Only a block away from New York’s oldest park, Bowling Green, sits Elizabeth Berger Plaza. This triangular, nondescript green space sits at the entry to Battery Park Tunnel and is an exit for Rector Street Station for the #1 train. Berger Plaza offers potted plants, trees and benches to relax. Historic plaques adorn benches. These commemorate that the location was once called Little Syria – before being displaced by the construction of the tunnel. Undoubtedly a much quieter space then.
I continue to work on the opening to my novel, my bad side. I have the original, written three years ago, Version One: I liked my face in the cab window, fading in and out with the shadows, my eyes there, my mouth, and then all of me, my neck and chest, my bra strap just there and then gone and just the buildings, the slumped scaffolding and empty street. There was a kind of liquid sound, almost like rain, inside me, a fluid crinkling in my brain, chewing into my ears and down my neck..Crystal said she had brain cancer. She was always saying things like that, determined to be the loneliest, the purest of all. I’d have to call her when I got home.
Two years later, I put together Version Two: I watched my face fade in and out against the shadows and buildings, my eyes and mouth, and then all of me, my neck and chest, my bra strap suddenly there and then gone into the scaffolding and lights, and then a police car, its blue and white lights swimming back and forth, and an officer stretched out against the passenger side, his right leg angled into the road. The cab turned, and my face was in the window again, the flat stone of Battery Tunnel and then the gravel and bent-over plastic fences in front of my building. “$9.40.”
And now, I have a combination of Versions One & Two (without references to Crystal or the police): Version Three: I liked my face in the window, fading in and out with the shadows, my eyes there, my mouth, and then all of me, my neck and chest, and then everything gone, just the buildings, the slumped scaffolding and empty street, Bowling Green locked and empty. The cab rattled heavily over a rutted grate as I watched a line of light glide across my arms, jump down and vanish in a flash across my dress. I was home.
Broadway, also called the Canyon of Dreams, is a location for an early morning scene in my novel, My Bad Side:
A flock of small black birds swirled above Bowling Green, hovered a moment, a single organism, and landed in the bare glowing branches of the beech trees. Apollo watched, his mouth open, moaning softly. We followed the plaques. 1910, June 18: Theodore Roosevelt, following return from his African Safari; 1926, August 27: Gertrude Ederle, first woman to swim the English Channel. Crystal called.
“You’re up early.”
“More like late.”
“I was a workshop elf.”
“They painted my face with silver glitter. I had that crazy hat that pointed straight up.”
I could hear her moving, her mouth muffled, distant from the receiver, and then the tinkling of glass, bottles going into the recycling.
“We should go on a trip.”
“They would just freak me out.”
“The Crystal Palace.”
A rat popped out and veered wildly back at the sight of Apollo. “The Winter Palace.”
“Is that what it’s called? The Winter Palace?” There was the snap of her lighter and the intake of another cigarette. “It should be called The Crystal Palace.”