*Over the bridge, into my city. Washington Heights. 178th street and Haven Avenue, apex of the brutal summer.
The fire hydrants aren't open for some reason.
Blame the police. Who else is there to blame?
I have my arm hanging out the window, making the loop around the neighborhood- looking for street parking.
I can do this in my sleep.
Rolling through stop signs, scanning left, scanning right. Stick shift, brake squeal. One more lap. Circle out. Circle back in, hunting down a place to abandon my vehicle through the night.
I’m a person without a driveway and too broke to pay for a parking garage.
A part of me likes it that way.
I get to know every building in the neighborhood. The architecture. Where the trash cans are placed. If anybody interesting hangs out on the stoops.
Which stoops? Who? What they sell?
I know how many spots are available on each block, the number of hydrants. What blocks aren’t good to park on because the windows get smashed in for pocket change left on the console. What blocks are bad because of all the trees.
The following day- you’ll be startled to see your car covered in so much bird shit that it looks like it’s been white washed.
What blocks are the blocks where the cars just disappear… as if you could just remember what street you parked on- but never would. It doesn’t take too long.
There it is- a white conversion van sprayed green, yellow, purple. It's backing out of an easy spot. My luck. My sweet, sweet luck.
I put on my blinker.
The street is quiet. It’s a Dominican neighborhood and usually the sound of Reggaeton carries on the wind. Today there is no wind and there is no music. Most of the people tucked off of the stoops, waiting for the heat to break- in front of their air conditioners. Ice cubes on their wrists. Electric fans blowing in their face. Pitbulls sweating out of their tongues, laying under wobbly kitchen tables.
To my right and above me there's a public park. Usually, people are there laying in the grass, playing dominoes at the chess tables, hitting baseballs on the basketball courts.
The van starts to move. Leaving. Really leaving. Not a false alarm. I know there has to be a catch.
What could the catch be? Where do they have me on this one?
Then I see it, the first of the explosions. A water balloon comes over the chain link fence from above. Unseen kids launching them. More explosions.
SPLOT! SPLOT! SPLOOOSH!
Balloons rain down on the van as it pulls away, accelerates up the street- wipers on. I pull up, cut my wheel, back in smooth against the curb.
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