Red Eye

New York in the late 1980s

Red Eye
by Lee Hamblin

Sunday evening. First time in New York; first time in Brooklyn. Johnny P has a bit of blow and some weed he needs to dispose of on account he doesn’t indulge during the week. Would be rude not to help him out.
We sit listening chronologically to Led Zep albums. Make it to IV.
I must have slept at some point ‘cause I wake up laughing. Can’t remember the last time.

Monday. Just like I imagined it. Cab drivers who don’t give a shit, the subway a sauna and not yet midday. I walk the grid instead, Avenues & Streets, North to South, East to West. Make sure not to hit the big numbers, warned Johnny P.
Prefer Chrysler to the Empire State: more curves, shinier.
Who doesn’t love a newer model?
Back To Life blares from every street corner. Pick up the US remixes in Tower. They’d cost me three times that in London.
Meet Johnny P from work; shoot pool and guzzle Rolling Rock. Booze doesn’t count. “Forget about it,” Johnny says in his best Travis Bickle, “she ain’t worth it, brother.”

Tuesday. Spring Street. Pre-teen kids in white granddad vests and baggy shorts play in the fountain of a bust fire hydrant. Nikon loaded with 35mil Black & White. Click like Weegee except I’m not shooting dead people. Seek out Strawberry Fields just so I can say. Buy a cap like Chuck D. Can’t find Strawberry Fields but the cap fits. Wear it forward. Find a barbershop, get a buzz cut.

Wednesday. Crate-digging in the Village. Coltrane’s Ole! Mint, five bucks.
Times Square gives me the willies.
Shoot another roll of Black & White: Slam dunkers in street courts, lady with the torch, skyscrapers. Pass by The Blue Note and imagine. Find out years later the club’s nowhere near as old as the label and feel cheated.
Movie choice: Do The Right Thing, or Harry meeting Sally. Go for Spike. Romance Schmo-rance.

Thursday. East Village. A few of us gather at George’s bare-bricked third-floor apartment. New friends friendlier than the old. Could be the accent.
Vodka shots all round, smoke a little weed — okay, a lot of weed. Look in the mirror, touch of red-eye. Search the cabinet for Optrex.
Hit CBGB’s long after its heyday. Dank. Dark. Depressing.
I look out for Debbie Harry just in case.
Once I was in love.
Flashback to a twelve-year-old glued to the screen watching Top Of The Pops, mouth wide catching flies.
“Didn’t Blondie start out here?”
“No, you’re thinking of Talking Heads,” replies George. I think he means The Ramones ‘cause he starts up with Sheena Is A Punk Rocker. Whatever.
Long live the myth.

Friday. Meet Johnny P after work. He digs the new haircut. My flight leaves JFK at 10.
Says he’ll drive me, but I’m welcome at his if I want, “S’up to you, man.”
Guess I can hang a while longer, I mean, we got the rest of Zep’s catalogue to get through, right?

Lee Hamblin is from the UK. He is a yoga teacher living in Greece. He’s had stories published in MoonPark Review, Reflex, Blue Fifth Review, Ellipsis, Fictive Dream, Flash Frontier, Spelk, F(r)online, STORGY. He tweets @kali_thea and puts links to his stories and other words here:

Image used with permission of the photographer.