Thursday, December 3, 2009

Living with white people: a picture

The intersection of Broadway and 110th - I made brisk pace towards the subway, to catch the 1 train downtown and meet an alum I planned to 'meet for drinks.'

Streams of cars and people at the intersection - like valves the traffic lights and walking signs maintained streams of activity. Maybe race and closing signal for some.

My eyes took in the pattern but could only focus on one man:

Bent forward, his arms extended pushing and directing an assisting cart. He wasn't senile -he paced back and forth with frustration along the street corner of the intersection. His face was wrinkled - deepened with grimace. Looked Eastern European, maybe it was the dark pants and worn leather jacket (the cart carrying a leather messenger bag).

His dark, short frazzled hair expressed the weary on his face - yet its mess mirrored an energy underneath:

'please, man... please!'

A plea of a man to someone and no one - its timbre carried and stood out above the noise of the mass scene - it rang of weariness but not of complete despair. It had strength.

He pushed his cart a few paces this way, then that, bent forward and arms extended. His head raised, alert and searching. And then his arm raised to cry for a cab. And again. Like an exhausted man being beaten, standing and supporting himself, raising his arm to plea for reprieve: '...please!'

And there was his frustration - the flow of cars passed by again and again. And they ignored his calls.

Always bent forward arms extended, head parallel to the ground: he bowed to the cart - and the cart supported him in return.

Did he have a debilitating physical condition - for his body to be always bent forward? Or was it years of leaning forward, extending the assisting cart in front? And why the urgency of catching a cab? The despair in his voice suggested more than lateness - or was it simply the daily frustration of being denied a cab?

His powerful cry, 'please, man... please!' rings in my head like the cry of a world-weary soul.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into it. We all project our own thoughts and desires into our understanding of the world. Kind of like the pathetic fallacy. It helps makes sense of the chaos.

I never stopped - the walk signal flashed and I was released through the intersection - looking back occasionally - capturing the image of his frustration- beckoning desperately to one line of cars, then another. Pleading to each stream to give him respite from his pain.

And then I briskly stepped down the subway stairs, without another thought. I had to catch my train.

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