Adam J. Galanski is a writer, punk rock musician and tattooer apprentice living on the North Side of Chicago. Previously he has published work in Drunken Absurdity, H.S.T. and Underground Voices Magazine.
“Tickets here! Get your tickets here!” a man on the corner called out to the passing
tourists. Indra stood on the outskirts of the area for a moment before walking towards the lights.
Whenever he made it into Times Square, he never quite knew how he arrived there. It had been consistently late at night, between the hours of one and two in the morning on any given weekday. He’d have his brown bag carrying a tall boy, crinkled and slightly stained from the beer that spilled as he stumbled down the sidewalk. On top of whatever it was that so compelled him to find himself in Times Square, he often felt a need to relive some old memories.
He came up to the lights, vital, like the city’s heartbeat in the night, sharp and pulsing in the distance, trailing off into a hazy edge around the towers which blurred into the vast starless black sky. Memories of a best friend sank down his throat with a massive swallow and movement of his Adam’s apple. He and Calvin used to go there together, when they were between jobs, between girlfriends, between school and eternity, and when they were completely on the edge of themselves. The smiles and laughter of the past remained absent, yet that’s not exactly what it was he longed for. The last time he was there it was much of the same thing. No companion, no rekindling of old memories except through the lens of rejection.
When he got into Times Square it was like an electric punch in the face. Looking more like one in the afternoon than one in the morning, the perpetual advertisements showed large glowing figures of various celebrities, models and television programs. Their movements only paused briefly, just to start right back at the beginning of the routine, a gimmick that got old. That’s how he and Calvin saw the place, as a gimmick. What they had loved about coming there back when they were friends was the bittersweet feeling of pointing out how far gone everything was to them. Tourists exited overpriced bars and the Applebee’s around Indra, high on New York life, and low on spare change. They exemplified the sort of people he and his friend used to mock, so wrapped up in the wonder of Manhattan’s aura.
Indra threw out his beer, having only that frustrating layer of backwash left at the bottom of his can. It hit the top of a mound of collected garbage in the nearest bin and fell to the sidewalk amongst other pieces of trash. Meanwhile yellow cabs zipped by, and the scattered people moved frantically like rats to go about their business for the night. Above him, an electronic banner rolled by, telling Indra of the gossip news that he found utterly useless, straight from the MTV headquarters. This wasn’t the New York City he loved, and it just wasn’t as ironically fun as it used to be. Being alone, it was a little more realistic and all the more depressing. Indra spat on the ground as the man on the corner attempted to sell his tickets.
“This is New York City folks! Come see the real New York at a comedy show! Tickets here! Tickets anyone?” Standing and motioning with his hands in casual clothes he chanted and crooned one-liners out into the street of apathetic people, yelling to the foreign tourists that went by, in a vain attempt to sell them the “real” New York. Indra knew this type. All the guys who did that stuff were picked off craigslist and presented the stereotypical New York salesman attitude for people to either embrace or hate.
“The real New York, huh?”
“You want a ticket, buddy, or what?” the man said, shoving a cut out slip at Indra’s hands desperately. Indra spun around, holding the edges of his vintage Mets jacket as his feet circled awkwardly and he smiled, truly lost in the foul repetition of his visits to the place. The smile felt a little forced though. He couldn’t help but be stuck on Calvin. They had been best friends for so long. If only I knew how to keep my hands to myself, he thought, trying to grin, with the spitting image of Calvin’s ex-fiancé in his head. He imagined her thick brown hair draping down over her exposed pale shoulders in the tight red dress, and the knowing look in her light hazel eyes as he called her name out at some old dive on the Lower East Side, speaking sloppily but still foolishly enticing her with his effort. Snapping back, he then paused and ran his fingers through his slicked back black hair.
“You sir,” he said pointing casually at the ticket salesman, “Are a goddamned chump. I’m sorry.” Indra began walking away feeling a strong buzz from the earlier beers and his latest tall boy. He chuckled to himself, the ticket salesman cursing him out in an aggressive Brooklyn accent behind him, though not wanting to leave his post for fear of losing a sale.
“THE REAL NEW YORK CITY? THE REAL NEW YORK CITY IS RIGHT HERE MOTHERFUCKER!” Indra yelled, walking backwards now, with two middle fingers in the air through his fingerless black gloves. The ticket salesman had given up though and was hardly paying attention as more and more people passed him by. The lights seemed so bright now to Indra that it was almost nauseating. The rising intensity of the lights perplexed him. Thin women with large features and familiar faces of white men that he just couldn’t place names on at the moment flashed on giant TV screens. Voices boomed from unseen speakers, calling out to the pedestrians, and as far as Indra could see, the people were buying into it. The people were happy. Something…Something was fading as the lights got brighter. Something was leaving with Indra as he began to exit the area. He dialed Calvin’s number on his cell-phone as he loosely walked down the street with one hand in the pocket of his baggy jeans. It rang then went to voicemail. He stopped walking and dialed again. Four rings then an answer. He leaned up against the outside of a bodega, covered in colorful pictures of deli sandwiches, and cheap beers.
“Calvin, it’s me, Indra.” He said scratching his head, eyes following a laughing group of intoxicated people walking by.
“I know…” There was a pause as they both started recalling how things used to be, each with different goals in mind. “So…What’s up?” asked Calvin.
“I’m in Times Square, drunk off Steel Reserve,” Indra stated, laughing.
“Oh,” began Calvin, “You’re still doing that shit?” Indra sighed, trying to brush the comment off.
“Hey, it’s not the same without you man. This place sucks!”
“I know,” Calvin said solemnly.
“You should come out. I’ll wait up.” Indra offered, squinting his eyes as he looked up into the bright electric lights above.
“I’d rather not.”
“Come on man,” Indra coaxed, “Let’s just have a beer.”
“I have work in the morning.”
“Come on Calvin! What happened to you, brother?”
“You happened. I have to go man. Goodnight.” The phone clicked, leaving Indra all alone in the middle of a vast jungle of consumer propaganda, as the feelings of what used to be faded into bitterness with the rise of the vital lights intensity. You happened? Indra thought, hastily shoving the phone in his pocket, before putting his hand up to his shaking head. The heart of the city pulsed through the streets and alleyways as he stumbled off and out into the night, not knowing where home really was, hoping he could find the way. Times Square was brighter than ever.