Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Stories From the Crossing

Crossing Delancey on the Avenue A
It was rush hour on the Avenue A which is why the walker lady with the sheitel and a hat had rushed the door in front of the wheelchair who was wearing a cap my dad used to wear.

Everyone chimed in with the bus driver for her to move out of the way, but all she heard was noise until he waved her back.

The old man in the wheelchair only had one leg, one eye, an orthodox beard and one friend as old and hairy as he was who wheeled him into the parking spot on the bus for wheelchairs. 

The 4:30, hurtling down to the East River, was packed, what between the teachers and the kids coming home from school, the hospital workers getting out, the errands being finished, the subway riders transferring over.  The wheelchair's friend moved back a bit,  and hanging out by a pole, pulled out his New York Post and started reading.

The walker lady got a seat from someone, one of the single seats along the windows.  The woman behind her, who was fighting middle age with a vengeance, tapped her on the shoulder.  "Your wheels are on my bag."  The walker lady couldn't lift her walker, so finally the middle aged woman moved it for her, hugged her freed bags and glared at me. 

"What could I do..." murmured the walker lady.  Her accent, I hadn't heard it in years, but it was born of diaspora and several languages, one barely spoken anymore and I was suddenly back in the courtyard with the old ladies chortling in this woman's voice "monkey monkey" when B. hung upside on the railing.

Three tiny girls with huge backpacks of school books teetered in the aisle because the driver, no matter how many tattoos he had, was a cowboy.  The walker lady patted her walker seat.  "You wanna sit here? Come.  Sit, sit."

Yeshiva boys with matching loafers got on.  "Hi Ari, you Ok?  You doing OK?" one asked the man in the wheelchair.  "Yeah, yeah," he said, shifting himself in the chair and going back to staring out the window.

The Puerto Rican woman, my age, jeans and a warm parka, grabbed a sudden free seat across the aisle from the walker lady.   Their eyes met.

Beaming smiles and little waves across small space, the Puerto Rican woman asked, "You OK? You doing OK?"  "Nothing to complain about, nothing to complain about, everything good good," the walker lady said, then asked "You? You OK?" "Yeah, yeah.  Everything good." 

An elderly lady with tons of bags got on and eight people jumped up to give her a seat but she refused, instead gave it to the young woman who was blind instead.  No one had noticed the cane, just the pretty face, nicely made up.   The old lady and the young woman spoke Spanish to one another as polite strangers do.

More people got on, more people said hello to one another, more people got up to give more people their seats.  The African-American man, had to be at least 75 or 80 but only from the gray all over, he was very fit, said no, no, I'm fine, thank you.   Even if he wanted to sit down, that generation? Nah. You don't take a seat from a lady.

The little boys in the back being escorted home from school talked loudly to their earnest moms who shopped at Whole Foods and now filled the Lower East Side privatized co-ops with relief because it was affordable housing to them.  One little boy shouted questions that had words he knew you weren't suppose to shout in public.  "Are you pregnant?  Did the house make you pregnant?"  And his tired mom said, "Yes, that's it..." laughing to her friends.

And then Columbia Street came and the wheelchair and the friend and the yeshiva boys got off and suddenly the bus was empty.

Dana was waiting.

I was only half an hour late and there was much to cover.  Boy, was that bus packed and everybody talking, I said. I'll probably write about it tonight.  Well, she replied, you hear the best stories on the Avenue A.

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