HARLEM — It’s not the same quiet that comes from a summer holiday, when so many people flee from this place, leaving everything to be just a bit more hushed.
No, everybody’s still here. They’re still squeezing onto the subway, still blowing their horns at red lights, still asking if you’ll pay five bucks for one of the pirated DVDs in this plastic grocery bag. It’s just that they’re doing it more quietly.
You sense it in the firemen, an entire house of them roaming the block in their dress uniforms, looking for a place to eat together. Today, they’re no different from a family in its Sunday best after a morning at church.
You see them all the time, of course, bounding into the corner coffee shop, gear rattling, smelling like fresh smoke. They’re chattering as they stand in line while waiting for their drinks to be made, forgetting, maybe ignorning, the fact that they’re in public. You don’t get the inside jokes but you hear the words all the same. It gets loud.
Something else I’ve seen more than once: when it’s time to pay they’re told to save their money for next time.
It’s different today. Even with neck ties and blazers on, so many of them look like they couldn’t have been past grade school 13 years ago. As they walk the block, sticking their heads into doorways, hoping for places that will open for lunch, there is no chatter.
The city never forgets.
— 30 —