Archive for the 'solicitations' Category

on the street

He’s skinny and old, shuffling along. He looks like he’s seen better days, but his dark brown face shines. I walk past him and he says, “When I grow up, I’m gonna get one just like you.” He’s laughing at his own joke.

I turn around and wave.

“You hear me? That’s right. Gonna get you in a kitchen.”

Now I’m laughing. “You don’t want me in your kitchen.”

“All you gotta do is boil water. It’s easy. That’s all I ask.”

on the block

I hear him and his buddy walking behind me first, joking about a hole in someone’s transmission. When they start to pass me, I look over to say hi, we’re passing too close not to.

The one of them stops short. He says, “Hey beautiful.”

I laugh, that’s what I always do. They start walking alongside me.

“How is it I’ve been around here all my life and I’ve never run into your pretty face before?”

“I don’t know, I’ve been living here four years. Maybe you just weren’t looking hard enough.”

The other one laughs. “Good answer,” he says.

“Well, beauty in the eye of the beholder, right? So how long you been beholdin’?”

I laugh again, I have no idea how to answer that.

He swings a hand through the air. “No, I’m just a joker, don’t mind me. Tell the truth I’m a little lonely, that’s all.” He looks at me with soft, honest eyes. He’s handsome in a stocky way. He smiles and I see that his each of his teeth is ringed in gold.

“I can’t really help you with that,” I say, “I’ve got a boyfriend.”

“Yeah, how long you had that problem?” His friend laughs, walking faster past us toward the corner, leaving some room.

“The problem of a boyfriend? Oh, a good while.”

“You know, you can work around that, nobody the worse for it.” He’s pushing me now, the eyes have gone sly.

We’ve gotten to my stoop, I open the iron gate. “I stick to the letter of the law on that one.”

“I used to be a lawyer,” he tells me, “didn’t last long.”

“No? Didn’t like it?”

“I just had attention issues.”

I wave a hand, encompassing the world. “That’s sort of the national diagnosis, isn’t it.”

“No,” he says, the gilded teeth flashing again. “Just too many beautiful women around.”

on the corner

Overnight the bodega is gone. Now it’s just two walls, a foundation, and a column holding up the rest. I peek in as I’m walking by, and a small man steps out of the dim interior onto the sidewalk. He’s got his white dust mask down around his neck and one hand on his chest.

“You are my heart,” he says in a melodious accent I can’t place. I laugh, this is nothing new.

He smiles and pats his chest. “Do you want to be my heart?”

“I’m somebody else’s heart,” I tell him.

“Are you sure?” he asks as I pass by. Over my shoulder I hear the laughter of a handful of men ringing out from the darkness at the back of the bodega’s shell. I turn and see the man disappear into the shadows.

I can’t tell if they’re laughing at him or at me, and either way, I don’t like it. I feel the space where the bodega used to be fading from the map of what counts as my neighborhood.

in the projects

It’s a late, quiet Saturday night. The heat hasn’t quite broken yet. I’m crossing the courtyard, passing people leaning back on the benches in the darkness left by the busted streetlamps. They’re just forms in the night, murmuring. From a bench I’ve just passed, a man hisses softly and says, “You don’t know me anymore?” I stop. It’s the wrong voice, but that’s Dealer’s line. This one speaks with a little dust of malice, nothing like Dealer’s sweetness, the way you can hear his smile from behind your back.

It’s the bind of living here. If I don’t turn around and let him flirt with me, I’m a bitch, and it’s not just me, but I’m a bitch on behalf of every white girl who crosses his path without seeing him. If I turn around, there’s an invitation in the gesture that I don’t mean at all, that doesn’t feel safe in the deep darkness of the listless night.

So I do what I always do. I turn around. “Do I know you?” I ask, walking toward him and his boys on the bench, leaning forward to squint at his face.

“I’m Jimmy,” he says. “Come on. Don’t you know me?” But he can’t keep the grin down. He’s just marking time in the night.

“You’re not Jimmy,” I say, laughing now. “I never saw you before in my life.”

He taps his feet and his hand forms a thumbs-up gun, he cocks and shoots. “I gotcha though,” he says. “Didn’t I now?”

“You sure did.” I’m turning back toward home now. “Have a good night.”

“That’s right girl, you just sashay on home now,” he says, and one of his friends whistles long and low.

on the way home

I’ve got a grocery bag hanging from each hand. On the corner there’s a beefy guy with a shaved head and gold chains. He’s got sharp clothes and I’ve never seen him before. He says to me, “Hey beautiful, tell me those bags are heavy so I can carry them for you.”

“Oh, they’re not that heavy,” I say, but I’m smiling, it’s an easy day in the neighborhood, everybody spilling outside with the rain finally gone.

“My head is heavy cause I’m sad you said that.” He’s got his hand on his pleading heart, his forehead down.

Then a curvy woman crosses between us and says, “You head heavy because it’s big.”

near the subway

The fat man puts down his begging cup and says, “Baby, you look good to-day,” stretching each word to the limit of its strength.

down the block

He’s sitting on an upturned milk crate, drinking coffee from a mug. He raises it in greeting. The incongruity of the street perch and the kitchen cup pull a grin out of me. He shakes his head. “A man could look at a smile like that for the rest of his life,” he says. I stop a moment. I like the look of this one. He’s got some Cherokee around the eyes, a lullaby voice, the rangy arms of a swimmer. He rocks a little on the milk crate, then holds out the mug. “Want a sip?” I’m late for work, the air is thick as a swamp. I laugh, and keep walking.



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