a saturday night

On my way to the city from Brooklyn on a Saturday night.  The energy is mild, but 8:30 is still early by New York standards and it’s summer. I walk past the girls on the platform in their short skirts and thick eyeliner;  their hair is beginning-of-the-night perfect.  They wait for the train, shifting their weight from foot to foot, radiating hope and desire. Maybe tonight will be the night. Maybe something will happen. Or at least, it will be fun. Their laughter is loud, nervous.

Then I’m up the stairs and on to the sidewalk, back in the familiar buzz of the street.  The mom getting ice cream for her daughter, the couple walking from the restaurant to the bar. The night hasn’t really started yet.  Nearby, a driver in a car and a driver in cab play a game, mimicking each other as they tap lightly on their horns while waiting for the light to change. The driver of the car is in his 60s, but the delight on his face makes it clear what he looked like as a young boy.  Toot-toot! Toot-toot!  A call and response.   Then the light changes and both drivers move on.

The city.  My city. For better or for worse.  Walking east from the train, past a few stoic brownstones, past the strip with the bars only starting to fill up, ignoring the rush of cars like a river beside me, past the coffee chains getting ready to close for the day, past the place where the uniqueness has been ironed out and replaced with wealth and homogeneity, rounding the corner towards the big bright hospital.

Inside, it’s quiet.  And bright enough that it could be day time. Standing in line at the lobby, I show my ID, then head up to the ninth floor where in a little dark room, loud with the whir of a medical-grade air purifier, baby Anya sleeps, pressed deep against the cushions of her crib. She wears a hospital gown too large for her  - a yellow one with little lions on it.  She sleeps deeply, (always a good sleeper) her breath even and regular.

This little room, it’s a spaceship. The Saturday night summer pulse of the city has no meaning here.  We might as well be a thousand miles away from the street below. The baby sleeps, the purifier whirs.  Outside the room, the nurses work and gossip, but even that feels removed from this space. All the other children on the floor don’t seem to exist.

So strange.

Once, not that long ago, Zosia and I used to be those boots-clad Saturday-night-girls, dancing in dark jeans, flirting with boys in bars, filled with that what-if-tonight energy.  But that was before I married Michael and our Saturday nights evolved more often to peaceful, quiet home-life times in Brooklyn.  

But this.  This is new.  Writing by lamplight in a dark hospital room while Zosia’s daughter fights off leukemia.  Watching her as she sleeps, breathing deep against the cushions of the crib. 


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