You'd expect the areas within NYC's feasible-commute radius to be fairly well developed. And for the most part it's true. Suburbia has clobbered nature into landscaping. Yes, there are wild pockets. Sure, the boldness of the squirrels grows ever more alarming. Birds do roost in the crannies of buildings near PPP's office. But we tend to regard these parts as thoroughly bowdlerized for human habitation.
Last weekend I had cause to reconsider.
I had finished the morning's chores and was lying on my couch, engrossed in a novel. (The fabulous People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, if you're interested.) Because the day was on the sweltering side, I'd opened the glass door facing my apartment complex's courtyard, but left the outer screen door closed to ensure I didn't let any insects in with the breeze. I started to turn a page, and froze. A scrabbling noise emanated from somewhere distressingly close to my head.
"Perhaps a bird has chosen to alight on my patio," I thought. "Perhaps an intrepid squirrel!" Slowly, I lifted my eyes.
The raccoon gazed back at me. It had climbed the screen door, and now hung level with my face, its little claws hooked through gaps in the mesh. For some reason I fixated on this.
"Parts of your feet are in my living room," I informed it. It didn't reply, possibly too busy checking out the almonds and ginger ale on the table beside me, and determining how it might acquire them. If I got inside I could take her down, I imagined it thinking. She's got size and probably strength on her side, but I bet she's slow, and I sense fear. That will be her undoing.
I sat up, and my masked visitor startled. Noted: no sudden movements. I sank back, grabbing my phone in case I needed to call Animal Control/the local sherriff/Batman. The raccoon began to retreat toward the bottom of the screen door, and—like a true member of the internet generation faced with a crisis—I recalled my phone's other function, photography:
The raccoon completed its descent, lingered on my steps for a moment, and scarpered. I bade it farewell as best I could, being unfamiliar with standard procyon lotor parting etiquette. Then, displaying consummate courage, I slammed and locked the sliding door. And drew the curtains for good measure.