It was maybe 18 inches from me, and it announced itself with no subtle gesture. It was exclamatory, a punctuation on everything surrounding it. It’s color was indeterminate, its texture apparently quite smooth and soft, its presence spectacular.
It was the wide horizontal grin of the top of an old man’s ass, peeping out of the top of his miscalibrated, less than form fitting blue jeans. And it was riveting.
How a person can be as completely oblivious to the fact that his ass crack is on display for the whole damn world to see is just as astounding. Does the elderly gent not know or simply not care that his mud-lustre cheeks are peering at the world? Is this a deliberate fashion precursor to the hip-hop ass bearing? Does this man not own a belt?
I sat next to this man and gazed at this spectacle for maybe 15 minutes. I was at a bar in the far reaches of Staten Island, after taking the ferry over in a fit of pure boredom. He was drinking Coors Light, wearing very wide fitting white Nike tennis shoes, a red flannel shirt with noticable stains from one meal or another, and on that shirt, one button. The button read “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”
He would wheeze occasionally, and kept his eyes glued on his beer. It wasn’t a the posture of reflection; more one of defensive retreat. Something has worn down this geezer to the point that he was fighting off the hard rain of his long years even inside this very non-descript dive bar at the end of nowhere. He clearly expected nothing, had lived to be disappointed, endured to become cynical, and now he sat next to me, alone, wishing, I thought, that I would go away.
I would and I did, but first I spoke to him.
“Did you live here when the city almost went under?” I asked, referring to his button.
I thought him consumed by his internal affairs, or just plain rude and indifferent. I tried again.
“Do you live in Staten Island?”
He looked at me. Turning so slightly right to left, and nodded. Then he returned to his hunched over, my apocalypse is nigh carriage and made me feel like I had just executed a very substantial violation of his zeitgeist.
I paid for my beer, left a tip, and began walking to the door and back to the ferry. So much for this woebegone borough, I thought.
Before leaving, I turned back to the sad old guy. “Your ass is hanging out of your pants, by the way.” So much for your attitude, I thought.
His head jolted up, he shot me the biggest, snaggle-tooth grin I’ve ever seen, and he started laughing like it was the funniest thing he had ever, ever heard.
After the laughing stopped, his face went to stone. Then he said, in very menacing tone, “I need my time alone and my ventilation. Here I get both. What do you need?”
I left. I walked twenty minutes or so back to the ferry terminal and stood in the misty rain going back to Manhattan, unable to really find a valid answer.
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