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Diary of a Marked Woman


February 2000


1/2

On Mon. January the 31st I bring a US hostels guide with me and look for a pay phone in a heated place. I find it at the SEPTA station near City Hall. I make two phone calls to New York but none gives me information I can do anything with. I’m tempted to run back to the hostel, pack everything and get the hell out of there and return to New York nevertheless but on the other hand my period started just this morning, I suffer from cramps and I cannot return to the hostel before 4:30 because of the place’s lock-out policy. So I remain at a standstill, indecisive, when an inward voice tells me to wait. I already know that it is unwise to make a decision in a state of panic and I hear this voice that tells me to stay calm, to wait a few days. That’s all right with me because it’s no fun to travel at “that time of the month” and I feel so exhausted.


On Tues. the 1st I ask Goldilocks to turn on the radio at 9am instead of playing records. His reaction is one of annoyance. I would have thought it was easier for him to turn on the radio instead of putting a record on (except that it’s always the same record). When I see that he looks so nonplussed I say jokingly: “Oh! I see: You don’t want us to know the weather in advance because if the weather is going to be bad we won’t want to go out!” He gives a tight smile.


At breakfast time Jay is in the kitchen. I’m still rankling from his words of the previous night and decide to avoid conversation with him from now on. But he’s cheerful and it’s difficult to remain completely unresponsive. Then he asks “So how does it feel to be evicted?” I can’t believe someone could be so insensitive to ask such a question in such a light tone. “You should try it, if you really want to know.” I reply. There’s a beat without anyone speaking then he says “I’m not speaking of your eviction of last summer, I’m speaking about the fact that we all have to leave the hostel on Friday. Haven’t you read the notice?” “What notice?” “Aslan has posted a notice on the front door that says that we all have to leave the hostel for the nights of Thursday and Friday, because he has a large party that has reserved the place a long time ago.” “What!?” He lets me know incidentally that he has made his own arrangement for the two nights. When I leave for the day around 10AM I see a note affixed to the front door on the side of the hinges, that is the side that one does not look at, handwritten in extra-fine ballpoint advising that the hostel will be closed for the nights of Feb. 4 and 5. It is not a note that jumps at you, it’s almost unnoticeable.


I eat my ramen noodle soup in the basement when Jay shows up. To avoid a drastic change in attitude that would alert him that I’m smelling a rat I complain about the disingenuousness of the New York Times and express my irritation. I’m referring to an article in the Science section about how to make children obey and do what their parents want. The slant of the article is as follows: Social scientists have studied compliance in adults and obtained good results so how come parents cannot use the same techniques and make their children obey them? For instance to eat their vegetables? The answer is that motivation is one of the keys to compliance. The article then suggests that to make children eat their veggies parents should motivate them by offering to season them with McDonald sauce! Never mind that in the Health and Nutrition articles the Times keeps repeating that fast food is laden with fat and bad for you etc. And what is the message conveyed to children when a parent offers McDonald sauce as a bribe to make a child eat some food? It reinforces the notion not only that vegetables are not fun and not good but worse, it makes McDonald desirable, thereby ensuring that children will favor McDonald, the result opposite to the intended outcome. But what incenses me the most is that the tone is tongue-in-cheek while you know that the author is speaking seriously. The author pretends to be only joking to counter in advance the objections. Meanwhile Jay is eating his same-old same-old vegetables and rice noodles in stinky sauce. He also drinks sake and offers me some, which I decline. He answers my statements with non-sequiturs and veers off the subject so often it takes Herculean mental force to steer him back on course. The truth is that, besides his mission of mind-fucking he speaks only because he enjoys the sound of his own voice, just like this asshole of all assholes Billy Jones. He’s getting drunk on sake now and it’s not improving his conversational skills. I ask him if he does any drugs. He says that he smokes pot. I say that I gave up the stuff five years ago.


I have so much anger in me as a result of the insincerity of everybody and all the harassment I’ve been subjected to that I need to blow off steam. Apparently my vituperation of the Times was not enough. Now I rant about American film, the predictability of the plots, the emotional manipulation etc. They’re playing (again) “Chain Reaction” tonight. It starts like a scientific thriller and I’ve been very disappointed to find that there’s a chase. Like “Twister” which starts like a scientific thriller and turns out to be nothing more than a petty competition between good and bad guys. The circumstances of the chase may vary, but there is hardly an American film without the bad guys chasing the good guys. In the case of Chain Reaction, one of the chases takes place in frigid weather, on a frozen lake, in a deserted mansion... So when I get to the ground floor I say in an ironic tone: “So the bad guys are chasing the good guys?” No one answers.


