Vignette #3: The Highway’s Hum
We’re on the other side of the BQE, we say when people ask where we live. Over the highway, we say of our neighborhood, this other-world along the waterfront.
We’ll always and forever be near Pok-Pok? they’ll ask, or Alma?, but, really, just past the hum of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway; a concrete river snaking like the Arno through Florence. Our Ponte Vecchio is the walking bridge connecting 1st Place to Summit, with St. Stephen’s steeple chin-yanking you into the sky. You can also get across to us by walking over Union, Sackett, Kane or Congress. You have to trespass above the traffic, peering down through chain-linked fences into rush-hour sludge. A highway that’ll get you to one bridge or another, to the Verrazano or the Kosciuszko, to the red sauce of Staten Island or the kielbasa of Greenpoint, whichever you prefer.
Our six windows are a speaker for its scratchy, worn out turntable. You can hear it, always. Like holding a conch shell up to your ear to find the ocean (the metaphor of a river is now too quaint for its audio.) Large trucks hammer along in the distance, shaking the jar of pennies on the bookshelf. There are sirens and tractor trailer wails. Someone whizzing through the left lane in the dark.
Its tides are high and frequent, battering beneath full moons and crescent moons. Waxing at rush hour sunset, waning just before sunrise. I’ve heard its silence. Just three times. All three on significant day-befores. Hurricane Irene. Super Storm Sandy. And a blizzard just two months ago.
The BQE is a line, a marker, a splinter in Brooklyn’s earth that makes us us. We sit between two skulking channels, a waterway and a motorway, wiping the sleep from Robert Moses’ eyes, dreaming past the hum, the rush, the strip of road that sets us here, if apart, but in place.