Don’t Cry for Me

by

02/07/2011

Neighborhood: Prospect Heights

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I was standing at the platform waiting for the Q Train in the deep underbelly of the Atlantic Avenue station. I shouldn’t have been there. It was a Sunday afternoon and if everything had gone according to plan, I should have already reached Prospect Heights off the 3 train, if only the trains were running the way they were supposed to. I know—it was a lot to ask of the MTA on a Sunday afternoon.

Judging by the number of people milling around on the platform, I could tell I hadn’t just missed one. I picked a spot towards the end where the back of the train would be if it ever arrived, careful not to stand under any of the mysterious fluids that dripped from the ancient overhead structures. I couldn’t imagine what I would do if I ever got nailed by a drip. I imagined it burning an immediate hole through my skin forcing me to be rushed to Methodist—something I did not want to experience.

I was trying to be patient and not stare into the tunnel willing the headlights of the oncoming train to appear. I was attempting to be all Zen-like but always found it hard to fight the impulse. Just then I heard a woman’s voice resonating off the underground structures, “Don’t cry for me Argentina…” I turned around to face the direction I thought the full-bodied tones were coming from. But the singing had stopped and I didn’t notice any divas in sequins and chiffon, standing around waiting to catch their breath, preparing for the next stanza.

As I turned back around, it came again. “The truth is I NEVER left you.” The voice was getting louder; the mystery singer was really belting it out, evidently caught up in the echo quality that was more than a few notches up from a normal singing in the shower experience.

Only now I thought I figured out whom the show tunes vocalist was. The strong, falsetto soprano was actually a slightly overweight, balding man with glasses carrying an unmarked shopping bag. He was neatly dressed; the kind of average guy that would go unnoticed had he not been singing at the top of his lungs in a high, extremely loud voice, that wasn’t too bad.

He stopped after each line, like he was savoring the reverberations of each sound. He didn’t want to rush through it. And while I could appreciate this desire to sing, given the acoustics provided by the underground tunnel, even in a voice atypical of one associated with a male, he had crossed some sort of line. He had entered into that area reserved for the not quite right. Those who should know better but can’t seem to help themselves. I knew I was being judgmental but we couldn’t all just go around doing whatever we felt the urge to do. I mean, I’d like to belt out “ROXanne,” or something similar, but I don’t because, well, I just don’t.»

Don’t Cry for Me
Photo by d.billy

The train pulled into the station and as I boarded I glanced down the platform to see if the diva was headed my way. I was secretly happy to see that he was. I stood by the door, where I would be exiting at the next stop, Seventh Ave. He took a seat next to a man who appeared to be Pakistani. He said something to the Pakistani man that made him smile and nod in agreement. I watched, riveted, thinking, about how the world works--how one can never tell when they are talking to a man they think is “normal” or one who dreams of being Patti Lupone.

As he sat there with a wry smile on his face, I heard his falsetto softly starting to emerge. Was he using all his wits to keep from singing or was he just warming up? The train pulled into my stop and as the doors opened and I stepped off, I heard, “Don’t cry for me Argentinaaaaaaaa.”

Fran Giuffre is a freelance writer from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday and this web site. She is currently teaching elementary education in Brownsville.

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§ 6 Responses to “Don’t Cry for Me”

  • thom s says:

    nice story fran. funny thing is, i know this guy! this guy roams in and around park slope, predominately 7th avenue between union and 3rd streets, everyday, for the past 10 to 15 years. half of the time he sings inappropriately, and the other half of the time he has a pretty creepy cheshire cat-like smile. i believe there was a time that i knew his name because he introduced himself to me while shopping, actually browsing, in my music shop. he told me how much he liked my store and how knowledgeable and helpful i always was with him. and then he reach across the counter, took the hand that i had resting on that counter, and asked if i would like to have dinner with him sometime. to my credit, even though it took me by surprise, i didn’t flinch. and though i wasn’t at the time, i told him i was single, when what i meant was that i thought him to be creepy. after all, i didn’t want to alienate a buying customer, which is what he was and continued to be.

    i had recognized the guy from roaming around the neighborhood before the asking-out incident and for a short time afterward whenever i saw him on the street he smiled that cheshire cat-like smile at me, added a nod, and maybe even a wink. c-r-e-e-p-y. for a time i even thought he was stalking me because i noticed that whenever we crossed paths he kind of lingered a third of a block behind me. at those times i made sure that i would not walk home so as not to give him an idea of where i lived. i would duck into key food or back to the land and try to give him the slip while walking a maze-like path through the aisles.

    the stalking stopped eventually, or i got over my paranoia. but he is still there, everyday, singing and/or smiling while roaming the streets and subways of park slope.

