A man with a cane stops me, “I’m a bodyguard,” he says. “A second-degree blackbelt in karate. I’m for hire. Got it?”
Archive for November, 2009
The blind man and his bull dyke guide are back today. He follows her, half a step behind, his hand resting on her shoulder. He moves timidly, tapping his cane in an arc in front of him, his ears attuned to her whispered translations of what it is like to see this room, these obstacles. But when she moves his hand to the back of the chair, the scene changes key. He straightens up and casts a great smile up at the sky. I wish you could see him. He’s wearing slick wraparound glasses and a shiny red jacket. He looks more like a space man than a blind man. He’s got his knuckles on the table, keeping time, he nods along as the woman talks. She’s speaking ardently. You know, with her hands.
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.”
My neighbor used to be a fireman, and got retired when he fell through a roof. Tonight something is burning nearby, there are screaming trucks and strobing lights around the corner.
He’s out in front of his building, leaning on the fence. “Somebody’s going to work.”
There are people on any block who observe the comings and goings on the street, who keep its pulses. He is one of them, and at first I think he means me, that I’ve been going to an office.
“Every day now,” I say.
“No, I mean over there,” he says, pointing toward the trucks. He rocks back and forth on heels. “I miss it,” he says. “You smell that and the adrenaline gets going.”
Then he closes his eyes. “Smells like victory.”
On this line, you never get that chipper automated voice announcing the stops, and on this particular morning, it’s my favorite conductor. The one who sounds as smooth and easy as a 70s radio DJ, or rather, a teenager impersonating one. His voice isn’t quite deep enough. He speaks as though it were not only his duty to inform you of your location under the grid of the city, but also to ease your hard journey through the tunnels, and by consequence through your life.
Today he says, “Good morning, and welcome to day number four of the work, school, and play week. A big congratulations goes out to the NY Yankees.” And then his voice breaks character and squeaks, as though in parentheses, “Yay!”
We’re rushing into a station, he goes on. He knows exactly how much time he’s got until the doors open. “Don’t forget there’s a tickertape parade tomorrow, everyone come out and cheer. It’s now nine am exactly. Have a good one out there.”
Next to me, a woman gasps. “Shit,” she says. “I’m so late.”