Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We are all gods

"I'm not like those guys across the street," says the man outside my apartment building. "I got Polo, American Eagle, good shit."

A tall, skinny man looks heartbreakingly vulnerable with his exposed Adam's Apple, long neck stretched out from a wrinkled collar.

It's morning, but the woman in the doorway is well on her drunk for the day. The tall can of beer in her hand is not her first. She's compact as a piston, feet firmly planted, but her body circles on its axis, her brow lowering. Her friend holds her hands out in a calm-down gesture. She sees the storm about to break.

"I'm good," a man says to me as I pass. "I'm good." It seems important that I know this. I nod.

At breakfast, a movement snags my attention. There is a couple at a table, a third person bending over them, his head between theirs. A friend, I think. But the movement judders like a loose filmstrip. He's moving too fast, chaotic. A glass is knocked from the table, breaks. The standing person looks confused about where to run for a second, then he's blasting out the door. I can see his path as a cartoon dotted line, a feint toward the back then veering wide, out into the street, disappearing in the crowd.

The couple turn toward the rest of us in the cafe, their faces empty as pie pans. The woman holds up her cell phone: he failed to snatch the one thing he was after. We - the customers, the waiter, the waitress - speak softly, gently with each other. The woman leans her head on the man's shoulder, closing her eyes.

I realize that coffee has splashed the people beside me, sloshed up onto the bench and table, missing by millimeters my coat on the bench, as though it was protected by a force field.

I feel strangely protective toward my neighbors, the waitress sweeping up broken glass, the customer wiping coffee from his arm. Even the desperate man, somewhere out on the street, cursing his rotten luck.