I know Jersey City by its putrid smell. The elevator at the Ninth Street Light Rail station stinks of rotten eggs. That—and something worse. Maybe paint thinner. Or puke. Or both. Nobody seems offended but me.
Like capitalist worker ants, in single file, we march out of the elevator and pace up Congress Street to our respective homes. Most of us anyway. The others, downtrodden like me, take a detour to any number of corner pubs for a few cold ones before dinner.
I stop at The Corkscrew, my usual pit stop (WE HAVE BEER + YOU SHOULD DRINK IT!). Just the jukebox, bartender, and me. “What’ll it be, brother?” Enough with the small talk. Gimme the $2 Oktoberfest. I inhale the beer, but the throat keeps wantin’ some damn air.
“How’s dat city job treatin’ you, brother?” says Luke, the Tender of Bar, once my ass settles on the stool. “Still vertical,” says I. “I keep sucking those taxicab fumes and drinking this beer, but I’m still vertical.” Says he: “You know, at the enda day—dat’s wha’ counts.”
Amen to that. I get up and slip a quarter in the jukebox. Ray Charles, soul man, rewards me with his hoarse, sweeter-than-Jesus voice.
“You seen Pédro yet?” “Shit, brother,” Luke says. “Nobody’s seen Pédro. You know dat.” What the hell? Two whole days now the guy’s been MIA. Shit. Don’t tell me Pédro is trying to lay off the sauce. Jersey City ain’t for quitters.
Outside, at long last, night is falling. Somewhere else a dog barks, as a despondent me trudges home.