 Jay follows me a minute or two later and he and the Indian have what soon appears to be a staged dialogue. Both are very bad actors. Jay is the xenophobic accuser spewing all the old cliches (aliens come here to take advantage of the system and avoid working), the Indian acts like the musician with a fierce calling who sacrifices a lot to achieve his goal. The only problem is that his goal is no more than playing the piano in a hotel lounge, which makes all his statements sound ludicrous. It sounds all surreal to me, with echoes of my mother reverberating all over the place. All the accusations I hear leveled at the Indian by Jay, I heard before from my mother.


Jay berates the Indian because, allegedly, the Indian spent some time in a homeless shelter and he liked it. Jay asks him about his immigration status as if he were a cop from La Migra. The Indian throughout speaks without any affect, concentrating on remembering his lines rather than reacting, as if Jay was not being extremely provocative and confrontational. He says that indeed he has spent some time in a homeless shelter and that, although he cannot say that he actually liked it, it was not as bad as what he had been told about it. After all, he had three meals a day, a clean bed, he got free clothing... It wasn’t bad at all! Then Jay asks the Indian if he had any family in Philly. The Indian says he doesn’t, all his family are on the West Coast. So where are you going to go for the nights of Friday and Saturday?” Jay asks. The Indian says that he has some friends that will put him up for the two nights.


Since I spent three weeks in a homeless shelter last August myself, and since, unlike the Indian, I am not a legal resident I feel under attack myself and emotional about the issue. Hearing the Indian laud the shelter system I ask him where it was, was it here in Philadelphia? He looks embarrassed and says yes. I say that In New York it’s different, and that women are real bitches to other women, men are not as hard to each other, although most homeless men do not want to sleep in homeless shelters because of the violence and the theft. Then I ask what happened to him that he lost his home. “It’s a long story...” he answers, the same answer I gave not long ago to somebody who wasn’t minding his own business. Again he looks embarrassed, as if I had entirely missed the point.


The Indian is standing in front of Jay, who is sitting on a round table, while I watch sitting on a couch close by. The way Jay is sitting on the edge of the table makes me uneasy because the table is supported by a central foot and I imagine the strain Jay’s weight must be putting on the system that joins the platter to the foot, so I nudge him with my foot and tell him that he’s hurting the table but he ignores me. This uneasiness about the table, the feeling of impending crash and upheaval when the joint ruptures adds to the strange mix of repulsion and fascination: I know, although I don’t want to believe it a hundred percent, that they are acting this dialogue for me and I’m angry at their deception, but on the other hand I want to understand what is the reason behind the scene. What is the message?


Now Jay is accusing the Indian of being too picky in his choice of work. He asks him how he goes about looking for work, and what he does all day, and why doesn’t he take another job to pay his bills in the meantime. The Indian replies that he’s a responsible person, he’s going through a hard patch in his life but he has to go through it in order to attain a better situation and he’s willing to make the sacrifice. He’s certain to find a position as a lounge pianist in the near future. He’s been auditioning and the guy said something reassuring. Now he has made his mind that he wanted to be a professional pianist, and to find work in a hotel in Philly and nowhere else and he has to stick to his decision and he wants Jay to respect that. He adds that by being so mistrustful, Jay is inviting betrayal. This is a tip-off, the rationalization for wrongdoing: Hey, he didn't trust me so I betrayed him, and it serves him right My German brother-in-law Theodor Geisel had written me exactly the same thing: that by being mistrustful I invited betrayal!


Jay sneers and says that with so many conditions to fulfill before he accepts work, it’s as if he was saying that he doesn’t really want to work and that he’s satisfied to collect welfare and live at the expense of the government. I cut in to say that non-citizens are not entitled to welfare and food stamps and a lot of other benefits so he cannot accuse the Indian of milking the system. Jay says that if it’s not welfare then it’s unemployment. Although I find the Indian’s intended line of work undesirable, mentally I take his side. I understand that it’s harder to find work as a musician than as an unskilled worker but it’s worth the wait. I ask him if he practices. He says that he does every day, at the university where he graduated in music. They let him practice there because he’s an alumnus. I can’t help feeling sorry for him. All this work to achieve what? and I get angry at Jay who belabors the point. “But if he’s a musician why do you want him to look for a stupid job? Give him a chance! What do you want him to do? Work in construction? Or for a moving company? For Christ’s sake, you remind me of my fucking mother! For her, if you don’t come home in the evening completely drenched in sweat, covered with dust and exhausted, you haven’t been working! The only work she calls work is physical labor!” There’s an awkward silence. I’m disgusted by the conversation, get up and go out to smoke a cig.


