It’s late afternoon Thursday. We’re walking up 47th street dodging the lingering jewelers, puffing on their Marlboros, blowing smoke rings, their arms out with pamphlets: “We buy Gold Sir, top price.” If I had gold, I wouldn’t be traipsing up 47th street rushing to catch a commuter train. Step back.
My colleague is in front. I’m trailing. He’s a New Yorker to the core, from birth, wily and confident. And you, you Friend, are country, and you can’t take Country out of the Boy.
I catch him and finish sharing a moment:
“I just can’t let it go. I’ve been carrying this with me for two days.”
He pauses: “Are you nuts? Don’t give it another thought. This is New York. Anything could have happened.”
He veers right.
“You’re right. See you tomorrow.” I push on to Grand Central.
Anything could have happened.
It was Tuesday morning, early.
I exit Grand Central. It was brisk, and dark. I wait for the light to turn, and I cross Madison. There’s plenty of time before my morning meeting, no need to push it. Music is streaming in. I’m lip synching James Taylor’s Country Road : “But I could feel it Lord, on a Country Road, Walk on Down…But you know I could feel it child, yeah – Walking on a country road, I guess I know where my feet want me to go.”
I hit repeat, and James sweeps me away again. Lightly Child, Lightly. And on this morning, I’m right there in that sweet groove with Ahab, “he never thinks, he just feels, feels, feels.” And on this morning, here I am, a tall sunflower leaning into the Sun. Sweet Jesus, why can’t I find this place more often.
I pass into a dim section of the street.
He appears directly in front of me from Nowhere.
Unshaven. 5’9″. Tattered corduroys, dark windbreaker. And in my space. I step back, and lift my hand up signaling back, my torso trembling. I re-grip my case. I pull the ear buds out. And Brace.
He points to his ears and emits a muffled: “I’m deaf. I need help.”
He comes at me again, into my space. He then raises an ID card inches from my face. NYC scam. Or worse. I look around for his accomplice. I can cover this guy but a 2 on 1, hmmmmm.
I step back again. He hands me a crumpled note card, words scratched in pencil. It’s illegible. I can’t understand a word of what it says. And, I can’t understand a word he is saying. Marlee Matlin thrashing In Children of a Lesser God.
He closes in on me again. I step back. He’s looking directly at me. Desperate, Crazy or Dangerous? I glance around me, Silence. No other pedestrians. No street traffic. Time has stopped.
I raise my hand to slide it into my jacket for the bill fold, he’s watching. I stop and retract. And if he pulls a gun, a knife, or his buddy pops out of the shadows?
He closes in again.
I hand him his note card, his hands wrinkled and caloused.
And then hand him his ID, which slips out of his hand and tumbles to the ground.
He bends down to grab it, and as he reaches down, I bolt across the street into the lights, leaving him standing.
I turn my head to see him standing in spot, stoic. He stares at me. Me at him. I look away and walk.
McDonalds ahead, Egg McMuffins fill my lungs.
Darkness rolls in. The Sunflower tucks in and down.
Not hungry anymore.
[A]fter all, what are ghosts? Memories that write themselves inedibly into flesh, perhaps, like pain from an amputate limb.
~ Philip Holden, Heaven Has Eyes