Williamsburg is Over

The L train is doing that thing where it glides very slowly and silently under the river in slow-motion. There is no noise coming from the tracks; at this speed the wheels don’t clatter and the machinery doesn’t rattle. There’s just that low whine as the weird stuff on the walls of the tunnels slips by, signals and then reflectors and striped bits of plastic, arcane technical markings and bursts of lurid graffiti then the odd glimpse of some passageway that looks like it belongs in Lord of the Rings, or something lower-budget involving quaint parallel universes.

The woman next to me is reading that morning’s free paper, an article about the development in Williamsburg.

“Williamsburg is over,” she announces to no one.

“You live there, don’t you?” she now addresses me specifically. She wearing pounds of makeup, cohered into a unified object.

“Well,” she says. “What do you think?”

“I think it sucks,” I say. I don’t say: I think it should be BLOWN UP, because you’re not supposed to say that, especially on the subway. If you say something, see something! I don’t say: You know how at the end of Fight Club, all those empty glass office towers go down in a kind of beautiful controlled demolition? I think they should do that. Though that would be bad for the neighborhood, too. It would cake the neighborhood in a layer of toxic dust for several years, tiny shards of all the glass and stainless steel awaiting the yuppies’ arrival hanging in the air and the DOH and the DEP and the EPA slow to tell us it’s killing us.

The empty condos, rising so fast and high, who will live in them and where are those people now? This coming invasion, where is it massing? And if it can’t be stopped, can it at least be organized? I want marching. I want lockstep. Goosestep, even. I want them to make it official. When the remaining yuppies come to take over Williamsburg for good–not the first two decades worth of decreasingly brave settlers but the final hordes who will constitute the full success of the Brooklyn lebensraum–when they come for real I want them to unfurl their banner, I want to see the strength of their numbers, I want to hear it reverberating in their canyons of glass. How come they never make a ceremony of those momentous events? Why can’t we have an ending, why must we realize the ending happened at some indiscernible moment long ago, or maybe the ending happened before we got there, maybe it was over before it began?

“Whaddya gonna do?” I say to the woman. So much makeup. Does she sleep in it? Why are all broken things slathered in cheap paint? Why must everything old be shellacked or glazed instead of permitted to fall into beautiful ruin?

The train, inexplicably, picks up speed. They never say anything about these delays. They never say, “ladies and gentlemen, it’s going to be a fucking slow ride.” They never say, “ladies and gentlemen, Williamsburg is over.”

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