Introduction Anonymity and invisibility are ironically quite
This book is a small photographic collection of
common feelings when living within a dense
lost objects I have discovered around Manhattan.
community of millions of individuals such as New
Many of these abandoned fragments are coupled
York City. Many of us, in response, long to see be-
with literary fragments; short stories or one sen-
yond the cold façade of concrete and steel that
tence statements inspired by each object. These
characterizes our skyline—as well as our counte-
stories, both vague and specific, are not meant to
nance—to a more intimate, perhaps romanticized,
contextualize the artifact, rather, to encourage the
knowledge of those with whom we share this
reader to overlay their own experiences, opinion,
enormous, unique, and idiosyncratic city.
One’s personal possessions provide this precious,
My hope is that, through a combination of creative
private access into their life. A moment’s distrac-
writing, hand-drawn typography, and especially
tion is sufficient for these objects to fall from their
photography, I was able to convey my fascination
warm, intimate world onto the anonymous con-
with these lost slivers of people’s lives.
crete. These artifacts, imbued with the emotions of their former owners become a materialization of so many intimate qualities: a poignant single note of one’s life, begging to be listened to.
The next time you are outdoors, lower your gaze and experience these small, intimate treasures laying atop their concrete backdrop.
I kept stealing glances at myself that night. Every window became an impromptu mirror. Every look at my reflection produced the same series of emotions: surprise at my transformed appearance, recognition, and intense joy. At every glance I adjusted my hair, pulled on my skirt, or compulsively blended the foundation at my jawline. I had to be perfect that night; I checked my cellphone and quickened my pace.
Too early to go home and too late to return to the office, I found the closest Starbucks. I nursed my now cold soy latte; wondering why the meeting uptown ended so much earlier than usual. Why I didn’t go for drinks with Jane, Cindy and that other girl from human resources. Why is it so difficult for me to meet new people? My thoughts easily turned to Andrew, the reason why I’m in this cold metropolis. my gaze instinctively darted to the bottom of my laptop screen; he wasn’t online. Reaching for my phone, I bitterly reminded myself of the conversation we had the week before; a carbon copy of so many others. “I’m not responsible of the fact that you’re unhappy here and you can’t keep waiting for me to come home every night like this.” It’s always been easy for him to be detached. Feeling the familiar sinking sensation in my stomach, I focused on my brunch plans with Lisa on Sunday; we’re going to go to that new place in her neighborhood. Leaning back on the small couch, I happily allowed thoughts of Andrew to slip out of my mind as I enjoyed the feeling of pleasant expectation.
“Why do I always put myself in these situations?” I shook my head. There I was, anxiously waiting for what I was sure would be an uncomfortable meal. I pledged to never again allow a friend to set me up with their “sweet and incredibly handsome gay best friend.” She showed me a photograph earlier in the week; it seemed to be taken in college. I noticed her first, her hair was much shorter and darker then; to her left, drinking from a large glass of beer was her “Marvelous Mike.” I felt her analyzing my expression as I looked at the old photograph, surely waiting for some complimentary reply. I nervously dismissed her unspoken inquiries by saying that I couldn’t really see his face. Truthfully, he looked unimpressive and I don’t even like beer. I was already thinking of tactful excuses to avoid a second date. I looked at my watch; he was over ten minutes late. As my anxiety mixed with increasing frustration, I forced myself to take a deep breath and glanced through the windows of the diner that would soon be welcoming the two of us.
59th street and Columbus circle
"Work," I repeated ruefully to myself, "work would imply getting paid at least; instead of running errands for free." I quickened my pace, a few more blocks and I'd be there. "Didn't he start by designing windows or something?" I thought, eager for distraction. I adjusted my grip and secured the two dresses I was carrying on my shoulder; they both had shifted and were threatening to fall. I shuddered at the thought of the delicate beige organza fluttering gracefully toward the dirty slush below.
I wanted to drop her a line to let her know how pleased I was to see her. Running into her at the club yesterday could have been a potentially mortifying situation, but she handled it with such grace and affability. I was stunned at how beautiful she looked after so long--absolutely radiant--the Nantucket air had clearly been good for her. She had never really liked it here anyway. I nervously reached for my Blackberry in my suit pocket and dialed the number I hadnâ€™t called in years; the number I still hadnâ€™t been able to delete.
