Tag Archives: late

Joe

Joe walked the streets downtown with nothing but a mop and a bucket. He’d find you at a stop light, or right before you pulled out of a parking spot, and ask to clean your windows. He was always up front about it — just looking for a little cash, in exchange for the services rendered. The first time I met him, he must have caught me in a good mood, because I handed a dollar bill.

He pushed my hand away and turned the money down.

“How ’bout I wash your car, then you pay me for doin’ that?”

I explained to him that I had somewhere to be, that I really couldn’t sit there and wait for him to wash the car. Also, washing cars? That’s just weird. The truth of it was, he was a sketchy homeless dude with a mop and a bucket. The less time spent, the better. I offered the dollar once again, just so that he’d leave me alone. But once again, he refused.

“I don’t take handouts,” he told me. “I ain’t beggin’. Not doin’ that. All’s I want’s to do a simple service in exchange for a few bucks, like a normal person. I do somethin’ for you, you give somethin’ to me. That’s how it works, right? I’m just lookin’ to be treated like a person. Like, we havin’ a conversation right now. Like real people, you know?”

I ended up talking with Joe for a while. We sat on a bench on the New Haven Green, along with another friend of mine, and we listened to his story. He told us all about the women that he’d raped in alleyways, the houses that he burned with children still inside, just to get some extra cash for drugs. “There’s a whole lotta blood on these hands,” he told us, shrinking in his shame. “More than any man ought to see. But I done it.”

Joe was thrown from the roof of the New Haven Coliseum in a gang war. I remember hearing about it on the news when I was younger; I just assumed the man died. Apparently he was taken to the hospital and underwent extensive surgery in an attempt to save his life. Most of the joints in his skeleton from replaced by replaced by steel and plastic, or at least that’s what he told us.

Joe didn’t know who paid for the hospital bills, but he knew he should’ve died that night. He knew that he deserved to die, for all the terrible things he did. The reason he was still alive, he said, was because he wasn’t done suffering yet. “I ain’t takin’ handouts, and I ain’t beg you for cash, ’cause I don’t deserve that. I don’t deserve none of that. I’m just trying to be a person again.” And he meant it.

Joe thanked us for the conversation. He said it’d been a while since he felt like a human being, and that meant more to him than any loose change from a pocket.

Before we parted ways, Joe asked if we would let him wash our car, and of course we did. When he was done, he wouldn’t take our money. “I owed you one,” he said. “Just promise me, next time you come around, you find ol’ Joe and have him wash your car. I ain’t gonna forget.”

You can bet I get the windows cleaned every time I’m back there.

iWake

The first thing I did when I walked in the room was make a bee-line towards her parents. I wasn’t prepared to face the brutal truth of the situation, so I embraced them instead. We kissed each others’ salty wet cheeks, and gave our best apologies, uncertain of what else to say.

As I was preparing myself to continue down the line and shake her older brother’s hand, I noticed a flash of light in the corner room. I turned around, and noticed Aaron kneeling over the casket with his iPhone out. I excused myself from the receiving line, and darted over to him, lifting him up by the shoulder pads in his suit jacket.

“What the hell are you doing?” I hissed through gritted teeth.

“What?” he replied, dusting off his jacket. “I was taking a TwitPic of the corpse. You know, just in case like, people couldn’t be here, and they wanted to see, maybe say some prayers at home. You gotta embrace the technology, man. Even in a funeral home. It’s no longer a local culture, you know?”

I refused to justify this with a response, and instead returned to my place in line, offering my condolences to her brother, and sharing lighthearted, humorous memories from the time we lived together. We laughed, however gingerly, as we reluctantly celebrated a life that had left us too soon.

Aaron, meanwhile, stayed focused on his phone. I shifted my position in an attempt to welcome him into the circle and encourage him to join in the conversation, but everyone grieves in different ways. “Whoa — did you know this place has a FourSquare deal?” he said, without turning his attention from the screen. “15% off your bill every 3rd check-in!” I excused myself from the rest of the group, and dragged Aaron away with him. He hardly even noticed, instead allowing himself to be moved with minimal force, until finally, he dug his feet into the ground. “Oh…” he said, letting the word hang and reverberate from his mouth. “She’s the FourSquare Mayor of her own wake. I guess that makes sense, I just…wow. I never thought about that. Do you think it would be rude to steal the mayorship? I mean, if I check in tomorrow at the funeral, I’ll have it, but I don’t want to like, hog the spotlight or —”

Without warning, I snatched the cellphone from his hands, shut it off, and put it in my pocket. “Get it together, and pay your respects,” I told him, and made my way towards the bathroom. The Men’s Room door opened up into the larger hall, so I carefully shut the door behind me, trying my hardest not to disturb the other mourners or even alert them to my presence. For some reason, urinating at a wake always seemed rude to me.

