Friday, October 13, 2006

It's A Big City

When Linda and I were reaching the end of our time in Chicago, and dreaming of the simpler life that lay ahead of us in Austin, we would respond to the everyday harshness of city life by looking at each other, shrugging and saying, "it's a big city." We were both convinced at the time that we were done with city living.

Well, now we both live in New York and we never see or talk to each other. But that's ok; it's a big city.

I'm not sure what made me think of that, except that there's something about a city that I didn't appreciate back then. Something about the way that the hard walls, sleek glass and sidewalks, the indifference and the blank, sad looks of the subway make the little bits of beauty and magic that much more wonder-filled. Sometimes living in New York is like wrapping Tom Waits's voice around you like a blanket, all harsh and torn, worn and weary and still filled with sighs about love and meaningful connections.

The other night a homeless man came up to me, gripped my hand with a soft touch and told me to look deep into the red in his eyes. I allowed it because many years ago I saw a vagrant outside of Embankment station in London, weeping as he quietly repeated, "I just want to know what time it is" to an endless pack of people looking at the Anything That Wasn't Him. It's a risky guilt, but more often than not, I get through it safe enough, with only a little weight of sad. Anyway, he explained to me that he was a fixture in the neighborhood where I live, had been for years, and everyone knew that he just needed money for his insulin. I gave him a bit of change, talked to him for a while and moved on, allowing him the satisfaction of his bluff.

He really had very soft and warm hands.

And very red eyes.


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