Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Duel

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
'Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
©Simon and Garfunkel - Sounds Of Silence
We construct a narrative for ourselves, and that's the thread that we follow from one day to the next. People who disintegrate as personalities are the ones who lose that thread.
Paul Auster
I hurry past, avoiding eye-contact. "Hello Hon!" She manages to catch me. Again.

Who IS this woman who faces me head-on every evening as I step up from the curb, making my way to the second bus on my commute home? And more to the point, why can't I just answer her? Or take another route home?

I can't answer these questions.

All I know is that every evening, rain, hail or snow, the woman in the wheelchair comes from where I know not, to park herself on the corner of Sixtieth and Second. Sentry-like she faces east and greets the regular commuters as they walk past, to the left or right of her chair.

Most of them answer in a friendly, normal sort of way. Some give her money. Is that why she's there? I don't know.

She doesn't look homeless. She looks healthy, fortyish and average. Fair skin. Light brown hair. Always.

When I used to smoke, she'd notice and ask for a cigarette. If I accidentally made eye-contact, I'd give her one and then walk quickly around her so I didn't have to reply to her, "Thanks, hon!"

But I haven't smoked for over a year now, and so I feel free to walk past, in silence. I try to pretend I don't hear her, but somehow I rarely succeed.

I want to walk home in peace. What's with this woman? The situation is starting to take on the vibe of a duel - a bizarre hide-and-seek. I'm sure she knows I'm trying to avoid greeting her, and is determined to say her "Hello hon!"

I have tried different strategies. A few times for example, I've kept pace with another pedestrian - one on my right - as I cross the road. We step up from the curb in unison. Surely I can keep to the left of my twin as we walk past. The twin, my shield. But EVERY TIME I've tried this, at the last minute my shield will make a sharp right and disappear in into the crowd heading north up Second, leaving me EXPOSED!

"Hello hun!"

I keep walking eyes looking straight ahead, giving a barely perceptible nod. No point in being rude.

So New York. So Manhattan. Like something out of an early Paul Auster or a Patricia Highsmith. Now I'm REALLY spooking out. Paul Auster - New Yorker. Highsmith - New Yorker. Both wrote of the outwardly mundane, small coincidences and meetings in Manhattan, where anonymity should be easy to come by.

But is not. I need an Elaine Benes - a Seinfeld character to help me over this. Or should I discuss it with my therapist? I'm at a loss. There's only one thing for certain.

Tomorrow at 5:45 p.m. I'll step up from the curb. My right flank exposed.

"Hello hon!"

New York


Peter Green said...


I love this story. I cannot say why. Keep it up.


Anonymous said...

Your nemesis.
Be watchful. If she appears in your dreams, it's an omen.
If she appears at your front door, beware.
Are you becoming psychic?
"Don't Look Now"
Beware of red coloring sliding across your slide viewer, or your red fingernail polish running. She could be the midget with the big carving knife.
Have I given you enough to get you started...or startled?

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