Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Enterprise - 21

On the street I discreetly observed the vagrants and the crazies, those who operated out of bounds. I was fascinated by their brusque, discombobulated intrusions upon the cozy realm in which the rest of us were coddled. It was difficult not to perceive within their batty declamations the stark ring of truth.

As I left the gym one day I realized I needed a quart of milk. On a corner a block away I spotted the reassuring neon glow of a deli. But as I approached I detected a hulking shadow by the doorway.


People walked by him in a slight arc, as though magnetically repelled. Without a glance.

I asked myself a craven little question: Do I really need milk? I turned around at the edge of the sidewalk, back across the street.

"DON'T GO MY BROTHER!" the man pleaded after me. "I'M YOUR LONG LOST LITTLE BROTHER!"

Still other strange things happened on the street and underground. I was at Union Square, waiting for the uptown 6, late on a scotch-soaked night. A man walked down onto the platform, a stocky white guy in his thirties. He wore workboots, a hooded sweatshirt under his denim jacket. His jeans were faded and frayed from honest work outdoors. He was in a state of extreme agitation.

"Fucking COCKSUCKERS!" he raged. "Fucking douchebag son-of-a-bitch COCKSUCKERS!"

He slammed the standing subway map with his elbow. It rang like a dull gong.

"Internet rich-kid MOTHERFUCKERS!" He glared around, red-cheeked and a little out of breath. "You fucking hipster motherfucking CUNTS!"

I turned my head and gazed tensely at the trash between the tracks. I hoped he would not kill me. But I thought he might. Why not? In time he wandered out of sight, his curses reverberating down the tiled walls.

On my way to work one morning, my reverie was interrupted by a deranged woman at 110th and Malcolm X.

"They lie! They lie! They lie!" she howled. "They lie in circles on the street!"

One day I was on a train. A fairly crowded train. It was reaching peak velocity between stops, the point at which it sways uneasily on the tracks. A somnolent man was leaning on a window when it suddenly popped out and disappeared into the blackness. The roar of wheels and wind filled the car as he flailed, his head and torso dangling in the dark. He caught his balance and – petrified, ashen – backed away from the awful, noisy hole. He gazed around at us with a curious smile. Almost apologetical. A few smiled back, nodding gently. No one said a word. He stepped gingerly through the throng, like a man returned from outer space. Then he took a spot at a handrail and waited for his stop like everybody else.

Me, I got home and filled my shaker up with salt. I watched as the crystals formed their conical pile at the bottom and the powder escaped vaporously at the top.