Journey through smoke, cars, lights and a man's mind.
|Something magical traversed this man’s shoes as he adorned the city racket with tips and taps. Draped in black from hat to shoes, he jumped and tripped the light fantastic between the men of brisk looking disdainfully at him and, every so often, a fonzie would poke on a passerby’s rain-specked complexion. Not that polite smile, nor that business smirk, no, no, I’m talking about the real stuff that I won’t venture to demean with cheap talk.
Cars shouted and growled. Leaves fell. The man bumped into two muttering men, of the kind who never manage to fit the world in their agenda. He had no place there either, but the gorgeous blonde registered three seconds. Her gait was more a frolic than anything, branded by the peculiar hop she made just before each step. For a woman in heels and a dress she walked fast. Even for our happy man she walked fast and before long she took the lead, throwing him an amused sideways glance. Ungracious as it may seem, he never retorted, merely sliding left by the bookstore. She went her way with her hat indignant toward the sky.
Before he had made three steps, however, the young man spun on his heel lavishing upon the air a gasp slighter than his mood, that is quite easy. The real stuff was there, midway his five o’clock shadow, as he ambled more moderately within the aforementioned bookstore. A breathe-easy tenor permeated the whole enchilada. Feeling is the word, rather than tenor, as not only the music was responsible. Excuse me.
The young man skipped past two shelves and past a third yet, a few steps later, stopping before the wall signed “Brand new”. From there he proceeded to withdraw a book entitled “Even say goodbye”. The author was F. Atkinson. Remember what I said about those men that had no place for the world in their agenda. Ditto for him. A full minute he read the back, oblivious to the people, the red carpet with golden embroideries, to the thousands of other books, maybe even to himself. He looked that way at least. At last he flipped the black cover to the front, where the silhouette of an aged make of a car was driving into a white road leading towards the upper edge, naturally. The man made as though he was about to open the book, but he almost dropped his hat. His second attempt was successful and the inside of the cover revealed that the white road went on from top to bottom, forming a closed circuit. The first page was scribbled with praises of the sort that makes cynic people massage the skin between their eyes. Our boy was not sporting a smile anymore. Instead he had donned a serious air about him reminiscent of hurt pride. He slapped the book shut then and headed to the cashier, regaining his smile with each step.
The beep of the barcode reader intermingled eerily with the rain’s tips and taps. The outside welcomed back the happy man, who stowed his purchase away in the breast pocket of his jacket. Away from the rain and the eyes of man. Then he resumed strolling to where he had been headed earlier.
He went past a bus stop where the quiet clamor got muffled by a passing car for a fleeting moment. It was a black Chevy Impala ’67 with furious windscreen wipers that, speeding by, splashed a pond over the sidewalk. This street was narrower thanks to the two living blocks. The first floor balcony on the right hung as low as our boy’s waist, covered in cantaloupe glass over three steel slabs in black. It caught the eye among so much concrete. Some kids were chasing each other laughing with the innocent buoyance that you can never draw your sight away from. Their dirty clothes implied spanking later in the eve. The smile of the happy man gradually shifted. His mouth shrank, his baby blues grew and his head reclined slowly. Thus he walked for a full minute through half a street and suddenly he shook his head. The distant yell “Malcolm, home, right now!” did not afflict our boy. Before long the street led him to a bigger one.
That city smell was tough on the nose there, tougher than elsewhere as it was, perhaps, the heaviest path in terms of traffic. A café with wooden frames painted in yellow chartreuse adorned the corner on the other side of the street. The sight to it was blocked, however, by a small crowd of suitcases, fur coats, umbrellas pink and black waiting for green, headed to make green, headed to spend green. A rumbling cough came from somewhere, but all remained impassioned. At long last the sphere lit up green. A minute later young and happy was dodging folks yet again apparently going for a decent mileage this day.
A black 67’ Impala sped by, among many others. Our boy ignored it too as he wiped his feet past several more traffic lights, winding up a curve and fifty steps away from Central Park. About a curve and fifty steps later he wiped his feet thrice and entered a flower shop. A young girl greeted him and gave him a smile, both of which he repaid along with a nod. His eyes darted up and down, left and up and right and down and then a full circle around the shop, right, left and down once more. Then he picked nine flowers, coughed and hiccuped two banknotes and left quietly.
He crossed the street towards the park, where an empty bus stop awaited. A curving path beckoned him with the falling leaves of her mysteries, that the wind bandied. The happy man waited alone. Not a soul was going to the park this rainy day. Eventually the bus halted and our boy boarded swallowing his smile as he ascended the three steps.
It was a rowdy ride, what with the rumbling engine and occasional hole in the road. A woman's head was buried in her hands, brimming with the purity of her soul. No longer bursting with joy, the happy man kept glancing at her. She had a black hat with a huge periphery, a long black dress and heels to go with the set. Three fellows seemed to be with her, also draped in utter darkness.
Several stops later, the happy man got off the bus. Before him was a barren land with an abandoned factory nearby. One of its colossal chimneys received undue attention from our boy. A moment or two, maybe even three did he remain so, gloomy and shook. He sighed and went on, gaining ten years over the hundred or so steps he made between carved stones. A black 67’ Chevy Impala slowly drove en route for the descending sun.
The happy man stopped. He withdrew the book and fell to his knees. The flowers fell by the grave, the book he placed on the cold wet stone that said Roy Atkinson, 1899-1970.
“Pop, I made it big? Pop, you see?” cried the man.
It was eerie, these words, these tears might well have been the September rain.