When I return they’re still at it in this monotonous tone that irritates me more than anything. This time I take a copy of an old National Geographic and ignore them. Shortly thereafter, Jay says to the Indian: “Well, how about a game of pool? I’m getting tired of this conversation.” So after attacking the Indian relentlessly, he offers him to play with him and the Indian accepts and a minute later they’re playing as if nothing had happened, another proof that their argument was a staged event.


 What do they want me to do? Am I supposed to feel guilty because I stayed three weeks in a homeless shelter with black bitches who harassed me constantly, threatened me with physical violence and stole all my belongings, when I was not entitled to that benefit because of my immigration status? Yes! That’s it! My mother wants me to feel guilty as if I had intentionally abused the system, to hide her own guilt of making me homeless in the first place! As usual. All the accusations that Jay leveled at the Indian were in fact directed at me by my mother. To make me feel guilty. But behind all this cloud of dust there are two hard facts : both Jay and the Indian have solved, independently of each other apparently, the problem of the two nights, and I have not. And they haven’t offered to help. Jay hasn’t said where he was going, the Indian will be with friends and I’m on my own. So they really want me to go to the Chamounix hostel, but without them. Probably because a trap has been sprung there for me to fall in.


Wed. the 2nd: At breakfast I chide Jay for the way he talked to the Indian the night before. I know that it was all an act anyway but, just in case I’m being paranoid and it was not, I tell him that he attacked him for the wrong reasons. I said that I was amazed that the Indian seemed to have such a burning desire to play the piano, as if he had an irresistible calling, and that with all the energy he seemed to put into it you’d expect him to prepare for an international competition, whereas all he wanted was to play background music in a hotel lounge, which is the lowest grade of music. I forgot what Jay replied, except that in this conversation he said that the Indian was good-looking. “Oh, he’s not so good-looking!” I exclaimed, wondering why they all wanted me to fall for the Indian. Then I amended, to make “them” believe that I didn’t exclude the possibility “He needs a good haircut and some better clothes.”


In the evening I speak to the Indian about music. He repeats what he has said before, that he has prepared an act where he plays both classical and Jazz pieces and show tunes. This time he pulls a play list from his wallet and shows it to me. There are pieces by Mozart, Beethoven and Bach interspersed with pieces by Duke Ellington, some show tunes, some old chestnuts and pieces I’ve never heard about. “My god! They’re pushing all the right buttons!” I think with reluctant admiration. “The classics, Ellington, a written play list that makes it look even more believable... But I’ve disconnected the circuits and they don’t know it.” The Indian explains that he has built up his list carefully and that each tune fades into the next so the order cannot be altered. You’d think that it takes extreme artistic delicacy to do this, the way he speaks about it.


I ask him if he has ever considered playing the piano in a different setting, for instance by playing with a band. He says that when he was younger he used to play with a band, but not the piano, it was the guitar that he played then. Rock music, the Beatles... And he was singing too. “But,” he adds, “my voice is ok for singing harmony but not for soloing because I don’t have the vibrato.” And he sings the scale of C major up and down to prove it in a voice that grates on me so much it makes me hate the guy’s guts even more. He speaks with such assurance I can’t help being astonished. I had thought about exposing him as a fake musician, for instance by asking him what “Koechel” means, or “BWV” but it would have revealed that I was on my guard, which could prompt “them” to alter their course of conduct. Much better to pretend I was swallowing it hook, line and sinker.


I never told him that I have studied music myself and played the piano and the guitar and trained my singing voice but nevertheless he seems to know it. When he said that he didn’t have a soloist’s voice because his lacks vibrato, it was a direct reference to my own voice and a stupid comment because as far as I know vibrato is not what makes a voice worthy of singing solo. Plus he mentioned the “Moonlight Sonata” among the pieces he plays, “but only the first movement” (adagio), the second movement being allegro and requiring considerably more technical proficiency. I happened to have learned to play the well-known first movement all by myself in my teens, taking ages to decipher the sheet music and learning the piece to play it from memory, and of course since I was not studying with a teacher I did not observe a regimen of practice and exercise which would have given me the technical ability to play the second and third movement, much less read them. Setting aside the fact that all this musical discourse of his was intended to put me down as a musician (putting down my voice and my pianistic efforts), even to someone who never studied music he comes off as incredibly arrogant and condescending as though being a lounge pianist that nobody listens to was the height of pianistic achievement.


