I’m sorry to say that one man on the 7:30AM ferry from Staten Island to Manhattan did not fit in.
Young, pale with chestnut hair, a small skislope-pug nose; dressed in what appeared to be a standard NYC sous-chef outfit, except with both the black pants and white shirt cut too wide, and with the pants dropped down to his upper thighs — and dirty with not the occasional well-formed stains that record a days work moving grease, dressings, diced tomatoes, multicolored condiments, and other foodstuffs a little too quickly from here to there; but dirty instead with days of exhausted, unslept, dirty-finger-smeared, NYC-floor-reclining, all-pervading grime.
His naked arms covered with abrasions — red, round, scabbing, peeling, here and there bleeding fresh and sometimes orange. His blue eyes blood red. Talking by turns to himself and to people he imposed himself on before they fled his proximity (no one gave a word of adieu; everyone simply — wide-eyed and tortoise-chinned, swiveling so as to keep watch on the iffy proposition as they walked — moved silently away).
“Catholicism is not a bad religion. You have to think of what you pray before you pray it. That’s the whole point!”
“Fucking nun! A fucking nun! A nun! Fucking nuns! A fucking nun!”
Of a man resting his palms on the railing while gazing out at the Statue of Liberty in the fresh morning light, to a 50ish woman with a big round face and thick overflowing lightbrown graying hair who stayed longer nearer than most, with lips pursed in concern and blue eyes frogging beneath a twisted worry-brow:
“I think it (the statue of liberty) looks stupid! You could only (like it) if you’re fucking retarded! Look at (that guy)! He must be retarded? Hey, (now to the man alone at the railing) are you a fucking retard? Hey, are you retarded?”
From time to time, the 30ish man, pale with black hollows under his eyes, no real wrinkles on his narrow sharp-chinned face, lips a little chapped and scaling, lies back into a row of plastic scoop-seats, sprawling his thin wounded arms and bulging-knuckles fingers back behind him.
But to return to the Terminal:
Bartleby silently sipped iced tea and ate an orange while a 50ish man with a small, gently-spreading paunch in off-white, beige and blue flannel shirt and tidy blue jeans, spoke to the woman across from him in the metal-mesh waiting chairs. The man was possessed of a pleasing Irish brogue tenor. He felt it was terrible that the security guards aren’t going to do anything but send the guy on his way, and that’s exactly the problem, nobody ever intervenes, nobody helps, they just push these guys off onto the next thing.
Bartleby concentrates on the sweet-tang enthusiasm of the orange mingling with the astringent, law-abiding certainty of the iced tea while the very short, cylindrically-flabby 40s woman in a thin black button-up sweater worn open over a light-brown T-shirt emblazoned with a beautiful print of an evergreen mountainside looking over snowy peaks responds. What does she say? Something that the man can’t quite bring himself to agree with, some opinion on the cause of all societal woes that doesn’t really fit his own theories, something to which he can only tilt his head and change the his leg-cross to the opposite ankle-to-knee pairing.
And the security guards themselves? In bullet proof vests beneath short-sleeved white collared uniform shirts or outside short-sleeved blue polo uniformed shirts. The short one with the dark crew-cut says to the drugged-out fool, “You don’t wanna mess with me today!”
But to return to the ferry:
Another security guard, but big and tall, and with a bushy white mustache and a bald head, as the ferry pulls into port, he and several other guards had been forced to finally intervene. Because the troubled soul had gone from merely importuning people with unwanted observations on what losers everyone to bellowing “ahhhhhh! ahhhh! ahhhhh!” And lurching about, making it scary for normal citizens to make their way orderly to the exits.
The several big security guards had boxed him into a bench near the front (on this leg of the journey) of the ferry. “No! You can’t go until I say you can go!”
After everyone left, they let the beserker go, and he ran through the throng as they made their way through the wide corridor on the western side of the Manhattan ferry terminal.
Where was he going?
Where had he come from?
Bartleby Willard strolls slowly, contemplatively along through the moving mass of morning commuters, wondering if he, Bartleby Willard, had ever mustered the empathy to actually believe that another human being truly existed, truly woke up each morning with thoughts and feelings rising, and went to bed each night in the stillness of a temporarily dissolving consciousness.
Have you Bartleby? Have you ever believed that anyone besides you really thinks and feels from the inside out? Or do you experience them more like the rough outer edges of wind-swept and spray-doused boulders piled up along the base of the battery wall?