I was a fool to think that I could understand myself by sitting in a room alone.
I didn’t smoke weed, and I didn’t drink, but under the fluorescent lights of Canal Street Station I feel like a thing that slithers. Somehow my fingernails got dirty. I was walking with the girl who I was formerly obsessed with, and I was telling her what I thought was a very interesting story. What I know was an interesting story, in fact, from her gasps every time we hit a pivotal point. And then, in the middle, we ran into some old friends of hers she hadn’t seen in a while. She’s from here and she’s popular, so this happens a lot. There were eight of them. Normally I would just smile and shake everyone’s hand and all that, but I just couldn’t give a fuck about these people and how they knew each other and anything like that, so I stood off to the side and waited for her to ask for her bag so she could go with them. I enjoyed the breeze and I checked my phone. Finally she called me over and her friends were like wtf why are you just standing over there! Meanwhile she had just asked minutes ago why I never do what I want. So that was the thing I wanted, to not talk to these people. I was really fine with her leaving with them, very convenient escape for me, but I did not want to meet them all for no reason. But I did anyway because what kind of asshole would I have to be to hand her her bag and say goodbye and nothing else. So I shook hands with every single one of them. There were people she didn’t even know and I shook hands with them, too. One guy said now repeat our names back to us. I said, I value you guys as people but I don’t have a memory like that. Everyone thought that was funny. You had to be there. So now I look awesome. From weirdo to awesome in sixty seconds. After five excruciating minutes where everyone tried to pretend that we could have an inclusive conversation, they ask what’s up next. I hand my friend her bag and say goodbye, shaking hands with enthusiasm and warmth and real kindness in my eyes. Eight people I will never see again, now they all have a piece of my soul. The train just won’t seem to arrive.
When you go in on your last day of work before your weekend, assuming you are fortunate enough to have any days off, do you feel the hours stacked on your face like hollow concrete blocks?
I feel like a wild animal. I need a cage and a place to throw up.
There’s an old man with a white beard who works at the Bowery subway station who is always happy to help. People wave to him. I remember the first time I waved at him and thought I was the only one. Then when everyone waved to him and he waved back I got jealous. I was a little hurt. Now I don’t mind. Now I think it’s nice. My friend had the same reaction. “Oh, I’m not special?” Shit it’s not like we ever brought him cookies or anything.
We thought about it though. I didn’t think about it for long. You don’t want to put someone in the position of having to trust a stranger’s cookies.
That’s kind of like another thing that happens at that station.
There’s a sign that faces a bench where people sit and the sign tells you which direction the train is coming from. The bell goes off and the arrow on the sign lets you know whether you should go downstairs. Sometimes the bell goes off and I can’t see the sign. I want to ask the people on the bench which way the train is coming, but I don’t trust them to not fuck with me. So when I’m sitting on the bench and people are looking at the back of the sign, wondering which way the arrow is pointing, I don’t tell them. I don’t tell them because then they’d be forced to either trust me or very obviously display their (warranted) distrust of strangers.
I got a wheezing in my chest and I can’t get my wireless headphones to sync up with Spotify so as I walk down the streets of Bed Stuy I find myself a shuffling broken down white man with a 2 year old iPhone playing Wiz Khalifa loud enough for the church going folk to assume that I only like songs that played on the radio six years ago. Just another Sunday morning. We do things to embarrass ourselves so that we can feel more connected with our undignified brethren, aka the rest of the human species. I’m about to let you know, a mother fucker is downright uncouth out here on these streets on an unseasonably warm day for the clocks to jump ahead (bastards).
I just walked by the projects. I got a white friend who lives in there but mostly it’s black people. I went down in the subway and came out in the part of south Williamsburg owned by Hasidic Jews. I just googled how to spell Hasidic and a picture of where I just walked was the first result. I jaywalked past a police car and I’m wearing a Trayvon Martin hoodie. Last night, a police car stopped at the crosswalk for me like they almost never do. Last year two weeks before Christmas a policeman walked me to my door in what was a taped off crime scene after a guy shot to death two police officers in a car down the block.
Where I live when you get on the subway there’s all kinds of people and they are all poor. Look at this guy over here asleep on the way back to work, about sixty years old wearing a hat that says I Love Jesus to distract God from the fact he can’t make it to church this morning.
Yeah but the old poor people and the new poor people ain’t the same. Gentrification, in case you don’t hear that word every five minutes like I do, is when comparatively well to do mother fuckers roll into a historically poor neighborhood and start raising rents in various ways both direct and indirect. Here in Bed Stuy it’s easy to see who just moved in. They’re poor in money but rich in inheritance having been the accidental benefactors of four hundred years of economic favoritism.
In America you either take way too much or you get nothing at all.
When I first moved here I told an old Latino on the train that I felt bad because I was part of a bunch of white people taking over the neighborhood and he said anybody who told me that doesn’t want to work for a living. Opinions are all over the map on this shit. I don’t know what the fuck is happening. What I do know is that my life correlates very strongly with an alarming number of social trends and that makes me feel…dumb as hell.
Oh well. Pattern recognition comes for us all.
My little brother and I just crip-walked through the Marcy Projects. He’s on crutches after totaling my parents’ 2002 Chevy Malibu in a no-headlight night race on a back road in my hometown. We got accosted by a guy telling us how he was laid up for a week with two broken ribs. He got a settlement of $9000 and his building had to install a new stairway. He used the money to put two comfort girls up in a hotel room for a week. He called the experience his “fantasy island.”
I was glad Little Brother got the chance to interact with an old lecherous drunk with a penchant for repetitive storytelling here in Brooklyn. One skill that everyone who aspires to end up not hating humanity when they die should learn is the art of exiting a conversation. Specifically the art of exiting a boring conversation between yourself and a closet megalomaniac who possesses the eye of the ancient mariner.
Little Brother did well in this regard once the old bastard told him for the third time that he didn’t care to know our opinions on his decision to cheat on his wife. Little Brother pretended to see some friends in the distance. An ancient, overused and crude tactic, but effective once in a while. I myself have an arsenal of escape plans ranging from the subtle (successive 3-inch backward step) to the extreme (faking sarcoidosis).
However, neither of us were a match for Brother-in-Law, who uses a time honored three pronged offense: guilt, intimidation, and insincere self-deprecation. Luckily my sister came through in the clutch and harangued her husband from afar with incessant texts concerning his whereabouts, complete with pictures of his sad-faced spawn.
Apparently, Wife and Sister had some troubles of their own while I was away at work last night. My good friend is a deep thinker and a slow talker and allegedly using these tools to hold them hostage over dinner. He asked a litany of questions that had to do with Wife’s recent foray into the world of food policy vis-a-vis grad school, forcing them to consider the ugly implications of the food they were planning on enjoying.
Nothing goes to plan in a world filled with boorish yahoos, and we’re all boorish yahoos. Especially you.