Thursday, December 23, 2004

I got on the 5th Avenue bus and he was already talking, across from me in the front seats facing in. He had a white beard, a kindly face. Decent pants and shoes but a bum's telltale posture, hunched and jerky. He was telling a young black woman, androgynous in a North Face coat and knit wool hat, about black music.

"See, black people make the best music," he asserted solemnly, nodding and watching for her reaction, drawing assent from her. She nodded almost imperceptibly. "They always did make the best music." He lifted his chin and gazed off in a professorial pose. "The Cadillacs," he said. "The Eldorados," he added confidently.

The girl nodded, bored, patronizing. She got up at the next stop. He said, "Oh you're getting off?" and wished her well and told her, "You're very beautiful," just to hook her into more talk. And she said, "You're beautiful too," just to shut him up.

Then he shuffled around the bus, looking for someone else.

"Mind if I sit here?" he asked a middle aged black man.

"You can sit anywhere you want. I'm, but I'm. I'm not in a very talkative mood right now."

The old man moved on, settling in the middle of the bus, where he eventually drove two white women away with who knows what he said. I wondered what he'd do next and by what unfathomable logic.

After a few quiet minutes he sprang up at a stop in the 60s. "Got to get off... this train..." he mumbled as he opened the door and stepped down uneasy. He stood on the sidewalk a moment as though he were trying to remember why he left the bus. And then he walked up to the wall and pissed.