Four Balconies

 

1

Chinatown, New York

November 19, 2019

               P breaks the lock mechanism of his bedroom window and neatly puts a rod between the bottom rail and the sill to keep the window from slamming shut. “Our neighbours recommended that we get a rod from Blick. It’s easier to just keep the window open, instead of having to break the lock every time,” he says.

               P and Y, me and J squeeze through the narrow window opening (formerly) sealed by the building administration for safety reasons. We step out into the cool night air. The four of us—two couples, four friends—stand in the thick nighttime shadows cast by the balcony one floor above P’s. A sad beat-up microwave sleeps in the balcony corner—a yellowish-white plastic contrast with the matte black floor covering.

               “What’s a microwave doing out here on a balcony?” I ask.

               “Oh, the neighbours are frequently partying and cooking something out here,” P replies. “They’re a bit noisy, but it's bearable.”

               Chinatown street lamps, puddles flooded with neon lights glisten twenty-six floors below our young feet. The balcony rail is a feeble thin metal rod rising only about twelve inches from the floor, and we are one with the surrounding skyline as P points at his favourite buildings. He talks about their distinct shapes and architecture, tells us how he loves to watch the sunlight gently touch the roofs in the evening, transforming their colour in the golden hour. He shows us the direction of One World Trade Center, happy that he can see the faraway building from here. He points out which rooftop garden he likes to observe in the mornings together with Y, which glass tower reminds him of a building in his hometown.

               We speak of how happy we are to be here, to live in this city, to breathe in the cool air, to see each other, to observe the nighttime lights of New York.

 

2

Chinatown, New York

May 19, 2020

I close the web browser, think of how I should stop reading the news, think of the city where my mind is, though the body's in a different state.

How many empty balconies? How many?

 

3

Navigli district, Milan

July 28, 2019

In the ashtray, five cigarette butts are withering away in the evening heat. I wonder how many of those are my father's and how many are his colleague's with whom he shares this apartment. I hear the sound of a pan clanking against the kitchen sink aluminium in the background. Dad's cooking. Bare feet propped against the cold metal of the balcony rail, I watch the sunlight flood over the sand-coloured roofs in Navigli and know that I am not alone.

 

4

Navigli district, Milan

May 19, 2020

I close the web browser, think of how I should stop reading the news, think of the city where my mind is, though the body's in a different state.

How many empty balconies?

How many?

© Adele Bea Cipste

Bio:  Adele Bea Cipste is a writer, visual artist, and a literature-loving nomad from Riga, Latvia. In 2019, Adele studied literature and creative writing at New York University in New York. Currently, she is a third-year student of Film Practice and Art Practice at New York University in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The university is known for its diverse community of students from 115 countries and commitment to global education. Drawing on personal engagement with many different cultures and her nomadic lifestyle, Adele's aim is to give voice to modern-day migrants' human experiences of temporariness, joy and longing. Adele’s visual artworks, which are often based on major works in literature, as well as on her own writing, can be found here: adelebeacipste.com