15 Jun

The man slugishly pushes a grocery cart half full of pop cans through the crowd. His grizzled gray hair pokes out from underneath an ill-fitting black beret. He’s dressed in rags- a street person. His eyes are cast on the ground, where he scans for littered trash he can turn into pocket change. For him though, the change is probably what feeds him, or his addiction. Every once in awhile he finds something, usually a bottle, and he bends down, knees shaking, to pick it up. He’s limping, and there’s this unspoken space surrounding him, some invisible line people don’t want to cross over. I can think of one man who would have.

There’s this other guy, not very far away who saunters just ahead of his group of friends. His pants are baggy and low. He’s wearing a white T-shirt, and I smell nothing but the stench of beer as I pass by. It’s slathered all over his shirt. I guess he missed his mouth a few times. They’re shouting something now, just barely coherent, about how they need more alchohol. Something  obscene is then shout at me, and it makes me very aware of my aloneness. I quickly walk away.

I spot another man in a small clearing between two food vendors. Sweat drips off his piggish face. He’s standing in the largest available open space, clutching a cluster of bright balloons. He strikes me as the most ridiculous person to be selling balloons- an item I’ve always associated with children and innocence. He takes frequent and quick drags on his cigarette, then flicks it to the ground, crushing it absentmindedly with the toe of his urban style, black sneakers. Yet every now and again someone comes up and buys a balloon for their child. Maybe he sells balloons to buy more cigarettes?

I continue walking, seeing far more people than I’d ever be able to remember or write about. Certain ones stand out, others drift in and out of  my mind, unconsciously filtering what it cannot latch onto for memory. There are so many different kinds of people, different groups. Being alone accentuates this for me, allowing me to shed an awareness of the group I would have been with, to instead become aware of the groups surrounding me. I am groupless, drifting like a vagabond between them all, wondering at how different they all are. Some groups are families; moms or dads pushing strollers and holding children’s hands. Some groups are low-income teenagers from the surrounding area who have nothing better to do than check out the festival which has infiltrated their neighborhood.

A lot of groups are youngish-looking people dressed in bohemian looking outfits, the girls strapped across with a sling purses. I can almost picture them standing before their closets in the suburbs deciding which outfit will make them look the most “artsy.” And so they pick something not quite their preppy selves, but which is just quite perfect for heading  into the city for an art festival.


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