I’ve gone mildly insane by the time I spot three bodies coming toward me from the Manhattan side of the bridge.
Hallucinations? No, these are real live young people—that’s all I can determine at first—which is enough to lift my spirits. They’re like me! Adventurers! Idiots! Who cares? They are here, approaching, tonight, now: a tall boy with a ponytail and two girls, one who looks very Banana Republic, the other very Comic Book Store. I try not to frighten them.
“Hey,” I say.
“Hello,” says Banana Republic.
“Just, uh, hanging out?” Comic Book Store asks.
I explain what I’m doing. I don’t hold back. I use the phrase “urban nomad” more than once, without irony. I don’t want them to leave. They seem nice, too polite to interrupt a jabbering wet man balled-up on the Brooklyn Bridge at 2:30 in the morning. When my soliloquy ends, I ask about them, what they’re doing, tonight, in life, whatever, and they tell me: students at Brooklyn College. Just saw Troy. Funniest movie ever. Decided to walk home, over the bridge, in the rain, because . . . because why not?
“And that’s that,” says Ponytail.
“Cool,” I reply, when what I’m really thinking is: Don’t leave . . .
“It’s raining pretty hard,” says Banana Republic. “We should, like, probably leave.”
“I’m going to stay a little while,” says Comic Book Store.
Is she serious? She is. As we watch her friends trot off, I invite her to sit down in my pseudo-tent. First thing I learn is that her name is not Comic Book Store, but Amye. Brooklyn-born and -bred, she’s 21 and writes an anti-fashion column for her school paper called “Sweatpants Fashionista.” We do that thing strangers in strange situations do: share secrets, about each other, about family members, about people we’ve dated, people we wished we’d dated. The rain starts to let up at around 4 a.m., and there are other signs of life. A mean-looking drifter guy who (thank God) just keeps on walking. A few dudes on bikes. At 4:30 a.m., a posse of women in black dresses staggers by, arguing.
“I’m a belly dancer,” Amye informs me as they disappear.
“Excuse me?” I say.
“I take lessons once a week. Wanna learn how to belly dance on the Brooklyn Bridge?”
We stand up, and she gives me a two-second tutorial: Keep legs shoulder-width apart, bend forward, then back—quickly—with just the tips of your shoulders, not your entire back. Her movements are fluid. She looks like a mermaid. It looks easy, but when I give it a go, I look the way I’d probably have looked if the lightning had got me: spastic, dangerous, tragic.
The sky lightens. Joggers appear, some ignoring us, others smiling. Amye tells me she has a Greek-mythology final in the morning, and needs to get going. I walk with her for a bit, thanking her for the company and finally saying good-bye. The rain has stopped. I see a bench. Looks like a fine place to lie down and close my eyes.