The girl walked down St. Mark’s Place, yoga mat under her arm, sweating from the summer heat. She shouldered her way through crowds and darted across the street, dodging taxis. She took a sip from her Nalgene water bottle and contemplated which gluten-free pizza chain she’d stop at.
She turned the corner onto a quiet side street where a man sat in a plastic lawn chair. Late 50s, early 60s, lined face, and rock and roll T-shirt. As she walked past, she could feel him glaring at her. He started talking, in a normal tone of voice, but clearly meant for her to hear.
“This place used to mean something,” he growled. “Punk rock. Graffiti. Trash in the streets. It was real. Real. CBGB. Debbie Fucking Harry.” His voice trailed off into almost a sob, then she felt the laser of his contempt refocus on the back of her neck. “You weren’t there. You could never understand. You just weren’t there.”
He couldn’t see her smile, and she didn’t realize she was smiling. God bless this city, where even hostility from random old guys put a spring in your step. A blast of hot air from a subway entrance caught her square in the face, bringing out fresh beads of sweat just below her hairline. She was nineteen years old and living in New York City and the world was hers.