When you stop on your way to your friend Frank’s funeral on a blustery February morning to get a cup of coffee, and for whatever reason you make it a hazelnut, which you haven’t done for years—in fact the last time, or at least the most emblematic, was a similar morning when you first arrived in New York in 2000. You picked up a hazelnut coffee from the bodega near your stop on the 7 train in Sunnyside, Queens on your way to your first temp job stuffing envelopes at the New York Observer, and that hazelnut coffee filled you with hope—you were getting a coffee on the way to work, you were a part of the city, it let you drink its coffee. Less than a month later you started reading your words at open mike nights, where you met Frank—you immediately wanted to know him because he looked like Lou Reed, and you soon found in him perhaps the kindest New Yorker still that you’ve ever met. And as the Q takes you over Manhattan Bridge this morning, you remember seeing the seagulls on a cold winter day in 2001 while on your way to a job you hated and writing about those seagulls like they were those shorthand birds—just two little arches, creatures composed only of wings—and then, at the end of that summer, walking home over the Manhattan Bridge in a vehicle lane while lower Manhattan seethed in the rubble of its cracked landscape, and not leaving your apartment for days until you invited Frank and the rest of your crowd to your rooftop to observe together your broken city. You remember looking at Moira, Frank’s girlfriend at the time, and saying, I feel for the first time like this is my city. And then Moira broke up with Frank a couple of years later, and he began what ended up a decade-long circular—or perhaps spiral—pattern of losing his mind, then gaining it, then losing it again, the periods of lucidity shrinking by the year as his body wore away, the heavy medication he used to preserve his mind turning his backbone to dust. And you remember the last reading you saw him give, when he stopped midway to wipe the profuse sweat from his face with a handkerchief and said to the crowd, “I’m dyin’ up here!” then, “No, really. I’m dying up here.” And as your train arrives at the stop in Astoria where you will attend Frank’s funeral, you want to thank this hazelnut coffee, to give it a toast: Salud! To life, as in death!


What are the Sneaky Feels?

AuthorJohn Proctor