What cars still travel down Broadway? They’re different, sure. But also the same as ever. Make. Model. Color. And what people? They only have new ways of doing the same old things.
And down the lower east side, in a small shop on a boulevard renamed again and again, painted and glossed-over and torn down and built up, wood to stone to brick, a whittled down little man, paper-thin, hollow-cheeked, sells postcards from rows of old file bins labeled: Landscape, Person, Object. But the old man’s customers never come looking for any particular card. And none of them can remember those people or places or things depicted on the cards, anyway. They are happy to flip from one card to the next, picking something out now and again to show a companion. Because the cards are rare, expensive, hardly anyone ever buys more than one. When they’ve chosen, they hand the card to the old man, and have you noticed they are almost always blue or black or golden? The color of a bruise healing up. The old man puts the postcard in a brown bag with the name of the store stamped on the front. Then off they go, out the store. The tiny bell above the lintel rings twice, and for a moment those alien street noises invade the dusty interior. Then the door shuts and everything is silence. And sometimes the cards are mailed and other times forgotten.
When did they stop printing postcards? Who can remember? But there are not many left, now. Just costly ephemera. But don’t they still slip so well into blue mailboxes, and sift like gold on the sorting trays in post offices; and don’t they still fit easily through mail slots, too narrow for anything substantial?
At least they are on the move again, the old man thinks, leaning over the counter, cloudy with scratches. And at least I will not live to see the last one bought and mailed and gone.
This will always be now, he thinks, and that will always be the future.
Joaquin Lowe holds an MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has always wanted to be a writer, except when he was very young and wanted to be the fifth Ninja Turtle, the Ravi Shankar of sewer dwelling mutant reptiles. His debut novel, The Bullet Catcher, is forthcoming in the UK in 2016 from Hot Key Books. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.