The gesture was ostentatious, the prerogative obscure, the objective nebulous. But I sounded like I had a load of dough when I walked into the deep southwest stall at the Port Authority, jingle jangle with every step. And then the stench wafted like only poorhouse wino stench can waft. And I cursed the day I was born.
I had gone to the money currency exchange on 42nd Street and loaded my overalls in every damn dinar, escudo, piastre, repee, and regal ruble I could lay my hands on. In fact, I cashed out the last of my earthly sawbucks for what I saw was a Pickett’s Charge toward the existential black hole that existed in that labyrinthine octopus’ garden of debauchery; The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, at 42nd and 8th. It wasn’t a moral crusade; it was a renunciation of what this horrific edifice had come to represent to me. It embodied the wholesale transience and impermanence of a world that had become completely unmoored and was drifting hopelessly toward a peril larger than any one man or his small or large brood could imagine in one hundred dark, sweaty nightmares. To put this objective manifestation to rubble was my intent. But first I wanted to show off a little.
As I sat there in the stall, I heard a self-satisfied “aahhh” and exclamatory “huh!.” Then silence, then a very pious recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. I discreetly looked beneath the aluminum wall and made out a plastic bag emblazoned with “Urban Luggage” filled with what appeared to be three or four dozen dead kittens. That’s when I started jangling my change. Doling it out like I’m Mr. Park Avenue. Shaking my money maker. The Big Cheese, amigo, has arrived.
The man in the adjacent stall stopped his incantation and gently rolled a shop-worn, slightly soggy package of Twinkies beneath the stall to me. I returned the favor and clicked 1000 Peruvian Pesatas over with my right forefinger. Then a quiet, friendly whisper response: “May I use your tourniquet, brother?”
Luck had it that I did in fact have it with me, but the request was too audacious to even consider. I whispered back, “No can do.”
I heard a sign, a flush that lasted maybe 30 seconds, an unclick to the door, and footsteps out. Another tenant arrived seconds later.
I sat there for another four hours, contemplating how I was to put this House of Usher to its final grave, until I realized I was slowly being encrusted by a pale white mucas that moved discernibly southeast to northwest on my body and had covered my body to the lower regions of my neck. This invasion of the body snatchers moment unnerved me and sent me scurrying from my stall, with all of my exotic coinage bouncing from my pockets as I scrambled to the exit.
Upon leaving the building, I was embraced by a 300 pound man with white sneakers, knee-length shorts, and a t-shirt that read “I Am The Future.” He jammed me forcefully in the back of a waiting limo, and we drove for at least two hours. I now work tending his livestock in what appears to be Pennsylvania, and reading him John Donne’s sonnets and selected pages of Finnegan’s Wake. I sleep in a sitting position on an outhouse toilet, into which I am locked from sundown to sunrise.
Sometimes I miss the big city, I suppose, but now my life is very, um, grounded.