Can I Hold You?
Why the barking dog in the sweltering heat of Buenos Aires takes me back to winter in NYC I don’t know.
I was in a panic of mania and the cold searched out even insulated crevices of skin and got inside. I had fled from the bus station in early morning darkness and I was hunched and scurrying in an ill fitting pair of jeans with a frozen pretzel gripped in my hand that I had unhooked from an unattended vendor’s booth. I was gnawing bits of it off, the burnt flavor and its frozen texture at odds and a man blocked my way.
I took the opportunity to ask him for some change. His short business cut and a thick wool overcoat over his stubby body, he had a desperate look in his face and he asked, “Can I hold you? Just rub your body and hold you? I’ll give you five dollars.”
“No,” I said simply and tried to move around him.
“Please. I just want to hold you.”
In an uninvested way I was pissed off. The disparity between us was so obvious. Maybe he didn’t know I’d been sleeping in the bus station or that inertia has sent me reeling through streets so cold the air seemed to be made of ice crystals. Or maybe he could tell and that’s what made him think he could say, “I’ll give you five dollars if you’ll just let me hold you. Touch you,” making his own isolation so much plainer than my own. Begging the beggar.
“No! Fuck off!” I said, my oversized boot tips flopping on the frozen sidewalk as I lurched around him, the cold turbo-charging my legs, spurring them to take me somewhere else. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. More than spare change.
I just had to get away from the dark brown-orange tile of the bus station basement, the lumps of people sleeping, and and into the city. I had fled the would-be life partner I’d met on the Greyhound who swore his name was Robby Bobeé and who’d given me the jeans I was wearing that bunched up in my crotch as I walked and made me feel like I was wearing a diaper.
He was back in a dusty heap with my duffle bag loaded with 9 useless nail clippers, my car title and whatever else my psychotic mind had told me was necessary for the dramatic gesture of fleeing Louisville, the family that had had me committed to the institution for what I swore was the last time, college, and my crackhead neighbors.
I had taken the poverty I had refused to beg my parents out of with me to a New York winter.