locking the doors

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.

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