The ride on the E train, from Queens to Manhattan, is fun for me. Sixteen miles becomes two miles in my head. As the train I rode on pulled into the first Manhattan stop on its’ line, the Lexington Ave/East 53rd St. station, I held my breath a little and sighed. I left the train’s first riding car, along with the other commuters. It was Monday morning, 8:23 a.m. There were a lot of commuters going to work. So was I, yet my job’s different.
“Use the escalators, you assholes!” one downward commuter barked.
I grinned, going upward. Fight incivility with civility with a pinch of incivility. My ascendance ended, I went down the hallway that led to the 6 train line. Some commuters did as well. The other left the station. A flight of stairs, another hallway and another upward escalator were good reasons to hate this station. The architect should have been disemboweled. However, I went abroad the 6 train going to Grand Central Terminal on Park Avenue and 42nd St. It was a short ride. I got off the train after it arrived. Another flight of stairs, I went up. I did my best to avoid snails and rabbits wearing suits, jeans and vacation T-shirts. I went to another hallway that led to the S train line, turned left to the wall, turned around and sat down on the floor. I had a backpack. Three pens, two water bottles, two ham and cheese sandwiches, a notebook and an apple were in it. I also had a medium-sized cardboard box in my hands, filled with many paper sheets. I settled the box in front of me and opened it. On three of the box’s sides were hand-written signs, each having the same message: STRUGGLING, COLLEGE-EDUCATED WRITER W/ GOOD STORIES TO SELL: $2 EACH.
Was I certifiable? No. I just got sick of sending my work to magazines that sent me rejection letters, the typical, “Dear Contributor: The editors of Blankity Blank Magazine have read your submission and found it unacceptable for our publication and so on and so on.” Since three weeks ago, I decided to sell my work to the public. I’ve earned forty bucks. Not bad. What have I written? Science fiction, drama, comedy, satire, action-adventure, crime, sexual and mixed, warped stuff. I had five copies of fourteen stories with me, and getting them printed was cheap. I don’t rely on this as income. I get temporary office jobs around the city. My Aunt Irene, whom I live with, takes any call from the agency. By noon, I always call her on a public phone. I don’t have a cell phone because I don’t like being bothered while walking and dreaming, and I don’t have friends to call me up. I don’t have any friends. Period. I’m kind of touched in the head. I never took drugs because I was already weird. Maybe that’s why I had this idea, along with the fact that there weren’t any jobs for me so far. It’s been three weeks.
The hallway had thick, warm air flowing about. I didn’t get any customers since it was the morning rush hour. I got weird stares and eyeball rolls, mostly from suits. I guess they saw me as some social insubordinate. I didn’t care. I grew being a social insubordinate. If my head wasn’t in literature, it was in the sky, hopping from cloud to cloud and sleeping on one. My teachers from elementary, junior and senior high school didn’t like that, but I did well in class anyway. If they saw me today…
“Short stories for sale?” A young man came up to me. He looked like he was my age, yet quite taller. He was a tourist. A duffel bag hung from his left hand. His blue T-shirt had “Georgetown University”. He also wore jeans and sneakers.
“Yes. What kind are you interested in?”
The man looks embarrassed, “Well, I just need to get to Eighth Avenue and 42nd St. Sorry.”
I pointed my left arm westward, “Take the S train.”
“Thanks,” He went on his way.
