You can tell this guy’s a character, just by looking.
Seems he has run into a friend of his. He strides toward him, his hand outstretched.
“There he is! The man himself!”
For the rest of the commute, he stands next to him. His hand holding the overhead strap, he sways like a reed.
He is a wiry fellow, this man, encased in Carhartt duds, a baggy blue knit cap. He has a drooping moustache and bright, clever eyes. When he smiles you can see he is missing an eye tooth. I judge him to be in his early 50s.
“I needed those big curving needles” he says to his friend, “came downtown, found two packs of them at the Walgreen’s. Bought them both for five dollars. Well, there was tax, too, but I didn’t mind paying it.”
His friend nods appreciatively.
“Fixed the couch of the lady down the hall. Big rip in the middle of it.”
He describes, in gesticulating details that often include both hands, the process of pulling, pinning, stitching and moving the couch from one room to another.
He describes the home-cooked meal he got in return for his services.
The meal, he pronounces, was middlin’, but the dessert was fiiiiiiiine.
I go back to my iPod but find I cannot stay away. I check in, turning the volume up or down as needed, every couple of minutes.
“I tell them, hey! I didn’t want the phone in the first place! They tell me, everybody got a phone! I tell them, well I don’t. I need to use a phone, I got three, four people right down the hall let me use theirs.”
“I hit all the thrift stores up and down that street. Finally found what I was looking for. After I’d set it right, I sold it. You can make a lot of money that way.”
“Oh, sure,” he says at one point, twisting the ends of his moustache, “you can use bee’s wax. Don’t think I didn’t think of that. The one thing you can’t use” – and here he looks directly at me, smiling – “is candle wax. Candle wax’ll make ya look like somethin’ that’s crawled on to the beach off the ocean floor.”
He has caught me watching him. He winks at me.
“You look like you might have a thought in your head,” he says. “What’s going on, cupcake?”
I smile, shake my head as my fellow commuters watch.
The bus comes to a stop. This stop is the big stop. Several people stand to exit, the aisle and seats finally clearing of the afternoon rush. A large woman carrying several bags pushes, angrily, from the back. “I need to get off,” she says. “Let me off. Move! Let me off.”
I turn around to watch.
“Move it. Move your skinny ass over,” she says to the upholsterer.
He moves aside. “Yeah, you go,” he says to the back of her head as she shoves past him. “Get home, make you something to eat.”
He turns back to his friend. “I shouldn’t be so rotten,” he says, shaking his head almost sorrowfully as the woman steps on to the street. “But I’m just so damn good at it.”
Have a good weekend, everyone. And only be rotten if you’re good at it.