Thursday, May 31, 2012

Black Plastic

I recognize the man in the stained white hoodie and soiled jeans with skin blotchy from the sun and city. He is frail and moves as if injured, shuffling along like a patient in a hospital hallway, dragging an IV stand.

In one hand is a black plastic bag and in the other, a large Styrofoam cup.  He passes by my table and chooses another near the entrance to the cafĂ©, which I know, is only a door down from the AA entrance.

Before he sits, he holds the black bag above the wobbly outdoor table. Cautiously, he lowers the bag until the bottle cradled inside finds its feet. He pushes the black plastic down just enough to uncover the cap and then carefully leans over it to unscrew. He squeezes the black plastic around the bottle’s neck and tilts it steadily until the golden liquid flows into the cup.  He replaces the cap, pulls up the black plastic like he’s pulling up his pants (with a tug and detachment) and carefully lowers himself back into his chair.

People start to show for the 10am meeting. Some greet each other and begin animated conversations.  Others lean lonesome against the building, lips tugging on cigarettes. They are of no particular type – or more accurately they are uniquely specific, and particularly different, from each other. You would not imagine this group gathering for anything in common. Not the same concert or movie or restaurant or rally.

I expect the members to notice the man with the plastic bag. Instead they seem actively unaware. We are three planets, orbiting each other.

The man stretches his back in his seat. I do the same. I take a sip of my coffee and when I look at him again, we are both scratching our backs, fingers reaching up under our t-shirts. I see his skin, the side of his body, the curve of his lower spine and I run my fingers across my own.