Workers are digging a trench at the corner of Franklin and Pine. Signs tell me Prospect is a one-way, so is Liberty. Caribbean and American food is advertised above Tommy’s Deli. I see the sign, but I’m more interested in the three or four people in the adjacent building leaning out of their windows peering toward the street. They must have a lot to look at—a lot of passers-by. I start to wonder if coffee shops somehow originated in Kingston, if reading did too.
The library is fenced off from its surrounding neighborhood. It’s a modest structure made of red brick with pointed roofs. Inside are people I’ve seen in other libraries in other towns. They’re like me. They conduct their business there like it’s a home office. Square tables with a chair on each side, stacks of romance novels, wood paneling peeking out from behind half-empty shelves, a guard who traces the same path every five minutes. I start to wonder why other public spaces are more accessible; why churches, with their stained glass windows and priceless icons, have their doors wide open. They’re not fenced off. I try to picture what kind of blasphemy could warrant locks and chain-link.
Outside are picnic tables in a shaded area. I like it there because I can kick off my sandals and feel the fertilized hay between my toes. It’s where I’ve been squawked at by squirrels, offered razorblades, and grandly greeted by someone who slowly raised his arms skyward exclaiming, “Welcome!”
A scent of burnt leaves stings then soothes my senses. It’s a distantly familiar scent, one from my childhood, of visiting my grandparents, of times past. It comforts my already frayed nerves. I realize I’m in a neighborhood that exudes nostalgia. Either that, or it’s desperate for new ideas.
I pass Fair on my way to Wall, and while my mind unpacks the curious juxtaposition of these two streets, and how they don’t intersect, I’m reminded of last September. I’m nostalgic for what it was that brought people my age together. I wish for a time when it’s present, not a part of the past. I think of all the friends and the art I don’t get to see any more as I pass the coffee shops in Uptown Kingston. I think of all the coffee shops in Manhattan. I think of all the effort and travel and brewing, of all the miles it took me to get here, of how much appreciation I don’t have, and of how much I don’t want to pay for coffee.
A man is taking out the trash. Snow gathers in his hair to create the same grayish color as the mound of plastic he’s depositing on the sidewalk. It’s waist-high, cold, and soaked with water. Moments later, a woman in a makeshift yellow poncho sifts trough what the man left. She’s separating the most valuable disposables from the rest. Her hands are pink, wrinkled by winter. It’s just the first snow of the season but already she dreams for spring. And as she continues over the next several minutes the national weather service declares emergency.