A generator grinds on, shattering the stillness that fills this peaceful Walla Walla night. The grumchum of grinding gears sounds over the whispering trees, the sputtering brook. A fluorescent light turns on and flashes taxi-yellow off the creek. The rumbling continues. I came here to find some time to think but there was nothing on my mind until the emptiness was pierced by noise. I'm struck to find my city in my thoughts. I can’t hear the brook over the shouting of the angry cabby, upset that he has to take a fare to Brooklyn. The generator groans as the taxi grinds over the bridge, under the sign that once read "Brooklyn, Fuhgeddhaboudit" and now reads "How Sweet It Is." Street lights silhouette broken glass smashed against the pavement. The cab stops with a sudden screech, a sound that mingles with the driver's shouts at a passerby-- leave it to a cabby to find a creative way to say "fuck you" to a person who didn't look both ways.
For a brief moment a sharp breeze draws me back across the country, to the creek and peaceful quiet. It's cold enough that I wish I'd brought a hoodie. The brisk air fills my lungs and I am startled at how clean each breath must be. The Walla Walla night is perfect save the dim glow of the prison in the distance. And the generator. The grumchum grinds into my thoughts and again, grinding, I am cast back to Brooklyn. The cabby has passed the BQE and now we're speeding under the F train on McDonald Ave; our motion is ceaseless-- to him red light stops are mere suggestions. Every alley wall we pass, cornered by a wrought iron gate, is covered in graffiti; the spray-painted masterpiece of the urban artist. Figures prowl the night, bent against the stillness and the mist.
Everyone knows of the city that never sleeps. When people hear "Brooklyn" they picture fresh bagels, Italians and Jews shouting for "coufee," and wondering, "are you taukin ta me?" But the Brooklyn of my youth was more vibrant, and now, as my mind wanders on this weathered wooden bench, the Brooklyn of my thoughts is exhausted. The city never sleeps so it is sleepless. New York can't be where dreams are made because the city never shuts its eyes.
For a moment the generator pauses as the cab comes to a halt. Home sweet home, how sweet it is. I pay and tip extra because I know that the trip into Flatbush means the cabby won't break even on the night. The taxi speeds off and I am left to walk up the steps to my house. In the distance a siren sounds. I can hear muffled shouting coming from the project behind my house, and somewhere in the night the low whir of a speeding car shatters the stillness. I slouch down against the mist.
The generator stops and the peaceful night returns. I am brought back to Walla Walla, to my bench, my garden full of whispering trees. The brook laughs. Smiling, I marvel at the stillness.
Perhaps if this were Brooklyn I wouldn't even notice the generator. Perhaps if this were Brooklyn I would only notice the occasional silence when it stops.