As the Harlem morning broke

This morning, it could have been five or six, dawn was breaking, around that time when the light starts to change, I was jolted awake by the sound of a car crash. The violent smash of metal and glass and something terrifyingly organic threw me clear out of the molasses of fading dreams and bubbling half-thoughts. A scream emerged from the destruction only to almost instantaneously die down, its echo evaporating into the narrow spaces between silent apartment buildings. I jumped to the window to see, but could not crane my neck to reach the corner some twenty-thirty meters down the street (courtesy of child-proof window guards installed by our super as per the NYC Council regulation number such and such). I thought I saw a rucksack in the middle of the street, but could not be sure. The ensuing, disconcerting silence was immediately pierced from all four sides by sirens, nervous and twitchy yelps of the NYPD, intimidating thunder of firetrucks and long, mournful howling of ambulances. A helicopter buzzed somewhere above. Still, no human voices could be heard. Soon after, the sirens hurried away and were replaced by the hosing and brushing of communal cleaning vehicles. Thirty or so minutes later they left the scene, one by one, having completed their task of removing the debris, some passing through our street. From above they looked like giant beetles, scurrying in search of another grisly meal. Slowly, the silence dissolved and the air filled up with traffic and morning buzz of Harlem.

When I stepped out, an hour later, there were no signs of the crash. People were going on about their business, a women with two kids was standing on the corner frantically waving down cabs, a big, angry man passed me trying to subdue six excited dogs he was walking towards the dog run at Marcus Garvie Park, sleepy customers were coming out of Mohamad’s bodega carrying piping hot coffees, a neighbor was watering a bed of sunflowers by the sidewalk, cars were rushing down the Fifth Avenue towards downtown. The rucksack I thought I saw was gone.

New York had licked off another of its countless wounds and got on with it.


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