49th street and Broadway
I tried to focus on the rhythm of my steps; an impromptu metronome over which I obsessively looped the patterns I should have been able to play flawlessly by that point. “You’re late;” the recollection of Mariko’s voice shattered my fragile concentration. “I know you’re trying to focus on lots of different things, but you have to play on time.” I would always scan her face for some trace of encouragement, but it was seldom there. Would I be any better today? Without even being aware of it, my metronome was performing a gradual rallentando in an attempt to delay my arrival at practice. I looked at my blistered hands and reassured myself, “today will be better; if not today, then next Thursday or the Saturday after that, but I will improve.”
I looked down at my boots and felt a reassuring warmth in seeing them as old, stained, and tattered as ever. Sure, we don’t get much choice in regards to clothing at the site; safety regulations are strict, but I saw each scuff as a testament to the strenuous work I’ve been doing every day for the past twenty six years. The honest work that put Meg through college. The sidewalk was dark with dirty rain water; the bad weather we’d been having all month was really slowing everything down and construction was nearly at a standstill. I decided against using my umbrella; the subway stop was within view and I didn’t want to deal with it being wet on the long trip back to Queens.
43rd street and Lexington avenue
Sweaty and not nearly as presentable as I hoped to be, the cab eventually dropped me off at the correct address with a few minutes to spare. Anxious to delay what I was sure would be an uncomfortable reunion, I sat on the hot sidewalk and admired the old building this woman now called her home. The cracked wall was a dark grey with beautiful stone moldings framing the thick, paneled windows. The entrance to her studio was a wide arch; a gilded harp barely visible through the dark glass door.
63rd Street and 5th Avenue
"103; follow me." I jerkily got up from my plastic chair and entered the fifth and final office; the woman who called my name took a seat. I handed her the tattered navyblue folder given to me downstairs. I was there because my ex is a liar: he lied about the drugs, about the casual sex; I doubted everything. In the few moments before she spoke I wondered what I would say if the unthinkable happened to be true. Would I cry? would I faint? She abruptly ended my troubled reverie by asking a few questions about my lifestyle and my past; I hated her for stalling so much and not taking care of these formalities after delivering the coveted result. The smallness of the sterile office was suffocating me; wave after wave of regret came crashing over me as I absentmindedly answered the last of her inquiries. The folder was closed and my file appeared on her computer. Because of the angle at which I was sitting, the information on the screen was illegible. I desperately scanned her jaded face for any indication of the verdict she would momentarily deliver. Nothing. Without a trace of a smile she told me the result came back negative. As I walked out of her tiny office, feeling both elated and exhausted, I forced myself not to smile, knowing it would just increase the aggravation the people still anxiously waiting. I stepped outside; it wasn't that cold after all.
A muted beep interrupted me mid-sentence and I mechanically reached for my pocket. After briefly making sure Melissa hadn’t noticed the noise, I looked at my phone. “It’s on east 10th street, number 150. He’s waiting for you.” I stared empathetically at the small screen, wondering how sad and conflicted my mother must have been when delivering the information. I didn't want my friend I had an agenda for coming to New York, so I quietly put the phone into my bag, casually said goodbye, and grabbed my mother’s letter. I looked at the envelope; the knowledge of my task gave me strength. I made my way south.
32nd Street and 8th Avenue
"White lilies," I thought resolutely, "at least four or five stems." Breathing in the morning air, I tried to remember the flower's beautiful scent and was amused by my inability to do so; "how odd that one can never recall such things," I thought nonchalantly. I was very eager to see my friends after my trip with George to Italy and absolutely adored entertaining. Delighted by the prospect of a wonderful evening, I guided my thoughts through the minute details of the table setting. I resolved on using mother's silver candelabraâ€”despite the intimate and rather informal nature of the gatheringâ€”and would have to remind myself to have it polished that afternoon. My pleasant thoughts were interrupted by a brief gust of wind; I quickly reached for my head, securing my mauve hat. Losing it would have been a pity as it perfectly matched my tweed skirt, in both color and material, making it quite irreplaceable. I took shelter in the shop, "ah, there it is" I whispered cheerfully; the air around me infused with the sweet, elusive scent.
