Today at the pier I saw a body on one of the slips. He or she had been zipped up in a thick brown bag and placed on a stretcher, and two people wearing blue masks were preparing to wheel the stretcher to a truck pulled onto the sidewalk. Their jackets said “CRIME” or “NYC CRIME” or something like that.
Maybe there had been a commotion earlier and it had taken forever to process the scene, and maybe people had just become bored with the situation, but it struck me in a bad way how few people seemed to notice what was going on mere yards from them.
I saw tourists with cameras taking shots of the water. I saw people laughing into their phones, playing with their BlackBerrys, sipping their coffee. I asked a couple of people if they knew anything about the body. They literally just shrugged.
As I walked back, I realized it had been days since I’d seen the large, abrasive woman who always yells, “Handsome, can you buy me a hotdog? Beautiful, can you get me something to eat?” Sometimes she’s relatively sweet, but other times she isn’t so much: “You should be thankful you have a job! What about me? I’m hungry!” (She draws out the last word: “Huuuungry!”) She is angry, desperate.
It’s silly to think the body was hers, and it most likely was not. And though it matters, in a way it doesn’t. Whoever washed up today was at some point someone’s daughter or son, sister or brother, wife or husband, mother or father. That person drew breath and now doesn’t. That person was uncomfortably similar to me.