I try to put him back on track by asking if he ever considered playing the piano with a band. He looks lost and embarrassed for a minute, then he replies that if he did, he would not be able to play the classical pieces and would have to alter his play list so it would not be possible, as if his play list was a work of art in and of itself, and the only one he could produce. “On croit rever!” as the French say. “Well, of course, when you play in a Jazz band you’re expected to know the standards and to be able to improvise. That’s what I mean.” He looks very unhappy, defeated, and I know there’s no use talking music with this guy except to see how he’s trying to fool me.


FOILING ANOTHER ATTEMPT AGAINST MY LIFE

That evening I understood what “they” were trying to do. I already knew that they were trying to make me go to the Chamounix hostel and this news about the Bank Street hostel being booked to a group of seventy and all the present residents being forced to find lodging elsewhere for two nights was just a hoax to force me to go there. But I understood more. It hit me like a ton of bricks, how they intended to kill me: it was not inside the Chamounix hostel! It was on the two-miles stretch that went through the private park! Look at Chamounix Mansion in the blue square, and Chamounix Drive leading to it through Fairmont Park! Look at the bus stops, how far they are from the mansion! There would be no traffic and, judging from the state of Bank Street ten days after the blizzard, the road would be covered with thick frozen snow, that is to say, it would be impossible for me to walk that stretch dragging my suitcase that would refuse to roll on that surface. I would find myself stranded and in need of help, then a car, probably an SUV would appear, I would recognize the guy with the hat inside, he would offer me a ride and how would I be able to refuse? And that would be the end of me.


Thurs. the 3rd: I’m so relieved and exhilarated to know how they intend to do me in that to celebrate I go to the Museum of Anthropology near the university. It’s my last chance anyway because I’m going to return to New York. Are these assholes so stupid that they think me unable to figure out that the Chamounix hostel is not the only place where I can go? I spend the day at the Museum, and find very fascinating all the information about the life of the Southwest and Northwest natives: the social structure, the education of children, the tools they use adapted to their needs and made of the available materials. The family unit lived under the eye of the entire village and it was not possible to have a skeleton in the closet like it is in the nuclear family. What struck me most however was their respect for human life, and how highly they valued children. I buy a book of Islamic geometric patterns. It’s something I’ve been hungering for for a long time: I find it esthetically and intellectually thrilling to gaze at these intricacies.


I walk back to Center City, crossing the Schuylkill river which is frozen solid and all white. It makes me wonder how it must be in the boondocks, in the park of the Chamounix hostel. Not better surely. I find a diner -the only one I found in Philly- and have lunch there. The place is deserted and I look forward to a lunch in peace and quiet but my hope is promptly dashed: a very loud female voice starts talking in Greek. After a while I turn around to see who is responsible for the disturbance and see that the voice belongs to the cashier, who is talking to a female who has come in after me. The cashier gives me a quick, cold look and resumes her cackling. Near the end of my lunch an old couple come sit in the booth right behind me and my waitress sits with them and starts a conversation with them where she complains that she has received three electricity bills for one month, two being her daughter’s, one being hers, because they share a house that her daughter owns, and she doesn’t wan to pay the second of her daughter’s bills. The man says that she doesn’t have to pay her daughter’s bills and there ensues a tedious discussion of legal obligations, home-ownership etc. and I don’t know why they have to speak so loud. I had intended to linger a little with my book but the noise prompts me to get out of there. By the time I realize that the cashier and the waitress had both been acting for the sole purpose of disturbing me it’s too late, I already have paid and left a tip. I go to the literature section of Barnes and Noble in search of a book to read on my trip. I happen to face the shelves at the end of the alphabet and pick a book by P.J.. Wodehouse: Life with Jeeves. I had heard about Wodehouse for so long and never had a chance to read him. There’s none of his books at the library. And reading something funny at this juncture is just what I need. Great!


When I arrive at the hostel the Indian is playing pool with a newcomer, a white man on the short side who’s wearing a cotton hat pushed to the back of his head a little like Tom Waits. I stop to look at the game and the white guy is very good at it and worth watching. After a while I ask where he comes from. He says “the Bronx”. I’m surprised by the answer. Why didn’t he say “New York”? Then he says that New York is no good, as if nobody in their right mind would live there, without further explaining. I tell him that he said “the Bronx” as if the Bronx was not part of New York. He makes no reply.