By the time we stepped out of the restaurant, it was really snowing. It was that frozen kind of snow that, combined with the occasional gust of wind would jab your face with its microscopic, sharp crystals. Thanks to the $3 frozen margarita I had finished inside, the cold didn't seem quite as bitter as when I walked in a couple hours before. Anna was mentioning earlier how her shoes have no traction and she cannot manage to easily keep her footing in this weather, especially with the groceries she had been carrying all evening. I glanced to my left and smiled at the sight of her and Caryn carefully making their way through the grey slush towards the L stop and eventually back to Williamsburg. I was glad these outings after class were becoming a weekly tradition. I tucked my chin under my scarf to protect my neck from the icy daggers and headed east. Because of its density, the snow did not float gracefully to the ground, but fell with enough force to bounce slightly; its shape and texture mimicking the rock salt crunching at my feet.
Broome street and Orchard street
Tom and I adore the spicy ginger tea they serve at our cute little cafe in SoHo, the one connected to that bookstore around Prince and Lafayette. It’s the most adorable little place; they have books hanging as light fixtures from the ceiling and covering the one curved wall that accommodates a few quaint cubicle-like sitting areas. The last time we went, as I leaned over to pay, I noticed a sketch of a woman’s face, half hidden under a pile of paper napkins. The young man behind the counter noticed I was glancing at his work and bashfully told me he was an artist. “Tom is an artist too… a sculptor” I replied proudly. We both came to a halt as we noticed a large, green poster blocking the entrance: the cafe seemed to have been closed to make room for a book reading. Slightly disappointed, but still happy to be in each other’s company we continued east.
I stepped out of the building feeling nauseated. I was well aware that it was just the familiar symptom of my anxiety; I stopped and took a deep breath. His exhilarating scent was still on my hands. “You have no reason to be upset,” I reassured myself, “you’ve done nothing wrong.” I’d been desperately infatuated with Scott for years, and now he was asleep in my bed. I was astounded and could not help but smile at the absurdity of the situation. As I resumed walking, I repeatedly ran through the details of the evening to that point. Just over an hour before, I bravely told him I would not be interested in pursuing physical relationship with him unless he was interested in something more. As he kissed me he told me he would like to “give it a try and see where this goes.” Despite being overjoyed at the time, I was now beginning to doubt his motives. I shuddered. I shouldn’t have let him come upstairs; I was too eager. “But I’m sick of playing games,” I shouted in reply. Alternating feelings of elation and misery were circling obsessively in my over-analytical mind as my second lap around the block came to a close. Hardly feeling any better, I looked up at my small bedroom window; the lights were still off. Once more around the block then I would have to go back upstairs; I couldn’t bear the thought of him waking up in my apartment and finding me gone.
Thomas street and West Broadway
It was a beautifully warm night, I gazed at the surprising display of twinkling stars overhead—a rare sight in this city—and remembered lying in the grass in the back of the house, looking at the stars while my grandparents played cards. It was my favorite spot, my grassy island of solitude and contemplation. The absolute blackness of the night, untainted by electricity or proximity to other homes, allowed the Milky Way to show itself in its awe-inspiring vastness. I was too young then to reflect on the humbling complexity of the universe or grasp concepts like infinity or transience; the night sky was a magnificent spectacle laid out solely for my callow enjoyment and fanciful wanderings. I’d since grown up, moved to New York, married, and raised children of my own. They are so accustomed to this urban environment that they have never really known the quiet magnificence of an undefiled night sky; the simple fascination of returning daily to a small stream to watch little, translucent eggs hatch into tadpoles and slowly grow legs. The farm now lives solely in my memory. The scent of lilacs and cut grass, or a clear night sky awaken vivid recollections of a blissful time when I shared a close relationship with nature and had no need for the possessions that burden me today.
"My mother's right; this is getting out of hand. I was never thin, but it's different at home; everyone here is just so damn skinny." I ran through the usual series of familiar thoughts on my walk home from work. Despite the stealthy melancholy that often pervades me in the evenings, I loved my job. I felt perfectly safe and content within the sweet pastel walls of the bakery; surrounded by delicate peaks of buttercream frosting. The syrupy aromas of my quiet shop were a welcome daily escape from the noxious scents and loud sounds of the city. Nevertheless, I had to admit it was taking a significant toll on my body. "Tomorrow I'll start," I thought, hesitantly at first, then more resolutely. "No, not tomorrow, I'll start on Monday," I corrected, "there's that New York Sports Club a few blocks from the apartment, I'll go there." The days were getting longer as summer approached, the warm wind lifted my spirits. I smiled; feeling healthier already.
27th street and 7th avenue