I’ve looked through the obituaries every day for the last week, but I’m still no closer to finding an apartment. When Parker handed me my chalks and spare set of clothes he said he was sure I would find somewhere, but he had reckoned without Brooklyn’s rent controls. So far I have met one landlord who wanted a man; two who promised to call and never did; and one tenant who was surprised to learn she had been declared dead by the Daily News. I stayed on her doorstep until she offered me coffee and cake, and we talked about JFK and the moon landings.
Perhaps I should kill someone. In the meantime I am staying on Derby’s sofa, in a block that is a riot of labyrinthine firetrap corridors, flickering stairwells, and bad soundproofing. She doesn’t know the neighbours except from the shouted moments when the hum of conversation rises above a murmur, and as a result she has developed an intimate knowledge of their worst flaws.
I stay there but I don’t sleep there, because Derby watches me. I discovered this one night when I went to get a glass of water and found her, hiding out of sight. I haven’t said anything about it; instead I stay alert and slip away at 6am to the café on the corner of Clarendon Road and East 7th Street, where I can watch the commuters quickstepping towards the subway.
It’s strange to think that in just a few hours I will have created a world on the sidewalk beneath their feet. This evening my pockets will be sunken with coins and my art will be pounded to dust that disappears in the air, breathed in by young and old, rich and poor. That’s the beauty of street art, and unlike Parker’s body paint it doesn’t leave a rim of silver around the bathtub.
Francesco the waiter pours me out the gritty dregs from his cafetiére. I don’t think his name is really Francesco, any more than I think the coffee he brings me for free is really a true taste of Italy. But he did give me a lead on a place, even if it turned out to have disappeared by the time I got there.
Old apartments are unlikely to have effective security systems: I could slip in through the fire escape or an open window, then come to the front door in a summer dress I would buy for the occasion from a thrift store, and explain it was on the off-chance that there was an apartment here, and oh god that’s so terrible, but perhaps I could come and take a look if the forensics have finished?
Francesco pours me more coffee.
Parker’s number is no longer in my phone, but I have it memorised. I dial it and wait. It has been disconnected. I try again, and this time a voice answers: 911 emergency. Bastard. I put the phone down and drum my fingers on the plastic tabletop. My coffee is gone, a thin brown stain all that remains at the bottom of the cup.
I look at the others here and wonder how many of them are thinking about murder. It frightens me. I stand and look for Francesco to say goodbye, but he is missing.
There is no time to wait for him; I have an idea for my next piece. It will show a hole in the ground with a beautiful rainforest below, but only if you stand in just the right place.