_Originally published as part of The Missing Soul
Under the Pseudonym Steven Bishop
The city of New York. A city of yellow, somehow. Maybe it’s the endless stream of taxi cabs. Maybe it’s the hue of graffiti, or the stain of urine in the gutters.
A man in a grey business suit walks in long strides down the sidewalk. He sees the lightning up above and knows they called for severe storms today. He doesn’t want to get drenched when the rain begins. October rains are cold, and besides, he just had the suit dry-cleaned. A bum grabs his arm and asks for some change; says he doesn’t want to spend the night soaking wet; says he needs some money to find shelter. The businessman pulls his arm away and says sorry, but he doesn’t have any money. He doesn’t even know he is talking. He’s lived here for years and no longer thinks, but reacts. In the city, he decided long ago, you have to be callous ....
The bum falls back. He sifts through a trash can and thinks of the buck-thirty-seven in his pocket. Rejected too many times today, doomed for the coming storm. They probably thought he’d spend the cash on drugs, but just like everyone else, he doesn’t want to get soaked. He remembers how people used to tell him you could make a load of money in a day as a bum on the street. It was true, but those blessèd days were destroyed by the weeks of famine in-between.
A young tourist is sickened by a bum digging through the trash. He does not live here so he sees the desperate man. He carefully looks away and picks up his pace to get by this scene. He was warned when he first got here to ignore the bums. A block further on he sees a man with a sign that says ‘Jesus is Alive.’ He knows it’s about to rain, but he stops for a moment to talk to the man. The man speaks of faith, and after two minutes the tourist hands him a dollar and walks on. That’s fifty-three dollars today.
A cabby drops off a businessman and mutters under his breath about the lousy tip. Now off duty, he drives away quickly. He’s heading home. He drives by two men talking on the sidewalk. One’s holding a sign that says ‘Jesus is Alive’ and the cabby sort of laughs to himself. He relaxes for just a second before the rain begins. Then he’s tense again. He hates city traffic in the rain.
At the side of the road he sees a white Buick with a flat. The car’s covered with sopping wet decorations and a sign that’s nearly ruined by the rain. In blurry letters it reads ‘Just Married.’ The cabby hesitates, then hits his brakes and stops beside the Buick. A young black couple looks at him from the other car and he motions to them. They look at one another, then the young man gets out and opens the cab door. Despite a blaring horn from the car stuck behind the cab, he talks to the cabby. “Y’on duty?”
“No, but get in anyway. Yer chauffeur’ll take care of the car.” The young bride gets in the cab while her husband throws their luggage in the trunk. He hops in and says they need to catch the flight to their honeymoon. The cabby silently curses his good will and speeds off to the airport.
The young couple tries to start a conversation, but the cabby answers in little more than a grunt. He’s paying attention to the road, watching it through torrents of rain. And he’s trying not to hit the fools who don’t know how to drive in this.
A miserable half hour brings them at last to the airport. The couple tells him they’ll make their flight and, how much is the fare? “Don’t worry ’bout it,” grumbles the cabby. “Have a good trip.”
Yes, this is New York City. A city of yellow, somehow. Maybe it’s the endless stream of taxi cabs. Maybe it’s the hue of graffiti, or the stain of urine in the gutters. Or just maybe, it’s the oft missed sunshine breaking through the clouds, shining on our Lady Liberty.