1969. I get a temp job on Manhattan’s diamond block, West 47th between 6th and 7th, working in an upstairs room sorting and transporting gems from bins into marked envelopes. It is menial, minimum wage. The perk for me is spending my lunch hour across the street at the Gotham Book Mart; I can see the Wise Men Fish Here sign from my window.
On my left works an old woman with a concentration camp tattoo on her forearm; on my right a young man with a lizard on his biceps. The young man asks me to join him for lunch and tells me that he’s been watching the operation for a while. He has determined that the managers do not know exactly what they have until we sort the gems; how easy it would be to slip a few in our pockets each day. He proposes that we take turns on lookout duty. I decline.
That afternoon, one of the bosses approaches the young man, says, “Can I talk to you for a minute,” and escorts him out of the room. I never see him again. He likely believes that I ratted him out. So be it, but I devoutly hope the old woman doesn’t think the same.