I scratched my chin and waited for another customer. Time went by. Amid the commuters, four police officers walked by. I had yet to be kicked out of here. I sneezed a little, was careful not to damage my goods and sniffled. More holier-than-thou stares and eye rolling came to me. Part of me wanted to leave, stay home and listen to sports talk radio (I don’t like sports, really, but it’s interesting than bullshit-filled talk radio). I ignored that feeling. I reminded myself of the time when I was in Queens College. During the summer after my junior year, I took a petition taker position for the Betsy McCaughey Ross for NY State Governor Campaign. Obviously, she didn’t win, but it was good for my work experience. I had to ask people if they’re registered Democrats, explain the candidate’s stance on certain subjects and get them to sign the petition. The average signature count for me was eight a day. I was good at it, but I hated working outside, looking at pretty girls walking by and feeling lonely (I had to sweet talk some to get signatures from some of them). I had the same feeling at this “job”. I preferred office work. The agency once gave some shithole messenger job for a financial securities firm at their downtown Brooklyn offices. Just look at my Economics grade in high school to know how I feel about finance. I‘m just a creative-minded daydreamer with a nice, whole-wheat bread, savings account and who wants a creative job in Manhattan. Lucky me.
I looked at my watch: 10:34 a.m. A sigh left my mouth. Another young man then approached me. He was holding a package under his left arm. Must be a messenger, I thought.
“What kind of stories?” he asked.
“Do you have any funny stuff?”
“I have one about a guy who works as an ice cream vendor and gets annoyed by his older work partner. ‘Frank Cooper: The Ice Cream Madman’.”
The messenger dug into one of his jeans’ pockets. I dug into the box for the story. I got two bucks; the customer got my story, my “thank you” and he left.
Tine passed. I did my best not to falling asleep. I was naked to pickpockets and headbreakers, but I was careful. Very careful. Some hunger pains crawled into my stomach. I told them to shut the fuck up and wait five minutes before noon. I sniffed a little again. No one came to me. I know people read, yet the amount was not big. Sure, I like watching television, but only if the shows have some intelligence like “The Simpsons” or a documentary on PBS or the History Channel. “Survivor” and the rest of the reality shows should go to hell and stay there. I’m shy like a sheep, but I don’t want to be one.
I looked down at my box. “Nothing But The Room” was one of my current works, a tale about the stupidities of reality television and cruel and unusual punishment. I hoped someone would buy it. I then looked at watch: 11:42 a.m.
“Get a real job.”
I looked up. The person who said that a beefy, heavyset suit, a gray-haired guy with a handlebar mustache. He gave me an ugly glare as he walked away. I didn’t like being insulted without good reason. Back in school, kids threw curses and fists to me. I hated them.
“Fuck you, philistine!” I said.
The man stopped and turned. He went towards with anger in his eyes. I popped up from the floor and looked into those same eyes. He looked like a hard-working sheep. Probably a lawyer or an executive, I thought. I didn’t care.
The suit was in my face, “Listen, you—”
“Keep walking,” I said.
We were almost the same height; I was a little taller than him and had a better steel-eyed stare. The man then went away and I sat down. A grin popped between my lips. This wasn’t the first time I had won a tough guy, staring contest. It happened in my senior in high school, during gym class. I was on a five-person volleyball team, and I was my time to serve. I wasn’t good at playing sports, yet I needed the credit to graduate.
I toss the ball upward with my right hand. My left hand was supposed to hit it. It didn’t; I threw the ball too high and missed. On the opposing team, some asshole laughed at me. He kept riding me since junior year. I didn’t know his name yet I hated the guy for making fun of me because I was quiet. Big deal. I got the ball back after it landed on the gym’s floor. I then ran to the other end of the court, chasing after the asshole. He thought I was kidding; I wasn’t. I then threw the ball at him. I missed. The ball struck one of the gym’s audience bleachers. It made a loud boom. The ball ricocheted back to me.
“What the hell?” I reminded Mr. Macintosh, one of the two gym teachers in charge, yelled that. He came away from another volleyball match he was supervising. I explained what happened while the fool pleaded innocence. Macintosh dismissed the whole thing, since no one got hurt badly. However, I was still angry. I threw the ball again at the back of the jerk’s head when Macintosh left us.
