Wednesday, June 29, 2011

XIV: On Foot At World's End: After It Ends, Begin

The smell, post rain, is good. And the flow of people, now that it's dark, seems more agreeable. There's nothing to hate now. Tolerance, maybe even a glimpse of some kind of rhythm or logic to it -like the chaotic method of an anthill. It's getting closer to midnight, and on the ground everything looks normal. High above, some of the building tops are lit. Smoke or cloud or fog moves ghostly through the light. That's all I can find to inject the scene with anything supernatural. I move toward Times Square and there must be thousands of people on the streets here which are lit up brighter than the brightest of day dreams. I don't share in the celebration. I'm alone. Until a man wearing a hockey helmet comes roller skating toward me singing at the top of his lungs with a hockey stick in his hands. The lyric is lost on me, but not the gesture. Two minutes to midnight, and in our madness, we skate and we sing.

You shouldn't judge us. Sure, we're flawed, bent, broken and horrible. But sometimes we are beautiful, noble, upright - innocent. We are beleaguered, besieged and bereft. Go easy here, it's no picnic for us.

Midnight occurs, and I see no one whisked up into the clouds. Not a beat is missed. We're either all unworthy or all saved, I guess. And that's my conclusion for today as I sit down for a steak and a Heineken at Tad's Grilled Steaks. Business as usual. A couple on a date sit together - it looks like television or theater, must be a first date. A latino family celebrates an occasion that I can't interpret -eating together- comfortable, familiar. Two men come in, sit for a second, make an exchange - it's a criminal enterprise for sure. And so it goes on. The steak is not good, but not bad either, and I leave full of it.

I walk slowly back toward the midtown apartment of my brother and his wife wondering if they're still up, half regretting not spending the day with them instead of this walking and brooding. There is something that draws me to this though- alone, quiet streets, darkness. But now I'm thinking of souvenirs for the kids and a morning train to Hoboken to fulfill my daughter's wish. I can think of nothing cleaner, nothing brighter, and that is the light that I walk toward now.

There is a breeze, a clean scent in the air from the rain. I stop on a corner, wait for a cab to pass, and see a young man in his mid-twenties walking briskly toward me. Our eyes lock, there is no one else around. He is wearing shorts, his head is shaved, and I cannot help but notice one of his legs is made of metal. We greet each other.

Nice night, he says, and there is something brighter than average about his presence. He is open. You don't see that much on these streets.

Army or Marines? I ask, assuming his leg was lost to war service.

Oh no, neither one - I wish I was a Marine. Only cancer.

He says this with such humility, it hurts me.

Only cancer!

We walk together for a couple of blocks, talking easily. Bone cancer. He lost the leg at the knee just three weeks ago, and he's in rehab now. He walks quickly, with confidence, like he was born on that leg. I am in awe.

This is where I get off, he stops suddenly and looks me in the eye, it was real nice talking to you.

Man...good luck, is all I can think to say.

It's very quiet after that, and after a moment, I pick up my pace.

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