Thursday, April 23, 2009

City Of Strange Encounters

This past Tuesday evening, I wound up using a branch of my gym that is in midtown, near Carnegie Hall. It was about 8:30 at night when I left the gym and started walking to the A train.

I had crossed Broadway on 57th Street and was continuing west when I noticed an older woman stopped and began walking alongside me. I thought nothing of it at first, I figured she happened to discover she was heading the wrong way and was simply anonymously going about her life like me and 8 million other people. Then she spoke to me.

“Excuse me,” she said in a very pleasant voice. “You remind me of someone who used to work around here.”

I remained pleasant in return, and told her that I was not the person she thought I was. I have never worked in the midtown area.

“You remind me of someone that used to work around here.”

“No, it’s not me. Sorry.”

“Are you Irish? Of Irish-American decent?”

I am, but didn’t respond to the question because I don’t want to discuss all things Irish with strange women on the street.

She continued, “I live very close by, if you care to come over.”

“No thank you,” I said. She stopped and turned away as I continued walking to the subway.

Was I just propositioned by an elderly prostitute? I thought to myself as I stoically walked away. This woman was old enough to be my grandmother. She was neatly dressed; this was no bag lady or escaped mental patient. Maybe with our aging population and downturned economy, the elderly are selling their bodies to pay for what Medicare doesn’t cover. Maybe she was an eccentric million-heiress who wanted to bed a younger man, and if I had followed her home and done the deed she would have sent me on my way with millions in untraceable cash.

My real thoughts on this strange invitation ranged from religious fanatic to crazed lunatic to just sad lonely old person. She may be all three, but she was most certainly lonely and old. Unfortunately, the person who does accept this elderly woman’s invitation for a visit will probably not be a benign hurried commuter.

Loneliness is a big part of life, even in a city teeming with millions of people. The woman is one I’ll probably never see or hear from again. I will likely never know her name or who she was or when and how she dies. I only hope she finds the help she needs if she’s mentally ill or some companionship if she isn’t.

1 comment:

czar said...

Interesting story. Speaking of strange encounters . . .

I heard an interview with Ray Davies of the Kinks a few months back, and he told this story.

He was in New York, early '70s, having just given a particularly bad concert. I believe someone had slipped him a mickey of some concoction, and he was essentially unable to perform. He spent the night walking the streets, despondent, wondering what had become of his life. He ended up in an Automat at about 7:30 a.m., telling his woes to his breakfast-stool neighbor.

"I don't know who I am anymore. I don't know where I'm going. I don't know what's happening to me."

His neighbor, a well-built black man, said, "I know how you feel."

It was Joe Frazier.