03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Early This Morning

Sounds in all the trees! The wintry wind in the old park. This is the earth's version of a fantastic New York neighborhood. The back and forth up inside an old oak is like the cussing wind in a happy bodega. I stand there in the darkness under it, and listen to the thousand tuning forks, the whistling twigs - each of them reaching into the pre-dawn sky like an opera's final plea. Am I waiting for a whole sentence, a complete thought to suddenly cohere in these endlessly complex sounds? Will some sound advice for our sick city fly from the ancient black branches?

Then I'm getting cold, so I retreat out of the forest and tap on the locked front door of Hamad's. It's just after 6 AM - he's not open yet but comes out to let me in. It's warm in here. He says the coffee's on and I watch the little television sitting above the Wonderbread. The news! The careful hair and bleachy buzzy teeth! They shout that the city has purchased Astroland back from a predatory landlord. Well - "predatory" is my word. Coney-lujah!

Mohammed and I have some overlap in our languages, but mostly we do high energy charades to convey meaning, always nearing and then breaking into laughter, the third language in the room, the one we both know well. The simplest messages can open out into variations. Asking for No Sugar! can rise until its ready for Broadway. We're whirling our arms this way and that. Wintry wind and laughter. We're hearing it! The advice from the forest fills the lonely store!

A cop appears in the doorway. He is on his cell-phone with his father, who seems to be out on the BQE somewhere stuck behind an injury accident. He faces the counter squarely, speaking to the freeway and Mohammed simultaneously. I'm thinking, from my silence, that this man's father is the expressway. Now I wonder if sometime in my future I'll know my neighbor life so well that I will be able to shift down the symphony from the trees into that detached patter, with just a bit of worldly compassion, to play my voice inside his bubble of trauma and macho media...

Mohammed and I still have more translations of No Sugar! waiting in our wings. We trade a look.