When you live on the first floor in New York City, nary a day goes by that you don't think about, consider, praise, or curse your geographical position: that position being you, living on the first floor of an eight-story building. You are at the literal bottom of the city-dweller totem pole, and continually reap the benefits and plagues from it.
Last night I could not sleep, because it was Trash Day.
Oh, there were other factors, too. The large iced latte I enjoyed around 10 probably didn't help. The fact that I had a million tasks to do today, and knew, deep down, I'd get few of these accomplished encouraged a good walloping of dwelling on the small things as I searched for slumber. I'm in the middle of three different books, none of which I wanted to put down. And my mind reeled from new knitting patterns my mind was inadvertently piecing together all day as I wrote, edited, ate dinner with friends, drank with the roommate. Lastly, the large bug bite haunting that nebulous region of space (upper thigh or ass?) was itchy and swollen, so much so that I've been telling friends I was bit by a tarantula, as this is the bite mark of no ordinary household spider.
The waging war between insomnia and me has been a lasting one, destined to have books about it published and distributed in middle-school Social Sciences classes due to sheer length, and the obesely large, indeterminable-as-of-yet-but-give-me-a-few-years number of killings due to my own sleep-deprived insanity. I've tried drugs; a little bottle of Ambien sits on my nightstand, teasing me ("Ha-HA! You know you want me! But you know I'll cause you to oversleep! And tomorrow will be no fun for yo-ou!!!). I've done yoga, meditation, read Gravity's Rainbow, listened to The Song of The Humpback. I've had excruciatingly wonderful sex, all in the name of science, mind you, hoping to reach that post-orgasmic nirvana called "Spent" everyone gushes about. But no dice. My mind has a mind of its own, a brain within a brain, and that brain is like a disco roller star on speed, spinning endless loops around the roller rink of thoughts in my head.
Around 6am, I'd had enough. I'd decided I would just relax. Place my head on my pillow. Watch the sun come up. And as dawn trickled through my curtains, and as I felt my body slowly, quietly unwind, I heard it.
There it was again. The distinct sound of bottles scraping down the sidewalk, headed my way.
There was a groan in the distance, followed by the squeal of metal and the rumble of a diesel engine.
Heavy footsteps marched down the stairs below my open window, leading to the basement. A jingle of keys, the song of rusted hinges opening, as they do, once a week. On Trash Day.
I held my breath. I waited for it.
There it was, the cry of the banshee known as my Super, that creature of questionable gender, with breasts and chin hairs and a long rat-tail that curls down her flabby, swollen back.
"Dolores," I whispered.
"PETE? Did you see that truck parked out there?"
From somewhere under my feet, in the bowels of the basement, a male voice boomed: "Shit! I saw it!"
"That's a sweet ride! What the hell's it doing on this block?"
"Dunno, but it's got nice rims!"
"Look better on my Escalade!"
And laughter. Long, loud, crisp laughter soared through ceilings and pipes and cables and floorboards, through my notebooks stashed below me, through my boxspring and full-sized mattress and down pillows, into my ears and crashed within my head, like bumper cars at a church carnival.
Then it began: the sloppy, careless bagging, tossing, marching of the trash through the basement, up the stairs, and onto the curb, just below my window.
I knew the battle on this front was lost. I knew the day had begun for the crew on my block. I knew in three minutes' time the trash truck would come, slowly grab the garbage, share a few words with Dolores about the heat ("It's HOT!" "I know! Can you believe how HOT it is?"), squash the garbage with its loud, compacting jaws right there, buying a bit of time before the next building just six feet away. I knew more of the crew would come out slowly, perch themselves on the steps below my window, and laugh and smoke and share idle gossip about the street's residents ("You hear old Dobson in 68 has a busted spleen?" "Oh shit, that shit's no good."). I knew I'd missed that window of opportunity where I could fall asleep and stay asleep, having spared me in the past the sound of gunfire, ambulances, and The Great Unfortunateness New York Faced in 2001, That-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
There was nothing a girl could do. So I lit a cigarette, finished The Elegant Universe, stitched a few more rows, and waited for the sun.