There’s a couple arguing. His voice breaks like a boy’s as he says, “Yeah, and what exactly did you do about it?” She stands silent, her head tipped away from him, chin askew. There’s nothing so impassable about her, but you can tell she’s going to win.
Archive for June, 2008
In front of the abandoned building on the corner, amidst the glitter of shattered glass: a torn drum, a smashed keyboard, a sixty-year old suitcase and two shirtless men sleeping in the diminishing morning shade.
The man was wiry and his clothes were stained. He set down his black plastic bag on the sidewalk and stood watching something inside a fenced lot. He began to make slow, preening motions with his arms. As I passed by I saw that he had locked eyes with a scarred gray tomcat and was mirroring its drowsy stretching.
This one says to me, “You got some pretty toes.” I look down at the situation as I pass him by. From behind me, he’s laughing, “No man musta ever told you that before, ’cause you checked.”
Three men with flags led a parade of old ladies clutching lilies and a motley brass band sweating a dirge from their horns. They trailed along behind a statue of Jesus on the back of a pickup truck. I asked one of the old ladies, she waved a hand encircling the scene and said, “It’s holy.” As if that explained everything.
He was wearing shoes that looked as though they were never meant to be worn. Laceless low boots of spotless cream fabric, with sculpted creases and artfully frayed edging. I told him they were admirable.
“Thanks,” he said. “Are you in fashion?”
“Not at all,” I told him. “I’m in noticing.”
I was in the wrong time zone and so I went to the stony beach at dawn. A man lay sprawled on the stones, his stained shirt open to the sun, his belt undone, his arms stretched out like christ. The stout old ladies in their bathing caps had left a wide clearance around him. A fly settled on him. I wondered if he might be dead. Then a shrill beep broke apart the murmur of the lapping waves. The man sat up, dug into his pockets and found a phone. He spoke a moment, hung up. He slipped off his shirt and approached the surf, splashing his armpits with water from the warm sea. His back was spread with round welts from the stones of the beach. The old ladies watched him, giggling, as he put his shirt back on, tucked it in, buckled his belt, smoothed his trousers, and walked back up the steps to the sidewalk, back into the world he had taken the night off from.
Everyone knows the heat is coming. The children are already wilted. The old ladies are smoking cigarettes on the sidewalks, wearing frowns and housedresses.
They lean against the fences like they own them. They leer as I pass by, scanning my body and hissing, “God bless you, baby,” as if that made it all okay, as if it wasn’t just another come-on.
She had a queen’s posture and silver hair and was much too elegant to be lost. She stopped us on a corner in the part of the city where the grid goes haywire, asked us if we knew where a certain restaurant was.
“I don’t know, but my phone might know,” said my friend (this was before such things were commonplace).
“Really,” she marveled, taking her time with the word. “Would you ask it for me?”
He did, and after a while we found the restaurant for her, half a block from where we stood. She introduced herself as though we ought to know her name and admonished us to come to her current show. She was, it turned out, quite famous once. We never did go.