The jerk turned to me, looking tough, “Man, I’ll fuckin’ bust you—”
“Get over there!” I yelled, pointing at his teammates. He looked into my eyes, saw a bloody, fiery hell and a half, and did what I said. My teammates congratulated me, and we resume playing. I could have beaten him up. I wanted to. I just had enough trouble at that time with other kids. I didn’t want any trouble from the suit. Using words to fight was enough. If fists had to be thrown, I would have made a bloody mess out of the suit. I know right from wrong, but I don’t like society’s rules. Maybe I should be certifiable.
I looked at my watch again: 11:52 a.m.
Bryant Park, one of the green oases in steel, brick, concrete and glass-composed Manhattan, was behind The New York Public Library. The usual Matt Yuppie, Joe Average, Frank Tourist and Sal Homeless was there. So was I, eating my lunch. I already called Aunt Irene. No calls, she said. I cursed in my head and the luck I had. I looked at the giant lawn that was in the park’s center, surrounded by pebble-filled walkways and a small flight of stairs near Sixth Avenue and West 41st St. Some people were lying on the grass, resting sunbathing or making out.
Some bright yellow daises were scattered across the grass. I wanted to pick up some and give them to a pretty woman. She would probably get scared. That’s what a lot of women do when I try to friendly. They get scared, and I’m still lonely as usual. Rape fantasies have danced around my head, yet right and wrong is still right and wrong. I just don’t like all of society’s rules. They come off as stupid and hypocritical.
I was finishing off my apple, enjoying the taste while sitting on one of the park’s benches.
I looked up. The taste turned sour. A guy stood in front of me. He wore causal clothes, a pair of thin-rimmed glasses and was carrying a shopping bag. The guy was my age.
“Mickey,” he smiled at me, “Don’t you remember me?”
I did, but I didn’t want to. I finished my lunch, picked up my box and left the bench, “Not really.”
Heading eastward on 42nd St, I left the park and Kamel Exantus behind. That’s the shithole’s name. Why is he a shithole? He used to be my best friend back in both elementary and junior high school. Used to. We talked about the cool shows that were on at the time, like “G.I. Joe”, “The A-Team”, “Transformers”, “Robotech” and the rest. We also helped each other on schoolwork. Although we didn’t hang out after school due to living in different neighborhoods in Queens (I lived in Laurelton; Kamel, in Cambria Heights), we talked on the phone about school, TV shows and how we thought our parents were unhip. We even kept in touch with each other when we graduated from junior high and went to different senior high schools.
I should have known better.
I was a sophomore when I got punched in the face four times by some fucking freshman. He made fun of me in biology class. Actually, to be fair, I sucker-punched him after he mimicked the “walk” of a retarded person. He thought I was retarded because I was soft-spoken and quiet. I was glad I sucker-punched him. He got me hard; I cried in the dean’s office with a bag of ice on my face and I was still glad that I sucker-punched him. The thug got suspended, then transferred. I told Kamel the story on the following Saturday. Instead of being a friend, Kamel gave me on how I was a big, crybaby wimp since the first grade (I was one since kindergarten).
“Why can’t you be like everyone else?” he said, talking like a parent.
Julius Caesar, in Shakespeare’s play, was a lucky bastard when I heard that. I didn’t (and still don’t) see or feel things like everyone else since I was five; that wasn’t a good reason for Kamel to say that. So I gave him hell for being a shit and giving me shit. I called him a traitor, and he gave me mercy pleas. I ended the conversation and the relationship. I even disconnected the phone to strengthen my anger.
I loved it. I felt lonely, but I loved that beginning of going on my own road. Twelve years. I haven’t seen to him in twelve years and haven’t spoken to him in eleven years. During them, I wished Kamel was dead. I even wished he died on Sept 11, 2001 (Don’t like that? Tough piss and shit, sweetheart). You just don’t tell a good friend to change if the friend’s a generally nice person. Maybe I was rude to him in the park but that rock he put between us was too big and thick to get around. I left him with that feeling I had eleven years ago.
It was almost 1:00 p.m. There were a lot of people either going back to work or out to eat. I was part of the former, and I hoped for better business before I left at 4:30 p.m. The evening rush hour is a beast.