Escaping One Thing or Another Until Eventually It’s You

Take your beer outside when it gets too cold at the bar and the rain is off-and-on, there’s been lightening all day, so the turnout is weak and you’re standing among just a handful of smoking regulars when a woman walks up to you, out of the rain, with a glass bottle of Perrier jutting out of her purse that she touches now and then. She’s soaking wet and asks you, “And the collapse of the penny? The American penny? It’s happened overnight.”

You tell her it hasn’t.

She asks if you’re sure about this and you confess that you aren’t, but then say that the odds are slim, and she sighs at this, relieved, and walks off under a row of storefront canopies, muttering, satisfied.

#

The shops and bars here are clustered in a three-block stretch, a nice little area where families spend their Saturdays, and there’s a man here, young, who walks the entire stretch back and forth all day. You sit at a bar for a long time, by the window, and see him pass more than a dozen times, talking to himself, and sometimes he’s on this side of the street and sometimes the other. He pauses often to smile and to do this one quick dance move. The luau thing where you make little waves of your arms in a certain direction and match the rhythm with your hips. He’s dressed all in black despite the heat.

When you ask the bar tender he says that this guy is twentysomething and friendly, chatty, and that he claims to have been raised in Atlanta and that his parents put him on a southbound train to Florida in the interest of riddance with a bag full of clothes and a small bit of money. He’s schizophrenic too and has twice been taken by police for collapsing into tearful prayer at the intersection.

Right now though he’s smiling, walking, dancing.

#

An overweight bar tender is working her hair into a bun and telling an equally-overweight regular that “I said to her, ‘Fine, I’m fat, whatever. I can lose the weight. But if you’re gonna be so rude that you say something like that to a total stranger, then I know that you’ll always be ugly.’ So…”

The regular nods at her, then nods into his drink. “Yep.”

She says, “Am I wrong?”

He says, “Nope.”

#

A friend is reverential over her evening’s only beer in telling this story of a student whose arms had been severed neatly below the elbow. Marveling at his dexterity, at the capacity to evolve, she talks about having seen him at a computer in the lab one night typing gracefully with his stumps. Then, with his stumps, he stops typing, takes the wallet from his pocket, removes a stick of gum, unwraps the gum and puts it in his mouth and tosses the wrapper and continues to type.

She’s shaking her head. “Can you imagine.”

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