It’s 5:00 in New York City and Noah Adom sits at his desk, furiously working. He types out his weekly reports, pausing only briefly to sip from the plastic mouth of the aluminum water bottle on his desk. By the time 6:00 rolls around, Noah is bathed in sweat from his furrow to his collarbone, and his sleeves are rolled up several inches above his elbows. His knuckles are red. The cleaning lady asks him to leave at 6:47 because she wants to lock the office for the night. Noah agrees, begging her forgiveness, and helps her drag her bag of faded-label cleaning supplies and well-worn rags down to the curb. He waits with her until her bus arrives, and then mounts his bike and cautiously peddles to the tenement house where he lives. His apartment is a modest studio with a sofa that doubles as his bed. His refrigerator is stocked only with a gallon of water and a carton of strawberries. His cupboard houses boxes of off-brand cereals and water crackers. Noah doesn’t own a television. He owns a few stacks of Russian literature, hapless volumes saved from library rummage sales, and they sit, haphazardly placed, on a lone oak bookcase that came with the lease.
That night, the daughter of the Latina cleaning lady knocks on Noah’s door. Her name is Esperanza, and her mother’s name is Delora and she starts rambling as soon as Noah fills the doorframe. Esperanza says she lives with her mother in the Bronx in the postwar baby boomer projects. She says she works three jobs so her mother might soon be able to retire, because Delora’s back is so weak she can hardly lift her arms high enough to windex the bathroom mirrors. She says that she knew where Noah lived because they’re both friends with Jimmy Adelbaum, only Esperanza met him at the laundromat and Noah went to Hunter with him. She says Delora came home and said “Bless Noah Adom, he’s carried my bags to the curb for two weeks.” When the elevator broke last month Delora thought she was done for. Already, Esperanza gulps as she hurriedly tries to finish off her tale, Delora’s back is improving form not having to lug that sack up and down al those stairs.
Noah asks if she would like to come inside. Esperanza nods.
Noah pours fiber-rich cereal into a cracked plastic bowl and slides it across the table to Esperanza.
“No milk?” she asks.
Noah explains that he’s been vegan for six years now.
Esperanza gets to talking. Her accent is thick but melodious. As she speaks, she drums her plain nails against the maple surface of Noah’s modest kitchen table. She’s dimpled, and has a large freckle on the point of her chin. Her hair is long, but managed. She’s growing her bangs out, and they’re soaked with sweat. She’s a waitress at the bar three blocks north and that’s why she was in the neighborhood. She texted Jimmy Adelbaum and he gave her Noah’s address.
“Do you mind?”
Noah shakes his head vigorously and explains he hasn’t had visitors in a while. Esperanza hasn’t touched her cereal. The flickering bulb in the light fixture directly above her head makes the flakes of oats look even less appealing than they did before.
Esperanza explains that she’s saving up money so her mother can retire. Then she’ll start saving for school. She had been going to night school for a while but had to drop out to keep a sharper eye on her drug-peddling teenage brother Miguel.
“But, anyway, I better go.”
Esperanza makes Noah write down his number on the back of a bar napkin. She calls him the next day and comes over after her shift. Noah had spent his Saturday reading Tolstoy into a tape recorder to give to the blind Margot Adelbaum. Jimmy never liked to read much; Noah did. Jimmy didn’t really talk about his sister much; Noah met her at a party and helped her find the subway station afterwards. They dated briefly, but Margot was in love with another man and Noah had no desire to stand in their way. She had mentioned her love of Tolstoy once or twice. He still sent her tapes every week.
Esperanza says Tolstoy is shit.
“Give me Dostoyevsky or give me death,” she says, slamming her fist against the table for emphasis.
Noah asks Esperanza to marry him exactly 366 days later. It was a leap year.
In the following decade, New York City chokes on its excess. The busses and subways are more crowded than before. The sidewalks become impossible to navigate and the traffic becomes impossible to circumvent, even by bike. In their excess, the people become careless because they live under the assumption that everyone else has become careless as well. Refuse spills out from dumpsters, while the recycling depot shuts down due to lack of interest. People have stopped caring about contraceptives. Margot Adelbaum has six kids. Jimmy Adelbaum died in a car bombing on the lower east side.
Jimmy detonated the bomb.
Noah and Esperanza have three sons: Sam, Henry, and Jay. Jay is really Esperanza’s nephew. The adoption process was easy; Miguel had been dead a long time. They went out for Italian ices afterwards, and then splashed around in a busted sprinkler on Wall Street.
The same day, God decided that the human beings on earth had become wicked. They had become inured to wickedness to the point where it consumed them. The bar on fifth street was a whore house now. Delora had been clubbed to death while walking to her weekly bunko game. Margot Adelbaum got pregnant again; twins. God vowed to rid the earth of all things living, every creeping beast and bird. He regretted ever endowing the earth to the humans, and swore to rid himself of them. Noah, however, had won the Lord’s favor. God saw the world was corrupt, and full of violence, but saw hope in the tireless efforts of a simple man. Noah started to see visions of Armageddon in his dreams. Tears wet his pillow every night; Esperanza laced her fingers between her husband’s and prayed, but she wasn’t sure what she was praying for anymore.
This original piece of fiction was written for English 212 at The College of William and Mary, in Spring of 2011. I may add on to it later. It was inspired, of course, by the story of Noah from the book of Genesis in the bible.