Just a few months after graduating from college, I moved to New York City with three other friends. Or, well, more specifically: I moved to Hudson County, New Jersey in a cramped little city called Weehawken, across the river from Manhattan and took a bus to Port Authority every morning.
My friends and I found a place with a landlord who let us shove all four of us into just two bedrooms. I had what seemed like an 8×10 closet masquerading as a bedroom, right off the kitchen. But, we could climb out the kitchen window and heft ourselves onto the roof, which gave us a truly lovely vista–New York before us, New Jersey behind. I fell asleep up there more times than I should have. The Pathmark grocery store was at least a mile from our skinny walk-up, and nearly every time I went, I bought more stuff than I could carry and would subsequently curse at my lack of forethought.
There were always–especially at the end of each day–guys hanging out, leaning against their vans and pickup trucks in the parking lot, hoping someone would take them up on a ride home for a little extra cash. Most guys wanted to gouge you–$10-$15 for a mile and a half–but this one guy, a soft-spoken and cheery Cuban dude always only wanted a few bucks.
I only took him up on a ride a few times, but every time I did, I was glad for it, if only for the quiet car ride, listening to the guy whistle along to whatever was crackling out of the speakers.
I didn’t write this story until many years after I ditched Weehawken for some homier digs in Queens, but that moment always stuck in my head. That, and the roof. Let me sleep up there one more time, man.