I sat on the bench, a bus hub waiting for the B25 bus. I had music playing in my ears, not thinking about anything when an older gentleman with a cane sat next to me. I sighed as he sat saying, "It's much cooler over here." I turned to him and smiled. He smiled back. Then he began talking about his recent trip to Virginia and how much he enjoyed the outdoors. I agreed with him adding, "I wish I was in nature now. Being here can become boring after awhile, especially when you were born here. I'm tired of this place" and waved my hand. He smiled and shrugged his shoulders saying, "Well..." At that moment I don't know what possessed me to say that but it was too late to take it back. As he continued to speak, a middle-aged woman approached us. She looked at me and said, "Excuse me" and began talking to the gentleman. I think they were neighbors since I heard them say something about sitting in front of their building and a neighbor they both knew. As the bus approached, he told the woman, "I was just sitting here talking to this young lady...what's your name?" I said my name and we shook hands. The lady reached out her hand and said, "Dara, nice to meet you." I said, "Likewise." She never said her name. We said our goodbyes as I got on the bus. Riding downtown, I reflected on the conversation admiring the man's age and his love for nature. I hope when I reach his age I'm somewhere that's natural and I'm happy. While on the bus, I observed Fulton Street, the closed businesses and some people moving about. I remembered the stories my mom and dad told me of how Fulton Street was "back in the day." I can only imagine how it was during the late 60s and 70s. I have a sense of pride visiting Fulton Street since I share the street's name, and my parents grew up there.
I remember how I spent a lot of time during my junior high school days walking up and down Fulton Street, between Bedford and New York Avenues, stopping to look at what the vendors were selling. My friends and I would go into the stores and purchase the Indian made skirts (which I still buy to this day), and go next door to the West Indian shop and buy oils or incense. Sometimes we would go to the Chinese restaurant and have lunch. This was known to be the best takeout; I remember how good their sesame seed chicken and pork fried rice was! That restaurant still exists. Then there's Restoration Plaza and the ice skating rink where we dreamed of going ice skating. We never did. The rink was usually closed. As the bus approached downtown, I was in awe of how much this area changed over the years. I still remember the days of Albee Square Mall, shopping at Rainbow clothing store (still do but at a different location), eating at Wendy's, and visiting the religious store to buy crystals. They had nice pieces of amethyst and clear quartz. There's a new residential complex in its place with various new stores to be opened later this year. I still miss the store Woolworth. I would always buy nail polish for my late grandmother. She loved shopping there too.
Sometimes I feel life has passed by so fast. Fulton Street isn't the same as before. Many businesses are gone, few to no vendors are selling anything (I really miss buying shell earrings), and it's too quiet. Fulton Street (before reaching downtown) used to be noisy with people bustling around shopping, eating, talking, etc. Fewer people are outside now. Fulton Street used to pride itself on Black culture too. It's not much of that anymore. I miss the vendors selling African art, pictures of sayings about Black pride, and people passing out free newspapers about local meetings and cultural events. I miss that most. This was the one place where I felt proud to be who I am; I felt connected to my own. I don't like seeing the now abandoned houses, empty lots, people sitting outside looking sad, silence. As my dad once told me, "Fulton Street hasn't been the same for a long time. It may never be the same again." Although I'm saddened by this possible fact, I still like it. After all I share its name.