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Summer Postcards 2016

View from the Fire Escape

By Lena K. Felton

BROOKLYN, New York—Things are slower on this side of the bridge; the walk back to the apartment is an unhurried one. The sun filters through the block’s trees and glints off the strung lights that hang outside the restaurant next door. Time itself moves slowly when everything is washed in gold like that.

It is not yet as hot as it will be, but the air still smells bodily sweet, like berries left too long in the sun. I breathe it in. I like very much the ease of the area, the relative solitude. In downtown Manhattan, where I work, the buildings disappear into clouds and businessmen run to get from place to place and you smell cigarettes and burnt oil, not overripe berries.

It is still noisy here, though, especially below the Marcy Ave stop, where the J train brings me home every night. I’ve come to know this as a simple fact of life in New York—there is sound, always. They do not stop, the sounds: the rhythmic hum of the printers in the office, the deliberate rattle of the train, the honks and the sirens and the indiscriminate shouts. One night, my eardrums grew weary searching for silence (the kind that’s so easy to find in California), so they’ve since stopped searching.

We are living in an artist’s very sparse, very white apartment for the month of June, until we move into a sublet down the block for July. The futon is frameless, and there’s a large green plant in the corner of the living room, and there are painters’ stools for chairs. It’s all we really need, so we love it.

We have no terrace, but there is a pale blue fire escape that looks into the apartments of a much nicer building across the street, one with terraces. Tonight I go out because the apartment is warm, and the fire escape’s metal is cool in the dark. I realize that though we’ve watched the sun set here many times, we’ve never watched the city go from day to night, not completely.

It’s nearly 9:30 p.m., and still the sun hasn’t died. I can see reddish orange hugging the Williamsburg Bridge and settling into the skyscrapers across the river. The rest of the sky is the color cobalt: simultaneously bold and bright, vast and empty.

Tonight I have the time, so I watch the cobalt inevitably falter, then go black. Lights twinkle over in Manhattan. For a moment, I think those lights must be illuminating the whole world, and I can believe why they say that New York City is the center of the universe. It is frightening how easy it was to be convinced of the necessity, the magic, of this place. I really do love its bright lights and ripe smells, even its sounds.

Still, I remember that somewhere west the sun has yet to set.

Lena K. Felton ’17, a Crimson Fifteen Minutes Magazine Chair, is an English concentrator living in Dunster House.

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Summer Postcards 2016