we heard him half a block away.
i'd taken time to go see nathan this weekend... showing up last night, a day early, he and i decided to celebrate my return to wash heights by going out for a glass...or six....of wine, finally hitting home around 3.15 am.
needless to say, we were loathe to go out today. our tired bodies and fuddled heads were joined by a steady rain falling outside.. both situations combined to keep us up here on the 5th floor of his pre-war co-op. lots of water, coffee, a good carb filled breakfast, hours of survivorman....we finally decided to go out into the reduced to a fine mist rainy day. i'd promised to make 'toad in the hole', and of the six ingredients needed to create the batter, the 'toads' and gravy...he had one. so, there we were, walking up the street towards the local grocery store, discussing the day, family, the pure perfection of 'toad in the hole' and life in general.
"what IS that noise?", we both asked at the same time.
past the bus stop, we saw him across the street... rocking the newspaper dispenser for one of the many free papers in new york. he pushed and pulled it, rocking it back and forth on the sidewalk, moaning the whole time. calling out in words only he could translate, he brought his hands up with full force, yet, holding back on his strike, so that his fists bounced gently off the metal. he backed off, holding his head between clenched fists, still speaking and moaning... i started saying, over and over, "oh, the poor lamb! oh, no!" nathan steered me to the curb, not letting me walk to this man who was in such pain of some sort or another. by now, he'd walked up to a group who were exiting the train station--looking at each as if he were picking one of them up, having only seen photos of the person before. he tipped his head, still comforted by his hands, and rocked back and forth... his moans reduced to short sobs.
we walked down, his voice pitched to that note that allows it to skate on top of normal conversation, riding the sound waves, dipping into your ears before other, regular, conversations could.
i saw a paramedics truck ahead, said to nathan, "let's tell them"--but, they were dashing in with a stretcher, bent on saving a life or something of that ilk.
i noticed then that the wail was quieted. conversations suddenly started back, no longer blocked by the sound barrier he'd created. i worried he'd gone into the station... to lose himself there. i knew he'd more than likely wander down the street... waiting for the time when he'd have to release his pain and confusion over life or the world or the fact subway fares had gone up.
i knew this, and thought to myself, i never wanted to hear that sound again... knowing i could do nothing.
not sure i'd even try.