A moment later there’s some talk about traveling and I mention that it would be fun to go through Eastern Europe by boat on the Danube until you reach the Black Sea and then go to Turkey. He agrees wholeheartedly.


I go to the basement to eat and find the Frenchman there. He asks me where I’m going to go for the two nights. I say what they all want to hear: “to the Chamounix hostel” as if the idea was mine and self-evident, as if I hadn’t noticed that since the end of December several people had been not-so-subliminally suggesting that I go there. He says in a warning voice that he’s been there before, and that it’s “bizarre”. I don’t ask in what way it’s bizarre. I say “Oh, it’s only for two nights after all!” He asks me: “Do you think it’s okay to leave some stuff here for the two nights?” I say that it’s probably ok, I have stuff in a locker and I’m not going to take it with me. he drops the subject abruptly. I don’t ask him where <i>he</i> is going, but his question has “informed” (disinformed would be the right word) me that he is leaving for the two nights.


A few minutes later Jay comes into the kitchen and starts cooking. He’s always cooking the same damn thing: vegetables with rice noodles. And it’s always the same vegetables! Then Aslan walks in and Jay explains to him what “daikon” root is, with this tone of the insufferable guy who knows which food is good for you and which is not, as if trying to ingratiate himself with me, having taken his cue from my criticism of the New York Time’s article, which was not about vegetables <i>per se</i> if memory serves. After eating I return to the ground floor with my new book and my radio walkman, the earphones already on. The man with the hat acts smitten. He follows me to the couch where I plop down. He says that we could have breakfast together tomorrow morning and I pretend I didn’t hear. He sits facing me at the table that Jay was sitting on, and pretends to read a newspaper while I start reading Wodehouse, my legs outstretched on the couch, chuckling now and then and thinking that it’s also a good chance to mock those pretentious assassins. I steal a glance at the guy and notice his horrible face. He really looks like an assassin! His mouth in particular, thin and sinuous evokes cruelty and he has this pasty complexion that I’ve heard called “the jailhouse tan”.


Now I’m certain that he’s the one designated to do the deed, and this other guy too I haven’t spoken of yet. He arrived about a week ago and I noticed him because I could hear him speak even with my earphones on and the volume cranked all the way up, as if he was calling attention to himself. I heard him say that he was from Denmark yet he speaks perfect English without a trace of a foreign accent. He seems on familiar terms with the personnel and the long-term residents of the hostel. I resented him from the first for his loudness and we never exchanged a word. I never saw him smile either. He looks thirtyish, not bad looking with abundant brown hair cropped short, about 5'11". Except for his obvious lie about his country of origin to which he called my attention with his loud voice, I have no indication that he’s a bad guy. But I know that if, as I believe, my assassination is to be carried out on a lonely stretch of icy and snow-covered road, it will take more than one man. Although both men are in the same room they will never say a word to each other in my presence.


Now I find the atmosphere a tad heavy, feel uneasy stretched out on the couch under the eye of the man-with-the-hat. He can look up and see me, his prey, in profile with my right breast jutting out under my sweater and think about all the money he’ll have when I’m dead and buried under the snow, and how safe he will be from suspicion because nobody will report me missing; and when I’m found deep-frozen or thawed it will be impossible to determine with accuracy the time, forget the time, the <i>date</i> of death.


So I get up and go upstairs to the dorm where I experience a moment of sheer terror. The horror of it all hits me and my whole body shakes with fear. I go to a woman who’s in bed at the end of the dorm. She’s been here a few days. She’s ugly and looks lesbian but what the hell. I ask her where she’s going to spend the night tomorrow and the day after. She says that she’s going to New York. I say that I’m going there too. She says that she’s going to take the train to Trenton and transfer to the New Jersey Transit line because then it costs only eighteen dollars. The trip on Amtrack costs about forty bucks, I already have the ticket, having bought a round trip when I left New York on Dec. 29. I say that I have an Amtrack ticket but still we can go to the station together. I’m irrationally afraid that the guys will detain me tomorrow morning but if I’m with somebody they won’t dare. I ask her at what time she’ll get up tomorrow. She says that there are trains every half hour so she’ll get up when she wakes up. I ask when that might be. She says around eight. She doesn’t seem too hot on the idea of going to the station with me.


