After spending the early evening listening to the bartender at Brooklyn Crab tell us a story about how he did an eight ball of cocaine, then took two Ambien, then got a blow job from a hooker in a Starbucks in Times Square, DEH and I were ready to escape for the night.
The conversation started when I arrived alone, and the aforementioned bartender served me not only a Piña Colada, but also a wheat beer and a glass of white wine, which someone else had ordered before storming out of a restaurant. “This looks like the bottom of a toilet,” I thought to myself.
So I gave the beer to the career alcoholic sitting next to me—who sipped it, declared it disgusting, and drank the whole thing anyway—and the white wine to DEH, who arrived soon after me. The piña colada, served from a drink machine, I kept for myself.
All around us milled characters like the ones above, transplants from who knows where. Probably Manhattan. You could tell they weren’t locals because they drank from the cocktail menu, wore dress clothes, and in one tragic case, carried a Chanel bag.
A few sips in, not having eaten anything but Goldfish snack crackers all day, and I was pretty drunk. “Two more of those, and she’ll be ours,” I heard the bartender with hooker diseases say to the another, who was wearing an armband and looked relatively clean cut. Then the former came over to DEH and I, and asked us what we thought about hand jobs.
DEH waxed poetic about the subject for a while. I told my own story involving Ambien. The bartender asked me what my boyfriend was like. “He’s like that,” I said, pointing to Caleb, who was removing his sunglasses, and walking into the bar.
“Oh,” the bartender said. Then he handed us a bill for not only our drinks, but the two drinks he had given me for free.
Outside, the sun was setting epically.
DEH and I ran out to the pier next to Fairway to catch the final rays with our iPhones, while Caleb, not even a little bit drunk, trailed behind, trying to hide his annoyance.
“Take our pictures like we’re the statue of liberty!” I screamed, coaxing him out onto the water.
Magically, the Lehigh Valley Museum, which is actually just an old barge tied to the pier, was open. I’ve wondered what it was many times before, but never seen the gate unlocked.
Inside, it felt something like an carnival caravan transplanted from another time.
It was creepy and weird and stuffed with oddities, the most bewildering of all being an open suitcase containing, among other images, a photograph of the owner, who was not present, at least not physically.
Let me zoom in on that for you.
In his stead was an old fisherman-type. Not the romantic, Moby Dick kind. But rather, just a dude wearing a t-shirt and a baseball cap, and carrying around a glass full of scotch.
Or so I imagined. Because although I can remember everything from the shape of the glass, to the clink of the ice, in all of the pictures I took of him, his hand is curled around empty air.
“I sit here in the morning and have tea,” he said.
“I sleep here at night.”
“This is the most photographed object on the barge,” he told us of a plant in a boot.
“My view is the best in New York.”
Everything inside felt precious in the magic light.
Even the tiny wooden elephants clustered on a shelf.
Even the ordinary wooden bench.
Even the paint cloth upon which it rested.
Even the cheap stained-glass mountain scene hanging underneath a skylight.
Even the strange rug, suspended from the ceiling.
Even the donation box.
Even the steering wheel.
Even the nautical scenes by Odd Andersen, who clearly must be related to Wes Anderson, at least spiritually.
Because Wes was everywhere, especially when the sun disappeared, leaving behind trails of pink and orange, and the moon, almost full, rose behind the barge.
“It’s a moonrise kingdom,” I thought to myself, wishing the phrase could be disassociated, and become mine alone.
Back out on the pier, the police boats moved fast across the water, and the lights of the Freedom Tower began to sparkle.
I breathed. The air filled with wind chimes.
I marveled at how fast the tug boats pushed the garbage barges towards Staten Island.
“Let’s go out on the rocks!” proclaimed DEH, climbing over the fence that separated the pier from the water. On the other side, short jetties, covered in detritus, jutted out into the waves.
“No you don’t!” Caleb said. But it was already too late.
Then, a special thing happened. A police boat—or perhaps the coast guard—noticed us out there, in the bay.
“WAMP WAMP!” the siren on their boat honked. “GET OFF THE ROCKS.”
“I would get on the boat and give all those bitches blow jobs,” said DEH. “If I hadn’t already gotten arrested last week.”
“I told you so,” Caleb said.
“I’m in love with this place,” I sighed, running back towards the lights on the shoreline. The Brooklyn Crab, the old Post Office, the men’s club, the dilapidated houses. Beyond, a mile down the coast, our apartment.