Lately I’ve been going for walks during my lunch break. Sometimes I walk on the less busy streets near my office, but more frequently I head for the water. I buy some coffee or tea to keep me warm and walk leisurely, taking note of the faces and listening either to music or snippets of conversation as I pass by people. Today a man with either a thick New York or New Jersey accent — I still can’t tell the difference — was on his cellphone. All I heard was “blood on the urinal, so they had to come clean it up.” I’m glad that’s all I heard.
The water isn’t exactly lovely, but it is water, and there’s a place where you can stand in the sun and watch the boats come and go. Usually I see a mix of tourists and people with their dogs. They’re generally entertaining.
Later on, after a long day of work, I boarded the C train. I sat near a man who looked fairly normal on the outside at first. But then he started talking, to no one in particular, or to everyone; it was hard to tell. He was talking about his family in Alabama, and as he talked, he began to remove items from his pockets: a small cloth doll, some change, a matchbook, what looked like a pin cushion, etc. And as he continued to talk, he’d pick up an item and apparently address it as a family member. He mentioned his mother, grandmother, grandfather and sister.
The train came to a sharp stop at Chambers Street, and I heard something roll my way and felt its vibrations. I tried to catch it. It stopped at my coat, and as I raised up to retrieve it, it got away from me and rolled to the floor. I looked and saw it was a multicolored marble, and thought to myself, “This man has just literally lost his marble.” I turned my face toward him. He looked panicked, distraught, paralyzed. So I got up, retrieved the marble and placed it in his hand. He muttered something and smiled just a little.
For about one minute, he didn’t speak.