Volume 21, Number 2

The Late Watch at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I wind down Egyptian at my route’s end: past Old, Middle, and Last Kingdoms; past glass-
housed Temple of Dendur; past a huge royal sarcophagus to those of a favored concubine,
vigilant accountants, boastful architects, and the guessed-at. At the smoky granite falcon
perched high on a pedestal, overlooking the gallery filled with excavated wooden model
ships, servants and livestock that would feed any entombed king forever, I slip in to look
down on Fifth Avenue, through its single small corner window. There is always a known
here in this stop late at night, to see the dark-lit deserted street below and hear nothing,
from the vacuum of this room. Down at the long channeled fountain, its row of geysers
resting for the daily parade, a man, a thin old black man slowly wades in; slacks, glowing
bone white, stick to slim bowlegs; an old woman watches from the edge. I first saw them
work on an icy March night; so glad it is soft late April. He bends low, scoops up change
in a limp white cardboard plate and pours it in his soaked right hip pocket. How ghostly
might I seem to him if he looks up and sees me, framed in this stone portal? If not afraid,
would he be surprised? Embarrassed? Or, might I be, the more I take in this long night,
completely irrelevant.

—Andrés Castro