Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hope for a Nickel? Hope for a Nickel? (3/10/07)

A quick one while I'm away, as it's been a while.

This is getting difficult. Yesterday was the closest to human death I came on the train. Or anywhere, really. I mean, I've hit a (an?) opossum and even a mother duck as she crossed the road new Haven Cemetery in Hagerstown (there were actually baby ducks that were trailing her, and then watched as I broke the duck's neck. It was in pain, I didn't want it in pain, you know the story). But non-human animal death is different because it has a different face.

It's a simple story. I was riding the train. I was, as usual when I'm on the 4 train riding out of my neighborhood in Brooklyn until I get nearly to the Wall St. stop, the only white boy on it. Mostly west indians--Jamaicans, Dominicans, a smattering of Haitians--mostly middle-aged women, mom looking, holding their handbags to their chest, grabbing groceries before school lets out, kind of thing. It's friday, nearly 3 or so in the afternoon.

Then I hear this, "Yo! Yo!" The train doors had been open for a while at this stop, longer than normal, and suddenly there's this big MTA employeed with earphones to my right shouting throught the doors, "Yo! You can't lay down. You can sit, but you can't lay down."

Then this, uh, thing, this dirty faded yellow mound, lurched up and steadied itself in a seat at the end of the car. The ladies looked away, or shook their head at nobody in particular, not like "oh that a shame," but like "they shouldn't let these things on the train," or "on Earth," which is pretty much the subtext if you take it out to its natural progression. Nobody likes dirty stinking poverty strewn death, especially at tea-time, do they?

How to describe...I really can't find words. You know those six flags commercials with the dancing guy, he dances to techno music, in a fakey old mask? Like the happy old man mask with big ears that's supposed to be somehow inviting, especially since, look kiddies, grandpa's in a suit and spry! He can ride the roller coasters with you! I dunno, maybe those were only aired on the west coast. In any event, that's what this guy's head looked like, only it swiveled much, much more slowly--he had a face like a mask, with two holes where the eyes should be. Literally looking at him in the eyes meant looking in. Now, the only thing i can think of that would do that is death in my imagination. And this guy, in his once yellow gorton's fisherman looking vinyl trenchcoat that was filthy with the sweat of manholes, in his cheap bobo black sneakers with no socks and sweatpants, was inexplicably and irrefutably going to die. We're all going to die, yeah yeah, but this guy, I mean--soon. He was going to die soon. He could barely stand. He wasn't even begging or nothing. He was trying to breathe and move and stay in the land of the living. Shake your head, shake shake shake.

Then I get out of the train and walk by a guy smoking a cigarette and hawking what look like necklaces. He's got em held up on what looks like a coat hanger contraption and the smokes winding through them because this is union square and all the cabs and the people in a hurry make it windy and fast, and as I get closer I hear him say, "Rosaries, rosaries! Rosaries here! Hope for a nickel! Hope for a dime! ROH-saries here!"

I wouldn't have come home but then I saw the first green nubs of daffodils in the mulch at union square. Frickin spring. Bout damn time.

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