The man gives me two cigarettes and leaves, muttering to himself. I have cigarettes but no matchesthey took them when they arrested me. On the other hand, I have $12. The cops didn’t take my money away. Good cops. Before I was released from my cell, Officer Perez gave me a slice of pizza and some coffee. All my cellmates envied me.

I shared my pizza with Pedro, who the hell knows why was put behind bars and is waiting for his trial now. It is hard to understand Pedro. In five years of life in New York, this arrogant Salvadoran drunkard hadn’t learned even two words of English. By the way, Spanish is enough to beg within Spanish Harlem. Amigo.

That was my third time in jail. Cop Perez knows me pretty well, I am his regular client. And not just me: he knows Pedro, Africa, and all the other members of the gang of bums and alcoholics who frequent the 125th Street neighborhood, on the border between Black and Spanish Harlem.

I can imagine Perez’ reaction, when he learns that a judge let me go again. It means that all his work was for nothing.

What did they arrest me for? This time, for an open bottle of beer. Now, when I spot Perez, I have to be doubly careful. I’m sure he’ll want to arrest me again. Many bums have nightmares of mice, rats, and snakes. But my nightmare is Cop Perez.

Where am I now? The corner of 36th Street and First Avenue. Well, let’s go! Left to Lexington Avenue, then right and up. The tremor has already started: my hands shake from the hangover. Prepared for it, I bought a large bottle of Colt 45 along the way.

You have to follow along the sidewalk carefully. I walked one block and filled my entire pocket with discarded cigarette butts. Oh! There is a whole, even not yet lighted, Virginia Slim in front of me on the sidewalk. Rich people live in this section of Manhattan, and they throw away their just-lit cigarettes. Just try to find such beautiful butts in Brooklyn or the Bronx. Never! You can find excellent food in the trash cans around the cafes and restaurants here: you can even find a wrapped sandwich with roast ham and pickle or a tuna burger with tomatoes. I’m hungry; the slice of pizza, which they had given me when I left the jail, had been digested long ago, and I hadn’t had anything to eat since then.