Grand Army Plaza
Sit with me in these regal shadows, cast by plaster men who died and lived through this likeness a life of glory undeserved. Make way for the bike lane, the car lane, the pedestrians too eager to be safe. Keep your eyes to ground when the men with fear in theirs approach you asking for a change you cannot give them. Keep your eyes to the ground anyway, because you’ll never be certain the pavement won’t give way beneath your feet.
Confucius is staring at me, staring right through me with eyes holding a confusion I cannot explain away. These streets are filled with the cheap food and cheap clothes and cheap houses that cost our landlords less than they cost us. This water tastes of broken pipes, leaking acid and regret, and mom are we poor. A block away from the museum is a bodega with cardboard windows, but we trust nothing bad will happen in the shadows of this monument to a history we all pretend to share as we play in the spray of fire-hydrant-fountains. I stare back at Confucius, my feet covering the clean-polished asphalt, the blood of Saturday nights.
The rent’s going up, but for our own good, we are told. Condos bring yuppies bring property value brings some unnamed promised good, and we can deal with the rats, we are told. Temporarily embarrassed millionaires, we remind ourselves as we trod along this road we are told leads to success. What will you do with your money, when it comes?
This café plays German music to a Jamaican neighborhood and charges ten bucks for a something-something latte, and the tables are “communal”, and the waitresses are grad students and the name keeps changing—it’s not a café, it’s a coffee bar. And the man in the corner brags about authenticity. And the bodega’s shuttered now.
There are two sides to this street: divided by sound, by civility. Silence must be civility. Civility is being called a faggot for wearing makeup, I assume, as the kids jeer out from behind barred windows. Civility is which side the bars are on, I guess, as their mother waters flowers on the windowsill. These bars meant to keep out, not in. There are handprints around my windowsill. Civility is where the cops aren’t, mom says, as blue and red lull me to sleep.
You say you’re going to be late tonight, Mom, like last night, and that extra hours might not get overtime, but they get noticed, you say, as I microwave my dinner and listen to what I tell myself are fireworks in November. And you cry the next day, because the investors pulled out of the condo across the block for something to do with something about crime, and with them went the earnings we were told would trickle down, because their cups will always run over.
What a shame about those boys, the barista says, with her half-worried Warby Parker eyes, unaware or unbothered they’ll never make the news.
Will Leggat is a high school senior from Brooklyn, New York. He attends Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he is the editor-in-chief of his school’s literary magazine, The Courant. He is also a graduate of the 2018 Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and the 2019 Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop, and has received a National Silver Medal from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for his fiction, which primarily focuses on family, grief, loss, and belonging. Will is also a Prose Reader for The Adroit Journal. When he’s not writing, editing, or riding the Q Train, he’s drinking a bit too much coffee.