Read Bullettime for Free Online

Book: Read Bullettime for Free Online
Authors: Nick Mamatas
there,” she told him this morning, agitated as she was before her morning tea and palmful of medicine. “Were it up to me, I’d blow up the Holland Tunnel and the PATH train, just to keep the city people from seeping over the river. I don’t even know why you want to go there. Just be careful—don’t look any black people in the eye. That’s how they challenge people on the streets; they’ll kill you if you stand up for yourself.” He laughed at that, but she was serious, almost frantic, and explained that she had read it in the newspaper once, or maybe it was the TV news, plus she had grown up in Gramercy Park back when New York was at least “half-sane,” so she knows what she’s talking about. “And don’t buy any food from a cart!”
    Dave knows plenty about looking down at the ground when confronted anyway, but walking to the park, which is easy enough to find, he holds his chin high and smiles. He doesn’t even wonder what this would feel like on cough medicine till he gets to the crowded park and hangs out on the fringes of several knots of NYU students who play guitars, bullshit in the shade under trees, or fall off their skateboards and gamely get up to try again.
    Dave is too shy to talk to anyone, and is for once glad of his power of near-invisibility. He loves walking lazy circles around the fountain and the larger concentric circles of the park’s paths, flowing from the rapid-fire hip-hop of someone’s freestyling (“I’ll cap yo’ ass like a motherfucker/pump the bass like a motherfucker/go to class learn a rhyme for motherfucker . . . motherfucker!”) to an old man’s violin—Dave throws seventy-five cents in quarters into the case at the man’s feet—to the strum of a guitar and the enthusiastic warbling of some minor Beatles tune. It’s sunny. Lots of girls are out, most of them casually chatting and leaning in close toward one another, the way girls do, and showing off the straps of their thongs, all for Dave. Robitussin would make that last more convincing, he thinks.
    He buys an expensive Coke and an outrageous pretzel from a cart, shuffles through a flock of pigeons, sending them flying, and is drawn to the dog run by the dusty tussles and barking. Surrounding the park like barbed wire, the properties of New York University, some of them gutted brownstones, others modern buildings of slab concrete and eight-foot-high windows. Dave wants to go to NYU; then he can come to the park and actually know the people here, have something to talk to them about, like organic chemistry or Free Mumia. (A band? Is reggae cool? He makes a mental note to download some when he gets home.) He sneaks the last chunk of his pretzel through the wire fence and watches a smiling Lab mix run to him and snag the treat whole. He wonders if he’ll see Erin in the park; maybe she really does fuck strangers. Everyone out here sure seems friendly with one another, the way they sit so close even in the heat, or cuddle in the shade of the trees. Maybe he could even find a girl who likes to fuck strangers, if he only knew how to identify them and what to say.
    Dave realizes he’s pacing after he passes the same chess game four times, and decides to find some place to eat. He cuts down Washington Square Park South and walks in the valley of row houses and tasteful little stores, heading deeper into the Village. Everything looks kind of expensive, or at least French; even little luncheonettes with room for only two tables seem to pride themselves on foreign-seeming signage and weird foods. Like pad Thai and Orangina. Dave suddenly wonders how many of the guys back in the park were gay; did they think he was looking for a pick-up or hustling or something with all his obvious walking around by himself?
    He blushes, makes a right, and comes along a more soothing street. It has a McDonald’s on it, like an oasis. He didn’t come all this way to eat a Value Meal #2 though, and even McDonald’s is a buck more across

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