Crewly sat down on the single bed in his one room apartment. He was winded from walking up five flights to get there. Wheezing, he lit a cigarette and gazed out the room’s one dirty window at the building across the way while the smoke rose. He then began untying his work boots that smelled of the day’s travails. He stood up and unzipped the orange jumpsuit now stained with all manner of refuse. Throwing the suit over one of the two creaky wooden chairs that sat at the card table Crewly used for meals he could see the words on the back, “Sanitation Department.” Never thought I would grow up to be a garbage man, Crewly thought as he turned the gas on his four burner stove and began heating up some Chunky Clam Chowder. He looked over at his shelves and pulled out one of the Rabbit books by John Updike to read with dinner.
The young girl upstairs was playing her music too loud again. It was some sort of techno-rap Crewly didn’t understand. He liked Miles Davis and Beethoven. Crewly picked up a broom from the corner of the room and hit the ceiling, “Hey Julie turn that down,” he yelled. She obliged but not without a little boost of power to her volume that held for a minute or so. She does that just to aggravate me.
When Crewly had just moved into the building Julie had been nice to him. She had him over for dinner when his things weren’t unpacked. Crewly found her attractive. She was in her twenties, and full of life. She had a pierced navel she showed off with short tops that left the jewel she kept there visible. She also wore an eyepatch on her left eye. She had a bad accident with a rose bush as a child, which had left her eye weak though she could see out of it. Crewly liked the way it looked. He also realized he was old enough to be her father and that he had just left the only woman he’d ever lived with when he caught her cheating on him with their newspaper delivery man. When he’d asked her why she did it she told him, “You smell like garbage. You look old. And you smoke too much.” These didn’t seem like good reasons to break up a relationship but Crewly left anyway. “It’s all in your point of view,” she’d said.
“Now you stay away from that Julie,” Mawk had said. Crewly told Mawk all about his life as they rode on the truck through the streets of New York City each day picking up the public’s discarded dreams.
“I’ll bet you she’d do ya if ya talked nice to ‘er,” Mawk laughed.
“Shut up Mawk,” Crewly punched him gently on the shoulder. “I’m not that kind of guy.”
“Oh Crewly, Oh Crewly,” chided Mawk as he turned his baseball cap around so the bill faced backwards. Crewly grabbed the cap and tossed it in the gaping maw of the truck.
“Aw man,” said Mawk, “Now I’m gonna have to get another for tomorrow.”
“You should have been quiet when I told you,” Crewly answered leaning up against the yellow truck. They both laughed.
After eating his Chunky Soup Crewly undressed completely and took a shower. He turned on Miles Davis Tribute to Jack Johnson on the portable CD player he’d bought for the apartment. He owned the complete collection of Beethoven’s symphonies as well as a good assortment of jazz including Miles Davis’, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. He turned up the volume so he could hear the music in the shower. Halfway through his shampoo he heard pounding on the ceiling.
“Turn THAT shit down,” he heard Julie yelling. Crewly finished his shower and obliged. After the shower Crewly put on his bathrobe, lit a candle on the card table, and sat in a chair. He pulled out a Cross-pen and a yellow pad. The pen was a prize he’d won as runner up in his high school poetry contest. He’d kept it all these years as a special memento of when his life had promise. He often had to search many stationery stores to find refills. Crewly decided, now that he had time on his hands he would try to write poetry again. He stared out the window as if looking for an inspiration. It was night now and the streetlamp’s eerie glare peered around the corners of the building next door. He could still see the apartments there. They were surrounded by a golden haze.
He wrote: Life’s golden haze lights my way,
Recalcitrant refuse makes my day.
Suddenly, Julie’s techno rap bellowed from upstairs. He heard the springs on her bed creaking and moaning. Oh shit, she’s getting laid, he thought. I gotta get out of here! Crewly walked down the five flights to the street, turned right and headed toward Broadway. New York, New York it’s a wonderful town went through his mind. At the corner of Broadway and Seventy-eighth Street there was an old man in a wheelchair spare changing people. He held out his cup and asked, “Can you spare some change?” Crewly gave him a dollar. “Thanks” said the old man, “But that won’t help you.”
“What do you mean,” asked Crewly.
“I mean I can see into your soul and I know you’re innermost thoughts. I know your pain, and I see your future.”
“So am I gonna hit the lottery tonight, pop?” Crewly laughed.
“In a way,” he answered. Then he asked another passerby, “Can you spare some change?” The conversation was over.
After eating a burger at The Burger Joint Crewly made his way back to the six-flight walk up. When he got to the stoop Julie was sitting there without her eyepatch crying.
“What’s the matter?”
“I just broke up with my boyfriend. He beat me up.”
“So that’s what all the noise was”
“Yeah. I screamed at him and told him if he didn’t leave I was gonna call the cops.”
“That’s too bad. Did he cheat on you too?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Well, his loss. I caught the love of my life screwing the paper guy.”
“That’s tough too.”
“Here let me clean you up a bit.” Crewly took out a pack of Kleenex and wiped Julie’s one eye where the make up had run. He handed the paper to her. She dabbed her eyes.
“You’re not such a bad sort really,” Julie said.
“No I’m just a guy trying to get by.”
“Well thanks for talking to me. Thanks for the Kleenex. You comin’ in?” Julie held the front door for Crewly. He climbed up the stoop, stopped and said, “You wanna go out dancin’ tonight?”
Julie stopped for a minute startled. She reached in her pocket, pulled out her eyepatch and put it on.
“Why don’t we go down to the village and listen to some jazz,” Julie said.
“OK. So what’s it like seeing the world through one eye?”
“Why don’t you try it,” she said taking off the eye patch and handing it to him
“It gives you a different point of view,” said Crewly wearing the eye patch as they walked to the subway.