Jane was walking on Eastern Parkway calculating her debt to the Brooklyn Public Library when she saw a toilet on the sidewalk. It was a fairly ordinary toilet, white with pink flowers strewn around the seat. It must be a specialized recycling day, Jane thought. She knew such days existed, for ink cartridges and air conditioners, for example. Still, it was odd to see that toilet, which had likely been discreetly hidden away for years, now on display. Jane continued walking. She wondered why she had checked out all those books in the first place. As she’d watched the librarian scan the barcodes, she hadn’t been able to picture herself actually sitting and reading them. She had hoped somehow that she would be temporarily replaced by a different version of herself, more practical and studious, someone who would read the books and return them on time. Now she owed the library fifteen cents times the number of books times the number of days plus the cost of the copy of War and Peace that she’d forgotten at the Laundromat where she had, in fact, not read a page.
Jane saw a second toilet. No, two more toilets. They were sitting side by side like old men watching the city pass by. One was taller and a little grayer than the other. If toilet recycling days did exist surely there must not be very many of them, thought Jane, and so it made sense that anyone with a toilet to recycle would take advantage of a collection day whenever one arose. But how many people really had toilets to recycle? Jane was twenty-nine and had never needed to dispose of a toilet.
The next building Jane passed did not have any toilets. There was, however, an accent table, painted the blue of photographed Caribbean coves. On the table was a coffee mug with lipstick on the rim and a magazine folded open. The coffee cup still had coffee in it. The magazine article was an explanation of how to turn plastic shopping bags into more fashionable plastic shopping bags by cutting and crocheting. Jane looked around to see if there was someone nearby wearing pink lipstick and slicing up shopping bags. There wasn’t. She slid the magazine into her purse. She had never been the type for arts and crafts, but it seemed possible that she might decide to learn.
She wasn’t looking where she was going, which she knew one should always do in New York. She was instead pushing down the corners of the magazine, trying to zip her purse. Because of this momentary distraction, she banged her calf on the side of a bed. The bed was positioned across the sidewalk, the head up against the fence of a brownstone and the foot resting on the curb. A fleshy colored duvet covered the bed, and rolled up in the duvet was a man. He opened his eyes and looked around before noticing Jane and glaring irritably at her.
“Can’t you let a person have a bit of peace and quiet?”
“I’m sorry,” Jane said. “I didn’t mean to wake you.” She did feel bad, though it seemed to her that the truck which was just then clattering by made a great deal more noise than she had, and she hardly felt it was fair for the man to place all of the blame on her. Jane waited until there was a break in the traffic, and then she stepped into the street and walked quickly around the bed. She thought it was odd that he had a bed outside, but she supposed it must have gotten too hot in his apartment. Or too cold. You never could tell with these old buildings.