Guy asks me for $1.80 on the subway.
White guy, bald, shirt and tie.
Says they towed his car with his wallet in it.
He is sitting in front of me. All the men
in the car have been stealthily eyeing
an astonishingly beautiful young woman
in a very short skirt, who has been
drawing in a big sketchbook. She is luminous.
Summer is almost over. I can't concentrate
on reading because I have to sneak looks
at the gorgeous artist. The day is flying
past in the fading sunlight.
Big bald oval head right in my face.
I'll pay you back, he says. That's okay,
I say. I give him two dollars. He says thanks
and turns around. We all resume studying
the woman. Two young black guys sit
across from me. One of them keeps
snapping his gum so loud it's like
a cap gun going off.
An enormous fat guy says to the beauty as he heads
for the door: I don't know how you can draw
with the train bumping around. She smiles
at him. We are all overcome with the radiant
brilliance of her smile. I think about music,
I think about my godson smashing nine windows
in New Jersey yesterday. We are always trying
to break out. Sex is better than religion.
She gets up at Metro Center. The doors slide open
for her and she's gone. It's back to real time.
The Yankees are one and a half games out of first.
Someone's cell phone rings and he squawks:
Can't hear you. I'm on the subway. What?
The bald guy rises up. I know he will turn
around before exiting and thank me again,
give a further gesture of appreciation.
It's the right thing to do. Two bucks
is not nothing between strangers.
I'm sure he'll give me that bonus nod.
first published in Smartish Pace