Unfortunately, it seemed that I had forgotten to lock the door, and as every guy knows, it’s nearly impossible to stop once you start letting it go. No sooner had I started then another guest opened the door without a knock — leaving me exposed with penis in hand to the rest of the wake. Under normal circumstances, I think she would have appreciated the embarrassment, or at least gotten a kick out of it, but it was difficult to explain that to her grieving parents.

Creation Myth

In the beginning there was a Story
And the Story was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Tradition of the Story moved upon the face of the waters.
And the Story said, Let there be God: and there was God. And the Story made God in its image.
And the Story saw God, that God was both wrathful and loving: and the Story divided the good from the evil.
And the Story called the good and evil into conflict, and the light against the dark.
And the Story set this in motion through Time
with only God to guide its words.

Broken Bells

The wine stains shattered
slate, fermenting still/s
off wild yeast; a strain
lost like Gospels in Crusades.
The lonely tree survives
somehow, through cavernous decay —
of course the urban kind, a
-theistically gentrified.
It persevered, despite
its persecution, thriving
safely in the tower’s shade.
The bell it once contained
would cry or beg for mercy
to be euthanized, if
it hadn’t already gone deaf,
dumb, and blind
in some mythical time
-before-time. Where its booming
tone had once reverberated,
low and resonant,
the sound has since
been replaced by over
-powered subwoofers,
speaking in too-small
Sedans. I tried to ring
the bell again to shake
the tree of fruit, but found
the padlock cut and the gate
rusted shut, keeping what
ferments inside from spilling
out and altaring our lives.

One Less Car

This past Sunday, the Boston Globe ran an article titled, “What cyclists neglect” that, as a cyclist myself, caught my eye. The author takes the stance that cyclists, “want more respect on the road. They need to earn it” (as the tagline reads) — a position which, for the most part, I agree with. There is one thing that he neglects to consider, however:

Everybody hates a bicyclist.

Come on. Admit it. You’ve driven in a city/The City and gotten nervous/pissed because of the tiny two-wheeled asshole hugging the shoulder. And for no good reason. As anyone who commutes on a bike in an urban setting can attest, it’s scary as hell out there; you’re constantly on the defensive. If you’re in a car, well, you’ve got a 2 ton chunk of metal to keep you safe. On a bike? Not so much. You see, no one in a car has ever been killed by a bicycle.

Let’s take the first accident I was ever in (which was, by law, entirely her fault for switching lanes without looking): my pedal got stuck in the body of the car, and I managed to tear off her front bumper when I finally shook myself loose. She then proceeded to (1) roll her window down (2) flip me the bird (3) yell “Fucking asshole!” (4) drive off into the sun, leaving me lying on the ground under my bicycle in the middle of Harvard Square at rush hour. Sure, she had maybe $300 worth of autobody damage, which sucks, I understand. Me? I had to go to the emergency room, get a new bike, and then continue to see a chiropractor three times a week for a year and a half (paid for by me, because she hit and run). Good thing I was wearing a helmet, or I probably wouldn’t have lived to write this rant.

You’re probably about to blurt out something to yourself while you read this alone in your bedroom or at work like “Whatever! This one time, a bicyclist just tore through a red light, and I had to slam on my brakes! I almost got rear ended!” or “This stupid bicycle almost killed me when I was walking down the sidewalk the other day!” in which case my heart goes out to you for enduring such an awful tragedy and I hope that your therapy sessions cost less than my chiropractor. But you are correct; there are some lousy, ignorant, unsafe bicyclists out there. I see ’em. I hate ’em. Especially the ones who bike on the sidewalk down the Mass Ave bridge even though there’s a bike lane RIGHT FUCKING THERE. But just because those guys are jerks, doesn’t mean you have to take it out on me. I have a right to ride my bike, and the law requires me to be on the road, so deal with it. I’m not trying to make your life difficult; I’m trying to survive. It’s tough when you’re constantly on the defensive, constantly risking your life, but if you look out for me, I’ll look out for you. Cool? Cool.

(Similarly, I implore you to stop walking on the Southwest Corridor Bike Path. You have your own parallel sidewalk not 10 feet away! There are so few bike paths as is, so at least let us enjoy the ones we’ve got, and stop getting mad and yelling at me when I nearly crash into your stupid blob of children after yelling “EXCUSE ME!” at you for the last 2 blocks in a futile attempt to avoid this exact problem. Asshole.)