Halsey Street by Naima Coster


Halsey Street by Naima Coster

Author:Naima Coster [Coster, Naima]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781503941175
Publisher: Little A
Published: 2018-01-01T07:00:00+00:00


11

PARLOR GAMES

December fell on Brooklyn as rain, and the water swept the old dirty-white islands of snow into the gutters. The days were wet, but Penelope ran every day for longer than she was used to. She didn’t want to be in the house on Greene. When she ran into Marcus on the stairs, he was cordial and shamefaced, but it sickened her to think of how much of her she had let him see. She had learned to time her arrivals and departures to avoid the landlady. Halsey Street was no better. Ralph was still smoking his pipe and playing records, waxing on about the state of the neighborhood instead of his own. She was growing sick of moving between the two houses. She needed some other place.

Sheckley’s was mostly empty when Penelope pushed open the door one blue and frozen afternoon. Punk music grumbled softly over the sound system. A pair of young women sat in the booth by the window, draining pints of lager and laughing, peering out at the cold street. One of the girls wore a floral patterned scarf wound haphazardly around her neck; the other wore brown plastic spectacles so large they seemed to swallow her face. Penelope recognized those glasses as the sort of hideous frames the poorest kids at PS 23 were forced to wear; they were now the vogue among Bed-Stuy hipsters, it seemed. Would this really become her bar? Penelope passed the girls, and they carried on talking in hushed voices, gripping the large pints with their skinny, manicured hands.

A man in his thirties sat alone watching a rerun of The Wonder Years and finishing off a basket of fries. Sometimes he glanced at the girls by the window and rubbed his blond beard with interest. The only other customer was a woman in an argyle sweater, sitting at the bar with her legs crossed. A leather bag hung from one of her knees, and she stirred the clear liquid in her martini glass with a toothpick, stripped of olives. Penelope had served many women like her at the bar in Squirrel Hill. They would come in with their hair in perfect waves or a neat chignon, wearing tailored pants, and a skimpy, silky shirt under a conservative blazer. They drank martinis or top-shelf whiskey in silence, surveying the bar in between sips. When they finished one, they ordered another, and then pulled out a hardcover or their phone. They tapped away at their screens or idly flipped the pages of their books, smiled at Penelope whenever she caught them staring at her. She felt that she was one of them: less elegant but still a woman who drank alone at bars around town. They fascinated her and filled her with an unexpected sadness—their quiet drinking and pretty hair. They rarely offered their names, but she felt kindred to them, and they seemed to watch her back, as she wiped glasses or cleaned the ice bin, dropped a new pellet of soap in the sanitizing solution and scrubbed down the bar.



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