were probably wondering the same thing. All of a sudden I started spilling my guts out to her. I don’t know if it was the caffeine or her charms, but my thoughts poured out of me like a drunk to a priest.
“I’m really worried about what I’m going to do after I get done with school,” I said.
“I’m going to a two year acting school and it’s expensive as hell. I just don’t know what I should do.”
She smiled very calmly while my whole body twitched nervously. The king of dreams had disappeared and a worried little boy took his place. I wanted to marry this woman. I didn’t care about dating or getting to know each other. I wanted to marry her and move into a small house…Oklahoma for all I care. I didn’t need anything else but her smile and a record player.
She grabbed my hand and leaned closer to me. Her blue eyes stared into mine and I was hypnotized. My breathing slowed down and my heart rate got normal again.
“You worry too much” she whispered. “Everything will be okay. Just don’t worry so much.”
As she spoke I realized that she must be an angel. A person has flaws and problems and she was truly pure.
As she left the coffee shop I had the same satisfying feeling one gets after making love with a princess. My whole world had been changed by just one burst of light. A new found sense of confidence and hope for the future. If so much change can happen to me by just one conversation with a stranger, think about how much change can happen with ten more.
I couldn’t stop smiling as I started walking down the street once again. I couldn’t wait to meet the next angel on my way. I jumped onto the subway heading for Central Park. I am truly alive when meeting new people and sharing beauty with them. Next stop, eternity.
Eternity seems pretty easy to say till passing the Plaza Hotel’s doorway. Watching all the millionaires in the depth of a spending spell. Quiet desperation with enough money to cover up the sadness. Holding onto their credit cards instead of their hearts. The world is spinning us all, twisting and turning even the poor. It takes heart not money to twirl around this giant merry-go-round.
I met up with Mike where we usually hang out in the park. Sitting cool and calm in his wheelchair next to the pond. Up on the Gapstow Bridge, children were running and fighting while annoyed mothers tried to get them to unwind.
Mike was laughing at them while a stream of smoke poured from his small cigar and into the heavens. Never being able to walk hasn’t stopped him from being king of his universe. King Mike of Manhattan sitting in his portable throne. He is always the first to start up conversations with strangers stepping into sight. Bringing smiles and passion into the night.
“This is my dream and anyone drifting in my direction must be here for a reason” he always says.
Sometimes the conversations he starts sound quite random, beautiful poetic randomness.
The other day we were on the subway and he noticed a girl reading a book about finding the right man. He rolled his wheelchair up next to her and stared into her eyes.
“You’ll never find the right man if you stay buried in that book. Look at all the lonely faces on this train. They all want a girl like you.”
She glared back at him wearing a smile that had been locked in the closet for years. She had the bright green eyes of a romantic gone to pieces after too much heartbreak. Dave’s voice causes all women to shudder, and he is envied by many of the romantics in our crowd.
Mike was an angel to many on the New York City subway trains. He came into their lives for just enough time to show them hope and then vanished- wheelchair and all. He believed that his dream was run by the world and couldn’t stick around with one person for too long. Once he inspired a soul, he had to move on.
He was always full of energy and light, but not today. As he sat there staring into infinity, it looked like all hope was gone.
“I’m tired, Paul” he said while flicking his cigar into the pond.
Mike tried getting up from his chair but fell straight onto the ground. He began crawling towards the pond, using his arms as rows.
“What are you doing, man?” I asked.
“Trying to get wet. Wash myself of these troubles. Maybe the pond will heal me. Holy water.”
“You’re talking crazy. Let’s go down to Desmonds and get a beer,” I said while trying to get him back to the chair.
“Get off me! I don’t need your help. I don’t need anyone’s help.”
Mike seemed very serious about getting into the pond. He flip flopped around like a caught fish trying to get back into the sea.
“Well I need your help. Just look at me for one second! I had an experience earlier today which I don’t understand. I had coffee with this girl and I think she was god,” I said
He stopped dead in his tracks about two feet away from the water.
“Come on, Mike. Let’s get you back in your chair and go get a beer.”
He turned around towards me and began laughing.
“God? You think she was god?”
“Yes, I really do. She couldn’t have been human.”
Mike’s laugh got louder and he rolled onto his back.
“Okay, Paul. Help me back into my chair. I think you need that beer more than I do.”
We headed back towards 5th Avenue as if nothing had happened. Mike seemed to know all the answers to the universe, but I guess even prophets need a little help sometimes. I followed him back to his building and agreed to meet up later on.
I started walking down 5th avenue, the same street I’ve gone down thousands of times. Smiled again at the tourists, much like the other times. Snapped my fingers in the same rhythm as I had the other times. I began to think about how I made a difference to Mike, a feeling I certainly haven’t felt on other times. It felt good. An angel of New York. Snap, snap, snap.
In the late spring of 1939, Weldon Kees, his wife Ann, and his parents, John…