The Chronicles of a Fashion Woman: The Fourth of July
It's 9 o'clock on Wednesday, July 4th 2018 in Brooklyn. New York is just getting started.
"Just go, it doesn't matter, just go, it doesn't matter, just go, it doesn't matter." A cop who looks to be in his fifties is leaning almost casually against one of the subway entrance turnstiles. The emergency exit door is propped open and he continues to point in its direction as he repeats his mantra, "Just go, it doesn't matter, just go, it doesn't matter, just go, it doesn't matter" and New Yorkers race through the opening with a thrill.
Trains are packed with bodies and humidity, racing through the tunnels towards the East River (where Macy's sets off their legendary fireworks every year). Strangers press up against each other without realizing, excitement dancing back and forth amongst everyone's eyes.
"Stay behind the yellow line," another cop shouts as he paces back and forth across the platform. He's young, not a day over 30, and his cheeks are tinted with anticipation. His body is shaped like a barrel and his cap is a little too small for his head. He clears his throat. "Behind the yellow, please!"
Just as a car is being set on fire in Bushwick, children are playing in the gushing fountains of busted fire hydrants all over the streets of Bed-Stuy. Williamsburg couples creep out of their apartments to enjoy a quiet dinner at the only restaurant open for blocks, hoping to be in bed before the chaos further ensues.
And it does. Cops patrol the streets helplessly, making feeble attempts to enforce the law but knowing full well that it's America's birthday and no one really cares right now. Teenagers stumble through the streets in packs, passing joints and drinking out of brown bags. A group of men dressed impeccably in evening gowns huddle together, trying to figure out their next move. An old couple watches the streets from their fourth-floor apartment window, holding each other and smiling.
The show begins, and suddenly the streets go from chaotic to apocalyptic. Chemicals soar straight into the sky, pausing for a moment and then exploding into color, like a luminescent gun shot. Helicopters circle around the fireworks, which are going off two, three, four at a time and I can't help but wonder what would happen if one of the helicopters got too close.
The air smells like marijuana and gunpowder and quite a few people are power walking towards the river, where they will have a better chance at seeing the show. Drivers take a break from honking and cursing each other out to stick their heads out their windows and look up. However, most people aren't moving at all.
Where I'm from, Fourth of July is for the kids. It's for sparklers and bathing suits and hot dogs and playing games outside. In New York, there are hardly enough kids to go around. Fourth of July looks less like a huge, outdoor daycare and more like a bunch of adults who aren't moving at all, transfixed by the show taking place up above.
A woman dressed in scrubs with her blonde hair cropped close to her ears leans against a fence, watching the fireworks through the chainlink. Her right foot is nestled in between one of the fence's gaps, her weight resting forward. It's hard to tell whether she is deep in thought or thinking of nothing at all. Her eyes do not leave the sky.
Families sit perched on the front steps to apartment buildings, faces pointed straight up. Even the cops patrolling the streets are taking a moment to just...look. It's interesting, the fact that we see fireworks at least once a year every year and still can't get enough of them. A young man with a scruffy hipster beard and (prescription?) glasses to match is leaning against a Toyota, his hands shoved into his pockets. He seems like the type to be impressed by very little, or at least the type to go to great lengths to make it appear that way, but even he mutters "Wow" as green, purple, orange blurs of illuminations light up the sky.
It's like the entire city is holding its breath. All the sounds of war are taking over and it's beginning to feel like anything goes, but no human is making a noise. No human has his/her attention anywhere but up. An entire city of sharks who go through their days without a second thought for anyone else. Financial analysts with better skin products than their girlfriends, construction workers who harass women in their free time, fashion editors with razor sharp edges and a knife consistently sharp enough to stab you in the back. Everyone stops who they are for a second and stares up at the sky like children - with wonder, with hope.
The fireworks stop - at least the Macy's show does. The rest of the neighborhood is still having its own mini event. I make my way through the throng back to the train station, wading past couples and friends and loners alike. I turn the corner, only a few blocks away from the Nassau G station, when I come across a large party taking place in the middle of the street.
I lean against the wall to pack a quick bowl - honestly, the cops couldn't care less right now. They're letting us be honest. Groups of people, people with short hair and long hair and piercings and tattoos and wigs and leotards and ballgowns and thongs are flooded all over the street. A DJ is at a booth too far for me to actually see, playing music too hip for me to recognize. Everyone is swaying; everyone is on a cloud. No one gives me a second glance. I feel indestructible. This city feels indestructible.
I make my way to the center of the crowd, swaying my body to the music and staring at everyone around me. I can't get enough of the looks, the conversations, the dance moves, the energy. A giant disco ball hangs from a tree fifty feet away. I'm not on earth anymore.
The DJ is indecisive - he switches the song before the current one is over, but no one is bothered. We jump and twirl and grind and sashay our way into the night, America stuck on our skin like humidity. I can't remember feeling so indestructible.