I’ve been wondering how to manage with my luggage for the past two days. Now I have to make a decision. Either I take everything with me, which will slow me down and hamper my mobility and make me more vulnerable to attacks, but then I won’t have to come back to this horrible place; or I leave behind the stuff I’ve put in the locker and return from New York to pick it up some time in the future. I decide on the latter. If I took everything with me it would probably tip them off that I don’t intend to come back If I leave something behind it will make me look unsuspecting.


 I force myself to calm down, abandoning my fate to God’s ultimate decision, swallow a double dose of Rescue Remedy (eight drops instead of the recommended four) and go to bed with my book but have trouble concentrating. While I’m still reading a French woman who occupies the bed next to me comes in and gets ready to sleep. Then a male friend of hers comes in and they discuss at what time to set the alarm and they decide on seven AM. I reflect that tomorrow morning one of the guys is probably going to check on my resolve to go to Chamounix by asking me how to get there so I check the guide and memorize what bus to take and at what station to get off. That’s when I learn that there is a lock-out policy: like the Bank Street hostel, the place is closed to the residents between 10 am and 4:30 pm.


Now suppose that I didn’t know this detail and was not suspecting foul play in the offing: I would arrive at the Chamounix hostel tomorrow morning after 10 because it takes quite a while to get there by bus plus there are the two miles on foot; and after traipsing two miles on the park road I would find the place locked, so I would have no other choice but to return to the road, still dragging my suitcase on the rutted road to take the bus back. At this point I would probably be hungry, exhausted and have wet and freezing feet. That’s when a car would appear and I would see it as my salvation, and in it would be the hatted guy and the driver would offer me a ride. I fall asleep promptly.


Fri. the 4th: I wake up around eight. The lesbian is still asleep but I decide that I don’t need her after all. The French woman’s knapsack is all packed at the foot of her bed. I’m ready before nine so I don’t have to hear the annoying music they start playing on the p.a. at nine. I mean Phil Collins is ok but why overdo it?


While I’m having coffee in the basement, listening to the radio in hope of hearing the weather news the hatted guy comes in and goes to the laundry room where the only pay phone is and he pretends to make a phone call to have a plausible excuse to go downstairs and speak to me. On the way out he stops in front of me and asks me if I know how to go to the Chamounix hostel. I knew that of all the residents who pretended to leave the hostel he would be the only one to let me know that he was going there. “You take the bus number 34 on Market street and you get off at Ford,” I say, forcing myself to show no hostility or anger, and no warmth either lest he be tempted again to ask me to have coffee with him somewhere. With all this I still haven’t heard the weather news.


I go upstairs to get my suitcase. The dorm is deserted, so is the lounge on the ground floor but it’s funny, I haven’t heard the front door slam like it would have if people had gone out. I know that I am the only one to leave the hostel and am angry at the deception, and angrier still because I have to pretend to play the game, let them believe that I’m not hip to the shenanigans.


I gasp in surprise when I open the door and find that it’s snowing steadily. Good timing guys! They had decided to flush me out of the hostel on this very day so that I would find myself stranded in the middle of nowhere not only with snow on the ground but with snow falling down as well, to make sure that I would have no excuse to refuse a ride in the car... No wonder Goldilocks had been evasive when I had asked him to give us the news at 9am: he and his fellows didn’t want me to hear the weather reports so that I would be surprised by the snow fall and would have no contingency plan.

 

I drag my suitcase on the ice-covered street to Chestnut, which goes in the direction opposite to the station but is much closer than Market street, and flag down a cab. The Amtrack trip to New York is comfortable. Just after pulling out of the station I see a break in the ice that coats the Schuylkill river. The ice is very thick, I would say about ten inches. It makes me think that a good way to dispose of a body is to wait for winter and dump the body in a hole in the ice of a river. Then the body freezes and flows downstream under the ice, so nobody sees it to report it. So when it’s found after the ice has melted, who knows how long later, it’s impossible to tell where it comes from and when the death occurred! I feel elated to have left behind all these dirty tricksters and watch the snow-covered landscape with dreamy eyes. To think I was almost stranded there....


I have a sense of being home when I get to Penn Station, although I don’t know what “home” means since I don’t have an apartment to go to, nobody is waiting for me with hugs and kisses in this city any more than anywhere else and I don’t have the residency permit. Well, it’s as close to home as it can be for me.


I walk to Eighth Avenue to take the bus uptown. Because it’s midday and there are still huge mounds of snow on the curbs the traffic is thick and it takes one hour to go from 34th street to 103rd! I book a room for three days. When I arrive at Room 304, a room with only six beds, a janitor is there with a machine. He explains with a lot o smiles that he’s fixing the heating system so I can be warm.

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