Spanish Harlem

by Meghan Minihan, http://neovox.cortland.edu, October 1, 2010

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The beginning notes of Ben E. King's "Spanish Harlem," plays light and sweet on the radio while my dad leans back in his seat. He holds the steering wheel loosely with his left hand.


The world is a giant swirl. Night is falling fast but for now everything is encased in a pleasant blue, ethereal and free.


My sister, Amanda is sitting up front next to dad. I am in the back. I have my right foot on where the door and the car's body meet. It's a tiny space and I have to push my foot against the door to get it to stay. It never stays long, but I like the feeling of squishing part of me into a corner.


I push my left shoulder into the door and lay my head against the window and I feel the cold as it rushes from the window to my warm cheek and forehead. A quick and secret smile tugs at my lips. I feel as if a snake is twisting and squirming in my gut and slithering into my chest. It wraps around my organs and squeezes causing me to feel little, quick jolts that cause all of my cells to thrum.


Cars rush past our own as if flying. I watch abbreviated versions of people's lives whiz past. I am not interested in the people driving, their looks, wishes, hopes or lives.


Cars, people, the shrieking of brakes and horns and bright lights work together to create a woven tapestry of the city, a beautiful and chaotic city.

As the city at twilight cradles me, I let the voice of Ben E. King rock me and whisper the secrets of this island.


"A red rose up in Spanish Harlem. It is the special one. It's never seen the sun. It only comes up when the moon is on the run. And all the stars are gleaming."

I listen and conjure up images of the rose. She has long, thick, black curls tumbling down her back. She walks slowly down the sidewalk which gleams and sparkles underneath the pale light of the moon. Her white summer dress has small, delicate roses strewn all over it and it billows lighting around her knees as she walks.

Her lips are painted a dusty red.

As I sit in the car tense and dreaming. I want to be the rose. I want to be soft and gentle and dancing beneath the moon.

I want the city, I want to savor it, taste it and dance with it. I want to feel its pulse and become one with its rhythms.

The grooves in the pavement cause the car to jump and make tatunk tatunk sound.


Far away from the sights, colors, noise and flavors of the city, there is a patch of road that leads into the small and quiet town of Greene in upstate New York. The road has pavement with grooves in it and when I hit it, I push down hard on my accelerator. I feel the car jump as I hit the grooves and it makes the tatunk tatunk sound and I can almost hear the deep and smooth voice of Ben E. King calling me home.

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