Starting Out in the Evening


Photo: Dan McCoy, NARA, 1973.

Years ago, a psychic of some sort told me that the top of my head was open, that I had a WELCOME mat where a locked door ought to be, and I should be careful: any passing or wandering spirits could just drift in and make themselves at home. It felt like that last night. Partly in terms of psychic disturbance,  getting too many signals from too many stations—but also because everyone on the street wants to tell me something. 

I took a bus over to Avenue B.

There was a very dignified East Indian man sitting in front of me. When we were crossing Sixth Ave, he turned around and looked at me very seriously.

“What can you tell me about bedbugs?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“You know … bedbugs. What do they look like?”

“I’m not sure … Do you have bedbugs?”

“If I show you a picture, will you know?”

“Probably not.”

“That is not really satisfactory,” he frowned. “They are biting me. But mostly my wife.”

“So that’s lucky for you.”

“Yes,” he grinned. “I am always lucky.”

And then he got off the bus.

Five minutes later, I was wandering through Stuyvesant Town looking for the Oval.

I asked a man wearing a windbreaker.

“It’s across the street,” he said. “You won’t find it. I’ll show you.”

We crossed the street together.

“Do I seem jittery?” he asked.

“Not really.”

“I’m all wound up,” he said. “Do you know what I just did? I just bought half a million shares in medical marijuana. Penny stocks. Less than that. Each one’s a fraction of a penny. The whole thing cost me a hundred dollars. And you know it’ll go up! If I can sell them at five bucks a share that’s more than two million dollars. I never win the football pool. This seems like a better bet. When I leave the postal service in five years time, this’ll get me through.”

“You work for the post office?”

“Yeah.”

“I love the post office,” I told him.

“Me too.” And he pointed me toward the Oval and walked off.

I left the Oval after an hour. I just missed the Fourteenth Street bus, and I was lazy, so I hailed a taxi.

Near Avenue A, the driver pointed out the window and muttered something that sounded obscene.

I didn’t respond. He gave me a look.

“Why do they eat donkey?” he asked. “It’s disgusting.”

“Who eats donkey?”

“All these places.” He pointed to the cafés and restaurants all along Fourteenth. “You think it’s beef, lamb. It’s donkey. Disgusting.”

“How do you know?”

He spat out the window.

“I am Egypt. I know. I know!

He was quiet for a moment, then he spat again.

“And these girls. They are sexy, no? So sexy! But they are disgusting. I am Egypt,” he said. “I know.”

Brian Cullman is a writer and musician living in New York City.

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