“Weehawken”

Okay: we are in Weehawken, atop our apartment building. The roof has no rim. It is a stupid idea to sleep here but we do it sometimes during Summers. We can see the Pathmark from up here, the yellow corner of that flickering sign peeking out just above the overpass. Wondering: what’s that guy who gives people cheap rides in his van from the Pathmark parking lot doing now? He’s a Cuban dude, short with a cheerful belly, who works inside houses during the day, pressing tiles into floors or painting and the like—at least, that’s what we put together from what’s piled up in the back of his van, the dust on his jeans and t-shirt. None of us own cars and the Pathmark is a good mile away. And this guy just sits in the lot, scratching his mustache, end of his heavy day, waiting for schmucks like us. We carry too many bags, having been swayed by copious Pathmark PERKS items (oh, we reap the rewards, all right) and he walks up, almost always, asking if we need help, maybe a ride. We went with him once, all sore-shouldered but thankful for the lift. There were paint rollers and mortar mix and epoxies, and a lot of dust and a little paper Cuban flag strung up on the rearview mirror. He’d asked: “Where we go, my friends?” and then drove cautiously along Park avenue, passing by the strange mix of bright and sleek high-rises and homey brick haunts with wrought iron balconies bedecked with gaudy lights and drying laundry. We remember the scene inside the van: he kept his chest close to the steering wheel and used his right hand to rub out a knot on his neck, all the while whistling an Eagles tune against faint AM radio static. He pulled up to the corner of Hudson and Hackensack Planck and rejected three of the seven dollars offered to him. “This is fine,” he had said, and helped us put the groceries on our stone steps. And maybe he’s over there now in the lot, drumming his steering wheel with his thumbs, waiting for some bleary-eyed and sighing soul, but all we can see is that sliver of the sign.

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About Jake Goldman

Jake Goldman is a writer living in Providence, Rhode Island with his wife and son. His previous work can be found in The Baffler, Abe's Penny, The New York Press, and more. Give a shout at internetdogfist@gmail.com.