865 That Guy 10-15-19

Around 2 AM Greenwich Village time, he’d arrive at
Reggio’s
on McDougal Street, one block south
of the southwest corner of Washington Square Park
where young junkies and old Jews
played speed chess in the dark
and prepared for the second coming of Bobby Fisher.
Reggio’s,
the after-after-hangout of my misspent adolesence.
A party or a date with my High School steady done,
friends taking the subway to their homes in Brooklyn or The Bronx,
I’d head to 11 West 8th Street, my Fathers apartment in The Village,
(he and my Mother having split again {and again and again}),
where he’d meet his many women and weld his abstract sculptures,
Mother having fled to the
Ford Street – Avenue U town-home in Brooklyn
my great-grand-Aunt-Genevieve owned.
But, always, first to
Reggio’s,
an ancient coffee house in Little Italy,
old mahogany walls,
brass-tile ceiling,
busts of heroic Italians,
Vivaldi, Dante, Garabaldi,
secured in their corners and shelves.
Jamacian women with heroic busts,
and Dominican men, sitting at wrought iron tables
with their fair-skinned, blonde dates…
Soon the crowd thinned.
Tourists and wanna-be’s headed home.
A remnant remained,
sitting, fidgeting,
listening to steam hiss and bang in the espresso machine
as the valves opened and shut.
Drinking Quinoto or fresh squeezed orange juice,
secreting whiskey from vest-pocket-hid silver flasks
into tall juice glasses.
Waiting…

Finally,
He came.

The old man.

On cool, late October nights
he wore a tattered news-boy cap, pulled low to his ears,
a long, gray, wool coat cinched with a leather-belt.
He carried a shoe-box, string tied, filled with his poems,
penciled on index-cards, disarranged in some chaotic order
known only to him.

He was greeted by some of the older patrons,
the real Village People,
denizens of this soon-to-be-gentrified
Manhattan neighborhood.
Others had followed him there, the tail of his comet.

He’s sit at his table, next to the WC.
(Yes! WC was stenciled on the door!)
He, over 70 at least,
would sooner and later have to pee.
(I know this now.)

He untied his shoe-box, smiled,
“Mind if I read a few?”
(his little joke with us…)
Assent rose from his audience in a long, low sigh.
He’d “pick a card, any card!”
Read, his voice a grumbling growl.

I don’t remember who he was.
Some greatly known obscure poet,
rising from the Village Melting Pot
along with the smells of
peppers and onions
and pizza and lamb kabobs,
and stale puke,
whose love poems and street poems and his rhythms and rhymes,
all memorized,
mezmorized all.

During his “I gotta piss” breaks,
I would write in my journal,
my own words,
my own short lines,
some stolen,
some inspired,
from, by, him.
I would hide the book under the table.
For, in the bright light of His poems,
I felt my glimmers to be pretentions.
I felt a cheat, a falsehood.
Of course I was!
I was seventeen!
(I know this, now.)

During one not-to-pee-break,
he worked his way to my table, to me,
hidden in back by the window.
I held my breath.
I looked anywhere but at him…
He sat,
at my table.

He said, “Greetings young fellow.
I’ve seen you here before.
I see you throw your book on the floor.
Pick it up, boy.
Unless you think it’s just shit!”

I obeyed.
It wasn’t ALL shit.
He never touched it.

“You write, do you?”
I looked down at my book.
He waited.
“Yes.”
I whispered.
“Don’t!” he yelled.
“Unless writing is the only thing you can do,
the only means you have to say what
you believe is true.
It might wreck you, anyway.
It still hurts me to shit myself,
which I still do,
over and over and often..
But, you may be the better for it…”

He rose, walked back to his chair,
sat down, read a few more pieces,
creaked from his seat, shuffled out the door.

Then there was no more air in
Reggios.

After,
when I could breathe,
I knew I wanted to be
that guy,
someday.
I’m not, yet.
I mean,
Hell!
I’m only 70!

About Ken Greenman

Married and Happy. Retired and busy. Living in NC. 71 and counting. December 12, 2020 and it's 72! ... I would love some written comments, critiques, adulation or kind suggestions.... If you have the time and or inclination, please feel free! Not in fear but by faith. We will see. See you later! If you ever want to talk for real, email me and I will send you my cell number.... I am enjoying this!
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