Who Are You With?

Early Melodies

Lydda hears the familiar diesel throb of the Emergency Sanitation Corps truck as it stops outside Lemkin Gardens. From the street comes the squeal of brakes, the sharp hiss of compressed air, the chattering of the men in their breathing masks and papery white suits as they collect the refuse bags from the sidewalk. The truck then jerks to a start, continuing toward Citi Field. The avenue is quiet again. There is no traffic like before: no buses, no cars, no motorcycles. Lydda’s father and Francis and the other Sanitation Corps workers who live at Lemkin Gardens have already left for Manhattan on the morning 7 train. Birds roosting on the elevated tracks chirp their early melodies.

Five months ago, when they were new to America, this would’ve been the time for Lydda’s father to wake the girls, prepare them for school. Now Lydda rolls off the mattress, careful not to disturb Dalia, turns on the electric kettle, and begins to sweep. PS 143, like all the schools, like all the stores and delis and houses and most buildings in New York, is closed until the sewers get fixed, which the mayor says could be as early as next month. Then the water will be turned back on. The people will return.

Lydda’s father says the mayor doesn’t work underground, replacing burst pipes. The mayor has no idea. Manhattan alone will take a month, never mind Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens. Fourteen treatment plants, seven-thousand-plus miles of pipeline, all backed up, overloaded, in need of repair. Yigal Goldstein planned his attack thoughtfully. The damage is immense.

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