Grown men playing children’s clapping games.
Archive for May, 2008
He was handsome and his clothes smelled like money, but something was wrong. His eyes were stunned wide open, he never blinked. He had a slight smile that hinted at severed neural pathways, inert violence. He wore a woolen hat on a warm night. He spoke to the backs of the Japanese girls who stood near him, “You’re not listening,” he said, over and over, varying his inflection a little with each repetition.
He was a bear of a man, in a cheap suit, panama hat, a thug grown older and stouter. His hands were covered in rings, thick gold with stones like Christmas lights. Maybe he thought they spoke to his success, the dollars he had been able to part with. Or maybe he saw a bare truth: gaudy brass knuckles on a man with violent hands.
His fingers are stiff and splayed at his side. He’s looking all over the place, walking towards me, saying “fuck man fuck man fuck man fuck maaan fuck.” I pass him by, he lets out a wicked cackle and shouts, “that’s a church lunch!”
I’ve seen them before. They are old and weathered and small. He has the permanent grin of a village idiot, even his eyes smile. She is stern, stares back at me, officiously rearranges the contents of her purse.
First a woman stretched her arms out behind her and groaned a little, releasing the day from her shoulders, pulling her shirt tight across her lovely round breasts. Then another woman shifted her hips and the waist of her skirt slid down past the knob of her hip, revealing a crescent of pale flesh. An Asian man with a boyish face and an elegant suit averted his eyes, shaking his head and smiling with incredulity at these wonders, and how he was expected to act as though he did not see them.
I heard her before I saw her. A little girl alone on the deserted sidewalk in front of a brownstone, with a stack of dusky red encylopedias next to her. She had one volume propped up against her belly, and a humorless intensity in her face. She was swiveling from side to side, showing off her wares and calling out like a sideshow tout: “C’mon get your Book of Knowledge. It’s all in the Book of Knowledge.”
A man walked toward me, walking fast like he wanted some distance between him and what was behind him. His face had an addict’s ashen cast, the skin loose over the insistent bones. He shook his head, I could see the greasy tendrils of his hair bouncing. He looked back over his shoulder, and then muttered decisively, “Man, I quit. I fucking quit.”
Two men were unwinding after a tennis game, their cheeks flushed, rackets tucked under the table. They uttered phrases I was not accustomed to hearing: “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a small private plane up there?” and “You could always go to St. Moritz.” As they stood to go, I saw they’d left a lousy tip.
Riding into Nice from the airport, on a road hugging the bright blue water, the driver wanted to talk, so much so that he tolerated my halting French. I told him I was writing a novel, and he said, “I’ve had such a life, I should write about it someday.” I asked about the life and he said, “Oh, it’s a long story,” waving it off. I said, “Aren’t they all long stories?” But he still wouldn’t tell me.