An essay commissioned by the Queensland Performing Arts Center magazine, Australia (2019):
New York at 8am: I throw open the windows. Cars and cabs are already lined up at the gas station and I swear I can smell the urine on the sidewalk eleven stories below.
There is a young black woman singing, headphones on; really singing; beautiful voice – on an uptown 6 train. The car is packed. Packed. She faces the door, watches her reflection in the glass, and sings. Suddenly, she stops: “I’m sorry for the noise!” she yells loudly enough to quiet the entire car. All the passengers around her shake their heads, shrug: No, not noise.
“I’ve heard way worse,” a man next to me says.
I see Malik panhandling on 14th Street. We first met four years ago, the day after he’d been let out of prison. He’s been in halfway houses, ‘three quarter’ houses, homeless shelters, and I don’t know where else since. I have taken dozens of street portraits of him over the years; I always give him some money, clothes, food, Metro card, whatever I’ve got on me. Now he’s moving to Georgia. One of his kids lives there – he thinks.
“What about you? You gonna stay here or you gonna go?” he asks.
“I’m gonna stay.”
Malik shakes my hand and pulls me in for a hug. “You stay strong in New York, nigga’! Stay strong!”
I have a dream about Oliver, the first since he died: I see him opening the door to the Read the rest of this post »