I spent most of my first day holed up in that one air-conditioned bedroom. The curtains were closed to keep out the sun but I was just as happy to hide behind them until I got my bearings. I peered out the back window and saw a view that I have only seen from the R5 train as it makes its way through North Philadelphia – the backs of narrow dilapidated row homes. I peered out the front window and saw an impoverished urban neighborhood that left me ill at ease. I closed and locked the hollow bedroom door (like that would do anything) and took a 2 ½ hour nap.
Eventually, I forced myself to go outside — walking along Kensington Avenue under the tracks of the “El” — nothing seemed recognizable. There was a woman on one corner in a full burka, and a shop selling large, gold, dollar-symbol necklaces. There were more Checks Cashed stores than I could count and more places closed than open – their doors barred with chains and padlocks. This was not the right direction to walk. I turned around and headed down Allegheny where I found a tiny little market. I bought eggs, milk, corn flakes (the only choice), asparagus, nectarines and butter. I’d figure it out. A little further on I stopped at the Chinese restaurant that one of Residents said was worth a try. The young Asian woman took my order from behind bullet-proof glass. I couldn’t even hand her the money directly: I had to reach in and to the left to pay her and retrieve my package. When I returned ‘home’ I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be going out again that day.
The rest of the night I read in my upstairs bedroom, grateful for the air conditioner. From my chair I could see around the edges of the curtains. I kept looking out the window to check on my car. I kept making sure the bedroom door was locked. I am not at ease here. This reminds me of what Israel felt like: trapped inside with the doors locked out of fear.