It was dark and getting cold, and the stores were cold and dark and they were empty like the streets. There were no flashlights available no matter what you were willing to pay, even if you were willing to trade an interview at Dalton, and those who had them held them tight because there were those who would take them, might even hurt you or kill you for one. There are those who do such things, even in front of a fine bakery with a French name like "The Urban Brioche," a boulangerie that once not long ago sold real and good and true artisanal bread, the kind of bread we bought before the war when the baker would be at work five in the morning, his floured apron catching the light as the last of the investmento banquerios stumbled out of the cafes and into the few remaining black cars that were patiently waiting for hours, their outlines taking shape in the emerging dawn, tight and coiled like the bulls in Pamplona and ready to violate the bus lanes.
That was what the night had become, although we were holding on to a time when the cafes were open and we didn't realize how young and lucky we were to have nothing on our minds, not a thought of sea-walls or infrastructure but just our own sense of self, which was large and cumbersome and required a room of its own at Manhattan Mini-Storage, where the locked rooms were strong and smelled of cement and the heartbreak of overconsumption.
Candles flickered in the apartment windows and from the street you could see the ghosted faces moving about in search of the perfect sentence to describe what was happening, but with no NOOK or Kindle or any interoperative ereading software there were no perfect sentences anywhere, or at least we didn't know where they were or how to make them up again.
From the street you could also see the long shadows in the apartments that were etched on the silent Nespresso machines and the dead flat screen TVs and the voluptuous yet hopeless outlines of the West Elm sofas that reminded you of what it was like to live without the fully-charged hope of four full bars on your phone. There was no GPS and it truly was a lost generation.
In the north there was light and power but we didn't go there anymore. We did once, but the light was too bright and strong and startling for us and the music was too loud and the fortunatos, as we came to call them, had no use for us and called us the Con Edinsinos. When we went to the north we were dirty and our hair did not smell like the hair of the fortunatos, which was washed with cinnamon and cloves and other fine herbs, like the cloves that we harvested one summer when we were young and our clove-hunting hounds were splendid in their lineaments of power and barked with the joy of the clove-scented earth and glistened with the essence of the morning. But we didn't smell like cloves we smelled like crap and the crap was pure and we wouldn't have chosen to smell like anything that you cooked with.
In the north the doors to the bars were open and light poured onto the sidewalk and the bottles of liquor on the glass shelves were shot with primary colors and full of transparent joy but they were cash only bars and we had spent our cash that morning on baby wipes and Fiji Water and turpentine and a few paint brushes because we were finishing our portrait of "Bloomberg Admiring Himself In Lautrec's Elevator Shoes. It was a fine painting and we thought it would find a buyer, perhaps one of the fortunatos, but they were increasingly buying performance art so it would be swell if they didn't like it because we could always hang it someplace where it would only be seen by people who could see it for what it was and that was all that mattered, or seemed to. Then again what did we know, we hadn't touched a DVR in days.
In the north, which we came to once but then stopped, we came with chargers in our hands, and we had that look of a bullfighter whose brain had become very small because he was thinking about just one thing and that thing was plunging the cold steel glint into the spot on the bull's back where the veins knotted like a fisherman's net in a book about an old man fighting a large fish for days and days which we started reading once but stopped because it bored us silly, except we weren't holding a steel weapon but we were holding chargers that we wanted to plunge deep into the outlets that sat on the walls of the bars where the fortunatos were drinking and laughing and delighting in the music of their own voices.
When the male fortunatos saw us coming up the avenue they smirked with the smirk of the illuminated and either moved their girlfriends in front of the outlets to block them or bent down and plugged their already-charged phones into them or simply nodded to the busboy who angrily flicked his napkin at us because we were the Con Edinsinos, new form of urban rodent that hadn't learned its place in the social system and had to be taught the hard way.
This is what we found when we went north although later when we read about it in the history books and the newspapers and when we were able to pay attention to what the fortunatos said was true and what they said actually happened on Facebook and Twitter they spoke of their grace and goodness and generosity, a kind rare caring you only find when nature rises up and shows her contempt for human weakness and the unlimited-ride Metrocard.
It was soon after we decided never to go north again that the lights went on but we weren't sure we liked it that bright way because in the darkness we knew we were alive.