Friday, October 10, 2008

another reason to love new york

coming home from work today, the jmz was taking longer than usual so i decided to sit down on the platform bench. the only open seat was next to a sleeping man who seemed homeless, but my gams were tired and i took it anyway. while i was reading my magazine, the man beside me awoke, let out a loud roar (kind of like a wake up yawn), and started cursing slightly louder than under his breath about falling asleep on the subway bench. he then began to address all these concerns to me, since i was, i guess, most approachable and conveniently located. while avoiding eye contact, i respectfully answered his questions--he was talking to me after all. i stared at the fading tattoos on his forearms while i felt him looking my square in the face and asking me in a throaty voice in between coughs, "tu habla espanol? parlez vous francais? allemande? sprechen ze deutsch?" i shook my head no continuously in attempt to end the conversation. he turned away disappointed and began cursing me for not knowing those languages. "you gotta go to school and learn, then," he said. "my mom always told me to be smart, get educated, don't be a bum she said. i'm a high school dropout and i know four languages." he proceeded to talk about how he was a smart kid in high school, but then he got drafted, went to vietnam, was shot. he said that he always got good grades in high school, but he sucked at math. everyone sucks at math, he said. i laughed aloud and he looked at me, realizing that i was actually listening. he kept talking and i watched him talk. he excused himself for cursing and talked about how the draft ruined his life. he pointed to the back of his neck where he was shot and shook his head at how he never amounted to anything. he kept mumbling and mentioned something about having four kids and six grandkids--maybe they'll amount to something, but he never did. i finally spoke up: "four kids and six grandkids sounds like quite the accomplishment to me." he lifted his chin and looked at me as if in thanks, then proceeded to tell me all about them. he had some difficulty in remembering all six names, but his eyes glistened when he talked about his pretty turkish-puerto rican granddaughter, samantha. after some reflection over his grandkids, he patted my arm and told me i was a good soul. he asked if i was a psychiatrist and i shook my head no and he said that i should be one, because i was a great listener. he said that anyone else would have thought he was crazy and walked away from his conversation. and then the train came and he walked into a different subway car.

god, i love new york.

1 comment:

merci33 said...

a grand story...full of compassion and so true you are a good listener...a most auspicious gift.