Fireworks and Soup

About a month after they'd made me leave work, in October, I was sitting in a coffee shop near Grammercy Park. I was reading an Italian men's fashion magazine, looking at the winter coats. In a big winter coat I can still look all right.

It was a rainy fall day, and the streets were full of wet leaves and children in strollers, four-year old children still sucking on baby pacifiers. I watched them through the window.

There was a bum weaving through traffic, stepping in front of cars. After a moment, one hit him. It was an Oldsmobile, wearing a fresh bumper-sticker for the Dukakis campaign.

I read half the magazine before an ambulance came for him. The rescue workers put on plastic gloves, before one lifted his bloody arm to take his pulse. Another breathed into his mouth through a plastic cup. They were trying to save his life without ever touching his skin.

I could feel my coffee burning my esophagas. The rescue workers were afraid he was like me. They were afraid he was infected like me. They were afraid one drop of his spit or blood could mix with theirs, and condemn them to a long, ugly, young deterioration and death, like me.

I got up and changed tables. "I've just come from over there," I told my new waitress.

Library of Congress Copyright TXU-539235