Goodnight New York Winner


by Joe Lombardi

My dog is an insomniac. She usually starts howling around midnight. Most nights, I’m already up, waiting for my wake-up call.

On the Lower East Side, the drunken revelry is just beginning. In Harlem, an MTA worker’s shift is ending. In the dead of winter, on the stickiest summer night—Molly and I walk.

We take our lap around the park. We move gingerly around the few bodies we pass in the night, pausing here and there for Molly to do what she woke me up to do.

A cab pulls up beside us. My shoulders tense. Molly swings her body toward the street then retreats. She bobs her head low. Now we are truly awake.

The cabbie gives us a big smile. Molly smiles back. I ask if I can help him. He tells me he just had his first fare in Manhattan and he needed to tell someone. He just arrived from Bangladesh, he says, and New York is more beautiful than he imagined. I tell him I remember that feeling. I wish him goodnight. He gives me a wave and honks his horn. His tail lights become distant twinkles then disappear.

Molly and I amble back to our shoebox apartment. We’re tired—satisfyingly, temporarily, tired. We retreat to our beds and finally rest. As I drift, I think of the cabbie. I picture him looking up at a sky without stars. Daylight starts to break. Somewhere, he’s waiting at a traffic light, ready to say good morning to the city that never sleeps.