It Hardly Matters

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Midtown West

So this drunk with a hook for a right hand told me a story this afternoon. It stopped me in my tracks. Really.

B and I were downstairs, me smoking, him playing on the scaffolding, when this guy (ruddy, wiry, tattooed) came up to me asking, I thought, for a cigarette. Instead, he told me that he had smoked for 29 years and had quit. Good for him, etc. (Coincidentally, I had been at a company-sponsored Health Fair earlier and was asked if I knew anyone who needed to quit smoking. Nope! I was just there for the free magnets.) Really, good for him.

Then he asked me for 50 cents, and after I politely (weird, I know) said that I couldn't spare it, I was sorry, etc., he said "Don't be sorry...once I was in Penn Station sitting across from this girl. She was writing a letter or something, I don't know, and I asked her 'Hey, why don't you write me something? Write down what you really think of me and then give it to me.' So she did. And you know what it said? You ain't nothing but a drunk and a piece of shit. You're a perfect example of a drunk.'" And B and I stared. And I said, "Well, they're just words..."

Agog. Would you ever ask a stranger to write what they thought of you and give it to you? If asked, what would you write?

Dangerous territory, breached only by drunks and masochists. But once you lose a hand in a rusty machine, tendons stretching then snapping apart and back, or sliced cleanly perhaps, like a log of pastrami, maybe hearing the truth doesn't hurt so much.


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