In 1992 I was in grad school full time and separated from my husband. I'd moved to a 2 very-small bedroom railroad-tenement apartment with the toilet in the hall, a block away from where I'd spent my married years. It was a lovely 1800's tenement rowhouse, one of many brick buildings with the old wrought iron railings and bannisters. Each of the front apartments had a huge window facing the street and I could watch the traffic or the neighbors or the weather from my sofa. It was in the heart of Times Square, a NYC community called Hell's Kitchen. In the living room was a marble mantle where the blocked fireplace of someone's proud parlor still leaked sooty drafts. I knew the neighborhood and people well. I loved that place.
Monday thru Friday, I went from school to my full-time night job that I'd taken after my last argument with Herman. I was out of the house from 8 a.m. til 11:30 p.m., unless I went to a local bar to blow off steam after work.
One night I took the crosstown 42nd St bus, got off at 9th Ave and dragged my sorry ass the 3 blocks to home. As I arrived in front, keys in hand, I saw 2 Arabic looking men in my living room window. I stood in stunned anger for a second, "What the hell are you doing in there?!" I yelled at the top of my lungs. One looked disdainfully at me. He lifted a can of Pepsi to his lips. How dare the fucks? "And drinking my fucking Pepsis, you bastards!" They said something to each other and moved further away from the window. I wasn't sure of what to do. I thought of running to the corner and calling the cops. Or over to the Super's apartment and get witnesses. It was almost midnight. My blood was pounding, I couldn't think.
Then I noticed that the drapes hanging in that front window weren't mine. Nor were the walls painted like mine. I looked up at the number over the door. I was a building short.
Without another word, I walked away and dove into my proper building.