From the Jersey Transit train, the meadowlands look endless but when you stand in the middle of the tall weeds, it's a jungle. It's a graveyard for old tires that silently rot in the heat and stagnant water–it's also a pseudo-Sicilian graveyard for when Vito stiffs the family out of cash or Antolini was at the wrong place at the wrong time, if you know what I'm saying.
Somewhere behind me is the Titan building, except it's been painted over and all that's left on the warehouse are the lighter brown outlines behind where the blue sign used to be. The word "Titan" is spelled out in cleanliness.
As soon as I locked up the garage, I got away from there as soon as possible. I can't stand it when a building is dying.
The land along the Turnpike, especially the part around Elizabeth, Rahway and Kearny, is now being built up. There's a wretched carcass of an old building that they're painting over about two football fields big. Some of the corrugated metal panels are swung open, eyelids allowing dust from the highway. I wonder whether they found any Vitos or Antolinis in the old building. I'd rather not know the answer. I did come across a dead body once in the marshes and I wanted to drag it out to see if he'd had any identification or something on him, but I watch too many movies and if his family put him there, they certainly don't want him back. It's not fair to assume that all dead people are Sicilians but it's easier for me to believe in some big plot than for me to think about all the subtle reasons why a man might be rotting his eyeballs out in a post-mortem siesta in the Meadowlands.
A bunch of crows picked at where the eyeballs should have been. It's another sign from God. A murder of crows eat up a murdered man.
In about five minutes I'm going to get into my Cavalier and go to Ironbound. I'll swing by the station and get some of that popcorn–they don't give you extra butter there like they do at the movies, but it's got its own dry charm anyway. I've got to have a tank of Coke next to me as I eat the popcorn but I'm used to driving with one sticky hand and flipping off the crazy Honduran bodega guys with the other. I don't know what they have in fucking Honduras, but here we have rules. Specifically, no matter how short the micro-mini on that hot piece of Dominican ass, you can't run a red. Or whistle at her and almost back into me because you're a slow piece of shit. Please.
There was this one time when I saw one of those Vito guys getting out of a Spanish place all paella-ed out and he smelled like he invaded the ocean and came out with a few squid. He gave me a look that clearly said I had better leave, or else he'd pull Antolini out of the marshes, and they'd both shoot me shitless.
"You know where the Quick Chek is?" he asked.
There was one up by the gas station where my friend Pete worked, but I think he would have gone home by six like he always did. First Pete'd go to Lucy's house and then to his wife's, although sometimes we'd hang out at Lil Sammy's after his "man hour" with Lucy and I could still smell the sex on him.
He always shrugged. "Mandy ain't figured it out yet." And he'd shove a Dos Equis at me and we'd drink, watching the sun plow itself into the ground for the next twenty or thirty minutes. The smell of bar by then covered up the stench of screwing.
By the time Vito got there, it was probably the Indian guy–Joshua–watching over the pumps. He kind of smelled like onions and garlic and gas, which, to me was almost edible. Gas is dangerous because it smells like I can drink it.
By the time I'm going to get to Ironbound, I should tell Estrella to take out the trash, though she doesn't listen to anything unless there's a bribe or conditional. "If you don't take out the trash, I ain't coming home," isn't exactly what I should say but I say it anyway and crush the cellphone against the dashboard.