He’s standing on the sidewalk of Lexington Avenue, addressing each person who hurtles past, but he’s waiting only to talk to you. He’s there, in front of the store that sells old televisions whose cathode ray tubes take minutes to warm up and show every image in a palette of grays. He reaches out as if to touch each passerby, each isolated person.
The wind resettles pages of old newspaper in front of him. They dodge the fire hydrant, grip his legs in desperation, then fall away, drowning sideways. He never loses his place or pauses the monologue, or pulls his collar up or wipes away the specks of dust that fly into his face.
He wears a black suit that was recently clean, narrow lapels and a thin, black tie. His voice is pitched high. It is a voice that skims above the surface noise of traffic, a jitterbug voice, a voice that pierces like shards of fiberglass.
The current of pedestrians flows around him, avoiding his eyes, short-circuiting his words. One or two people turn back and stare.
You sit at the table in the window of the cafe next door. Each time the door opens, his voice grows more distinct, then fades as the door closes. You hide behind your papers, no one can see your face.
You know how old his suit is, where it was purchased and how much it cost. You know when was the last time he slept at home, and where he’s slept each night since. You know by heart this speech he gives each day. Your mouth silently forms the words as he speaks them. It was your speech first, and if you could, you’d bite off your tongue and swallow it to keep from ever having said those things to him.