No Sleep in Brooklyn

Posted on December 7, 2018

The other day I took a muscle relaxer for back pain and leg cramps and this resulted in heavy sleep, then the next day I drank really strong black tea and milk, often with ice in a glass skull mug with a straw. By the end of that day I began to feel fearful with a thumping heart and had panicked dreams all night. Eventually waking early the following morning, I decide to head down to open my mailbox, looking for a check I’ve been expecting. I also have a thank you card to mail for a job interview. The worst outcome would be to see one of my neighbors on the coop board, because many of my conflicts and petty fears originate there, and also I’m trying not to reveal my unemployment. 

Sure enough it’s half past six and exactly the person I don’t want to see is in the elevator. But then I remember our face to face encounters are always better. He’s wearing a sweatshirt that says “I went to Stuyvesant so just assume I’m right.” I guess even though he’s retired that high school achievement is still a source of major identity for him. Of course he asks if I’m working at home and of course I say I am, even though I look like I’ve been up doing crack all night and I certainly am not working at anything. 

I do take a walk up hill with my little gold envelope. This interview didn’t go especially well, I have already sent the card for the one that went better on the same day. While having this walk I observe my new neighborhood. I do feel a bit of an imposter here, but I’m having a day of imposter syndrome and try not to feel that too deep. We don’t have a coffee shop here. I could get a smoothie, but I can’t get a chai, I can’t get a vegan Ovenly cookie, I can’t get a coffee with soy milk, or that new silly oat milk or whatever unless I’m at home. I do appreciate the fruit shakes we have in this neighborhood but I have to be in the mood. For Ali's Roti I have to have cash, and be in the mood to walk up the hill and wait on line. But I do pass the restaurant and they are not open yet. I realize I haven’t had their breakfast lineup which I think includes porridge but the staff is still setting up. 

 One of the places I can go, and do go is the family run White Castle which has the vegan Impossible burgers, if you get them without cheese. You wouldn’t think I would have much in common with Wu-Tan but there we are. I can’t get a vegan slice, or pad thai on foot, but I can get vegan fast food, just pretty much rolling out my door. I like the family that owns it, they have employees too, but it’s often family members, and they advertise this on their work shirts. Today, this early in the 24 hour cycle of the White Castle there is a problem with the ordering screen. They rebooted the system and the girl has to call to find out where my burgers are on the screen. I can see she’s drinking from this gorgeous over the top travel mug that’s like 20 oz at least, is kind of pink iridescent, with a gold tone sippy top. She’s working and sipping out of that and I feel like she’s really honoring the coffee in her life. The other worker is wearing a headset for the drive through, and she’s got a folded up square of paper between the speaker and her ear. She’s the one who makes my hash browns. There is a solitary couple facing outward at the bar that faces the drive thru exit, it’s like they are disowning the rest of us. 

And then a woman comes in, she’s wearing flip flops, and she has kind of ashy ankles and feet. She’s wearing a sweatshirt as a makeshift head wrap, but she’s got patterned leggings that look fine, and her top and skirt looks fine. She’s holding a thin section of newspaper with a large red printed area, and a book. She keeps laughing and writing on the paper, and slapping the book, in between attempts to get staff attention. The staff is kind of in their own world, but they also know what’s coming. This restaurant has only one bathroom, it’s marked the ladies room and you have to be buzzed in. I actually only know this from coming here and listening to interactions with customers and staff. I’ve never seen even the door and since I live across the street I’ve not needed it. Anyway this woman leans and stretches to get noticed behind the counter and then says “ha! Ha!” and writes a notation on her paper. She finally asks to use the ladies room, but no one hears her. 

Finally my burgers are entered in the computer, it’s a long wait for those because they only start them when ordered on a separate grill. My hash browns are long done and sitting under the red lights. The woman finally asks again to use the bathroom as one of the counter ladies floats toward the back to make my order. And the employee says very sweetly “No, it’s just for customers baby. You will have to go somewhere else.” And the long skirt wearing lady, with the feet that have a look of street life, walks out the door. I know I have a longish wait and I stand and turn around towards the windows, which have a panorama view of two intersections. The sweatshirt headed woman walks into the little island in the parking lot with bushy landscaping. And I can’t see her but I can see her bobbing sweatshirt headdress. And I realize she’s doing her ladies room business in there. It goes quickly so I assume she’s only peed in the White Castle bushes.

I wonder if I should say something, don’t know what good it would do if I did. Ultimately inertia makes the decision for me. More people come in, and they look serious about their morning, rolling suitcases, and I feel like I blend in more with the atmosphere of people who have been up all night, but maybe no one can tell. One older woman wants a breakfast sandwich but she’s trying to get egg whites. The counter worker is asking if she wants the breakfast slider which is eggs cheese and bacon, or “The breakfast” which is on whole wheat toast, and as far as I can tell is also that same stuff but not tiny sized. The employee keeps saying “The breakfast is on wheat toast, do you want it, it’s $3.46” and she leaves to ring up an order from a car and comes back and asks again if she wants it. Finally the woman concedes that she will order “The Breakfast” and pays with exact change. I look out into the street, through those windows again. A cement truck comes up Remsen avenue, has the word “City” on the front painted in graffiti style. I’m handed a greasy clear bag with my food.  The drum turbine of the truck also has the same word “City” as it spins by, turning up East New York Avenue, “City”…”City”…”City.”