A Bit Different and Nothing the Same

He sets his alarm for six on the weekend.

He likes to get an early start on things. Even on Saturday.

Coffee and a cigarette is the third part to Tony’s wake up ritual. The first part is a cigarette while laying in bed listening to the traffic work its way south on Broadway. He can usually time smoking it down to the filter just as the one train hits the 110th street stop.

Just as his building begins to rumble with the train’s approach he climbs out from under the covers, heads to his little walk in nook of a kitchen and starts the coffee brewing before sitting on the toilet with another smoke.

He doesn’t read on the toilet, like he hears some people do and he doesn’t think, he just smokes and lets his body do its thing.

The sun is just climbing through his East facing window as he makes his way to the cabinet over the counter and grabs a clean mug. Emblazoned with a blue and red NY Giants logo he splashes a bit of half and half in the bottom before grabbing the decanter of fresh brewed coffee and fills it up.

This is his favorite mug. His mom found it at a sidewalk sale on 9th Road in College Point. You got to be from somewhere, might as well be Queens and this mug reminds him of his mom, God rest her soul.

The steam and aroma hit him in the face as he takes a tentative sip and smiles.



He settles down on the couch and picks up the remote control sitting neatly on the coffee table and flicks on the TV.

He likes a little couch time before he heads out for his run in Central Park.

The TV beeps as the image warms up. He locates a half empty pack of yellow American Spirits on the coffee table sitting just by his open laptop. Grabbing his third smoke, he hits the spacebar and watches the computer come alive. It shows his screen saver, a picture of him finishing the New York marathon two years ago. He has been training for this years also and feels even stronger. He might even qualify for Boston if he keeps his mile times in the low six minute range through September.

He hits the document he minimized on the taskbar before going to bed. When he gets back from his run he will do a quick edit on this piece about New York politics before sending it off to his editor. He loves remote commuting. Owning his own time is the only way to live.

“Total destruction.’

The words from a female anchor draw his attention to the television and he is shocked by what he sees.

Tony blinks, the reality of this program is staggering. It even shows the little CNN logo in the upper right hand corner as the images of an orange ball of fire shooting up into the air blossoming like a mushroom with a spray of white clouds at its base. The image is on repeat and he watches it several more times before realizing the small structures engulfed by the white cloud are the tall building in midtown.

‘It is assumed New York City has been completely destroyed. A source working with the Long Island emergency response is saying Hicksville on Long Island is the nearest they are reporting able to get. The loss of life will be staggering. Westchester police are also reporting widespread looting. New Jersey officials are asking residents to stay indoors to minimize the effects of the radiation plume. This unprecedented attack on American shores is massive and deadly. If you are just turning in Washington officials are saying a nuclear weapon was detonated in Manhattan last night killing millions of people.”

He flips the channel. His heart thumps hard. It’s the same scene on every channel. Some channels just display the logo of the emergency broadcast system and the high pitch wail he is familiar with as the warning signal. A scroll under the logo says all broadcast television has ceased and the viewer should turn to a news outlet for further information.

He looks out the window. Early morning sunrise orange. A bird chirps. A squirrel plays on the tree that juts up out of Straus park just across the street. He hears the deli guy down stairs yelling at his cousin in Arabic. A bus hisses to a stop. A dog barks. Someone honks their horn.

He stands up and walks over to the window not knowing what to expect, but it is all the same New York he has come to know over the last ten years of living in this apartment. He feels a bright pain between his fingers and looks down at his forgotten cigarette. The cherry smokes just a scant centimeter away from his skin. He quickly moves his fingers further down the filter and looks for an ashtray that should be near by. Not seeing it where it should be he opens the window a crack and flicks the ash off the end on to the fire escape.

The emergency signal suddenly stops. He looks back to the TV expecting more information, but instead finds the television off. The image he sees reflected in the black screen is of a fifty year old man. He touches at pendulous flesh around his belly and breast. His clothes feel too tight.

He takes a drag of his cigarette and coughs violently.

He feels sweaty. Not like he is hot, more like a cold clammy feeling. His skin puckers with goose flesh. His hair stands on end. He feels like his tongue is too big for his mouth and his eyes hurt.

He walks back over to the couch and picks up the remote. He hits the on button and the TV beeps. The screen comes to life and he is watching an early morning cooking show with a chubby lady in a halter top type dress and an apron frying some mushrooms in a skillet. “Drizzle some Extra virgin olive oil…” says the lady in a southern accent as he flips the channel.

A yacht floating in blue water, an Englishman says, “…paradise…”

He flips again, a basketball game, “…waste of cap space…” yells an angry guy, possibly from the Bronx.

He mutes the TV.

He takes another drag and coughs. It’s like he has never smoked before. The cigarette smoke is hot in his lungs. He feels like he is about to throw up.

His knees feel weak. So he sits down and grabs his still steaming Harvard mug next to the laptop with a spread sheet filled with numbers he doesn’t understand and takes a deep pull of black tea.


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