Having just dropped towel in the men’s locker room of one of the numerous branches of the Union Square-area New York Sports Clubs, I bent over to slip my leg into my underwear (charcoal gray boxer briefs, from Bloomies, of course!) when I noticed out of the corner of my right eye that someone had moved inappropriately close to my backside.
Rather than pause and cautiously await what would happen next, I quickly drew the shorts snuggly into place and turned to find an older man, standing within inches of me. To my eye, he resembled what one would expect Frank O’Hara (http://www.frankohara.com/) to look like today had he not been laid low by a Fire Island dune buggy on that summer night in 1966.
He was completely naked—naked and smiling, a combination that I found rather disconcerting given my surroundings and the early time of day (8:30 a.m.). Despite his unsettling proximity, he seemed harmless enough, so I stepped back a bit and raised my eyebrows in what I hoped would be interpreted as a form of the international May-I-Help-You gesture.
Delighted by my response, he broadened his smile and extended his hand, palm-side up toward my chest. On each of three fingers he had balanced pennies, tail-side down. I looked down at the coins—trying my best to ignore the pink elephant in the room—and looked up at his face, offering another silent gesture, this one meant to convey, “And…?”
He continued to raise his hand until it was just in front of my face and than deftly spun it over in a gesture I took to mean that I should open my own hand and take the pennies. Finally he broke the silence, “Now, if you find a penny with heads up, we’ll both have a good day. And if you find three of them, well, then I think we’ll both have a fantastic day!” He maintained his smile mere inches from my face, and his gaze, which had all along been directed unblinkingly toward my eyes.
Not knowing what else to do or to say, I accepted his offering, laughed nervously, and muttered “Um…thanks….” The transaction completed, he turned and walked away. I finished dressing for work.
As I was leaving, I noticed the fellow standing near the exit of the locker room. He was simply leaning against the wall looking in my direction, and though some ten minutes had passed since the penny incident, he was still inexplicably naked.
Passing him, my breeding compelled me to wish him a good day, even while I kept my eyes averted. Again he smiled, reached for me, allowed his hand to rest lightly on my shoulder, and said, “I have a feeling we’re both going to have a wonderful day! Take care, friend.”
He nodded and I left the gym and headed over to the farmer’s market at Union Square.