Sunday, July 19, 2015



That woman bites, I said to myself, leaving the building. I was to report Friday for “Orientation.” “Just bring your self and a pen,” Sludgeberg told me, and smiled, her teeth, white and capped, were blinding, “we’ll take care of the rest.”
The ankle height clouds of carbon monoxide from exhausts of garbage trucks and asshole farts, & ashen air was as bucolic as a mountain lake compared to Sludgeberg’s presence. I took a first deep breath in an hour. It felt as if I’d worked there for thirty years instead of being up there for thirty minutes and was finally enjoying my retirement as I revolved through the revolving door.
I was always real good at the interview; it was “work” that presented problems. If I ever found the sonofabitch who invented that four-lettered word, I’d kill him.

I walked, or I should say dodged, the billions of people who littered Fifth Avenue in this heat. I knew that around The Empire State were some cheap grits and interviews always made me hungry. I found a corner joint selling two dogs and a soda for a buck ninety-nine. A bargain. The sun bounced off the sidewalk and struck the corners of my eyes. Just being in mid-town was enough to set my teeth on edge, but being in mid-town around all those people who seemed to have a purpose, who seemed to know where they were going, sent shivers down my spine.
I bit down on this dog that had been on the grill so long it just snapped in half. The soda had no bubbles, had no bounce. And it was fucking warm.
Well, Heller, shit or get off the pot. Whatareyagonnado? It’s either sell a fuckin button or construct your little patch of safety: teach your fellow shelter dwellers about Black Art in the Sixties or help them write legal briefs. Sleep in your own bed, or on a mattress as thin as a dime? Wipe your ass with something soft or cardboard? What’s it gonna be?
Tour buses were double parked on Fifth and on 33rd, next to the Big Penis. I could see little Asian people with the mandated camera slung around their necks, marching in step; the men taking the lead, not knowing where the fuck they were going and the women, culturally behind, following quietly, self-effacing, but fearless. The tourists from Minnesota were the reverse: big, box like frames, fat meaty arms, swinging McDonald’s’s bags, the women taking charge of the men and sixteen fat kids bringing up the rear and their rear, not knowing where they’re going but determined to get there.

The bus stop at 33rd and Fifth looked like the MTA’s version of The Special Olympics: three wheelchairs with bodies crippled in various positions served as the runway for a suicide dash. The sun beat mercilessly down upon them. All looked non-plussed. When you have to get around town and “rapid transit” above ground was the least cruel, you better have patience. I thought about going over to them and pitch the button that could save their lives, but they’d have to be so kind not to die before Monday when I became officially part of Life Force’s family.
Upon further inspection, I didn’t know if they’d be interested: the big black guy, his fat hanging over the arm rests and bulging over the seat, wore a t-shirt and cut-off gloves with metal studs in them; the bleached straw-haired woman sported a tattoo on her right bicep: “Walking is for fags;” and the young girl with spiked red, chartreuse and blue hair was plugged into some music thrusting her arms at no one in particular. It didn’t seem like the right time to approach.
Three buses--the 2, 3, and 5--pulled up at the same time, and behind them were two more 3’s; so much for staggered scheduling. The first bus’ positioning made it all but impossible to get to the other buses who stopped in the middle of the street. The driver stopped, put the bus in park when he saw the wheelchair contingent, begrudgingly lifted the bar that separated him from them and told the other seniors in the handicapped seats they’d have to move. He lifted the plastic seats, went back to his controls, opened the doors, pushed a button and the ramp lowered. The wheelchairs rolled aboard. We stood and watched as the four other buses, nearly empty, made off down Fifth.
Another ten minutes and the driver tucked them in. A few of the older ones outside nearly dropped from heat stroke. Finally, the driver opened the doors for us. I followed the herd on board.
More embarrassed than I usually was, I put my “Handicapped” metro card into the slot. The ones crippled by birth or circumstances were a hard act to follow. Having four toes amputated could hardly be called “cripple” in my book--especially when it was essentially my manias that allowed that to happen--but it saved me a buck and a quarter and that was enough to muster through. I always thought the driver would call me on it, and I was ready to whip off my sneaker and show him the deformed foot, open the front of my shirt so he could see where the cabbage was done, even open up my cranium so he could check-out the three hamsters on a wheel chasing a dream, but in nearly thirty years not one driver gave a fuck let alone asked for proof.
I wiggled my way around the wheelchairs and those older fucks who refused to go to the back of the bus and tried to stake out an inch of space where another’s sweat wouldn’t make me want to retch and at the same time avoid the blasts of Arctic air freezing the damp hairs on my skin and shrinking my testicles. An impossible task. I stood as vertically as my body would allow and stared straight ahead.

pgs 12-14 of 539
© 2015 Norman Savage

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2015

1 comment:

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