Saturday, November 23, 2013

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I awoke at 3:30am a few nights ago and was not able to get back to sleep. My body felt as languid and tattered as an old teddy bear, but my mind was all racetracks and merry-go-rounds.

"Did you set you're alarm for tomorrow?" I asked myself, "There's no food in the apartment. I wonder when Key Food opens? You should check to see when Key Food opens," and so on.

Therefore, an hour and a half before dawn, I decided to take a walk around my northern Brooklyn neighborhood. I usually walk when I can't think of anything else to do, but I had never done so at such an early o'clock; well, in sobriety, that is. A strange excitement flushed through me as I anticipated absorbing the various, eerie sounds ricocheting the empty, early morning streets: lone cars; the loud, drunken conversations of tired revellers (inevitably littered with should've/would'ves and what-ifs); the dull, low, murmuring wind.

Suddenly, a solitary, staggering person in front of me began shouting in my direction: "DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?" I shook my head and tried to ignore him, but he cornered me and began cursing about how he doesn't like to be ignored.

"I spent seven years in jail! Just got out!' he said, in an insulted, intoxicated tone. The demanded his presence and I felt it close around me. "I'm a licensed gun-owner!" he then yelled while reaching in his jacket pocket. I startled; I took a very quick step backwards. "Licensed!" he said, trying to reassure me, again as if defending his honor against offence. In retrospect, if he was fresh out of jail, then he likely would not have a gun license, but flight-or-flight superseded rationality in my primal mind.

"Can I have a dollar?" he said, "I have a family to support." I gave him a dollar. "Can I have another dollar?" I hesitated this time. "I can give you fifty cents change." I gave him a second dollar.

"You know what," said the man, "I hate lying, and I'm sorry I lied. I don't have a family. I just need to get back to Islip. You can have your money back." He reached in his pocket and offered the money back. When I refused, he asked for a third dollar, which I also refused. It suddenly occurred to me that the man simply wanted to talk.

But I still didn't want to give him any more money. "I need that dollar to buy mouthwash." This was my excuse.

The man kept trying to converse with me. We exchanged names. He wanted to share a drink, but if I assented, clearly, I would be buying all the rounds. In my first attempt to excuse myself, I tried the old worried-well trick: "I'm just really depressed right now and I really want to be alone," I explained, with as much desperation in my eyes as I could force.

This didn't work. "I think you need a woman. Sometimes you just gotta bust a nut. I gotta find me a blow, that's what I need."

I nodded sympathetically. Having a conversation with a stranger about sex ranks at the very end of what I wanted to do in those quiet, early morning hours.

"You have a woman? Wait, you gay or something?"

How to make myself sound as uninteresting as possible to this fellow? "I'm asexual," I shrugged.

"Hey, that's cool. My son's gay."

"Asexual," I lightly corrected, "I don't want to have sex with anyone."

He furrowed his brow. "You're a freak, Kelsey," said the man.