  • Crazy Sweeney says:

    Fran, although the story and writing were well done, I am so sad to hear you lack the nerve to sing ROXanne at the top of your lungs on a subway platform. Are you wishing to be more like this man? I believe so. On my next subway ride I will be sure to let out some the best Grateful Dead Lyrics I can muster. It is too bad that so many of the unnoticeable are just that, unnoticeable. Maybe we all need to speak to strangers? I’m a gabber, I do it every day, often apologizing for talking too much. Funny, I am often told that my unexpected gab just brightened their day….. Now you have me wondering if maybe, just maybe it is a similar gift I share with this gentleman you speak of. How he made your day a little brighter or maybe a better word would be intriguing by his singing is his gift…. I guess I’ll leave this man to his singing and I’ll stick to my gab. I hope you find your gift. Yes, writing is a gift in itself and you are lucky enough to get paid for yours. I think in your subconscious though you are looking to ignight or inspire people in a more personal manner. Just my opinion. God Bless, Crazy Sweeney, The Gabber…

  • Fran says:

    Crazy Sweeny,

    May I call you “Crazy?” Please don’t be sad about my inability to sing out ROXanne. I have a shy demeanor at times and public places causes my shyness to take hold.

    I am glad I ran into the “singer.” He made me smile. And I think it’s nice that you gab to folks. I trust you have the sense to recognize when someone is in the mood to gab. There’s nothing worse than beng confronted with a gabber when you’re so looking forward to picking up that book you’ve been reading on the way into work.

    Yes, I hope to inspire people in some way. You’re definitely onto something. Crazy Sweeny, you’re quite the intuitive fellow. Thanks for your comment.

  • Crazy Sweeney says:

    You can call me anything you want Fran. After such a compliment from such an accomplished person you are now blessed to hear “The Rest Of The Story”. Hey, I loved Paul Harvey. Sad he had to be replaced with a boob such as Limbaugh. Anyway, CRAZY is a nickname given by friends many a moon ago. One drunken night in my early 20’s it became Tattooed on my shoulder. Upon my fathers first sighting of my new birthmark his words were, “well at least you got the right one”
    Today I am 2 decades away from that fun young lad who was a bit CRAZY at the time and I guess some days he does come back to visit. I am now married 15 yrs come June with 2 lovely kids. I own my own house, no mortgage, paid it off last Oct. YEAY! My home is on a coroner lot with a white picket fence, swimming pool, and a dog that hates the mailman. I live in the suburbs of Scranton just 2 hrs from the city. I am so middle America it turns my stomach. Other times I look at my life and say, “if I die tomorrow I did what I was supposed to do.” I’m a stay at home dad and a pretty good one at that. A good husband too I might add. I won’t bore you on the details of how I became the stay at home dad it is a story in itself and with or without it I believe it me destiny just the same.
    It is the middle of Feb., almost, the daily grind, cabin fever, and mundaneness of a life less ordinary led me to this wonderful site. Finding a place like this is akin to a miner hitting a gold vein. My lack of other adult interaction is so limited this time of year. Most of my real friends are still single and all I have is the occasional horny housewife I have to avoid. No, my marriage isn’t perfect but I love her and I’m too poor to have a sex addiction. Yes, I have the “gift of gab” as my grandmother used to call it and I hope I have your ear.? A writer, a professional write, I type humbly. I always wanted to be a writer. My head is abuzz with ideas. You would never believe the stories that you would hear in a 2-3 hour remember when session with a cooler full of beer and 6-7 of my closest buddies. I don’t believe them myself sometimes but being an Irish drunk with a fondness for travel and the Grateful Dead can lead one on an adventurous path. Seriously, I’ve slept in “The Plaza”, gutters, numerous jail cells in numerous cities, and a few other places in between. I’d love for you to hear them all. Now do you see why I compared this site to a god mine? Yep, I guess their are a million just like them but not so close to home. I spend a lot of time in the city and to say I love it is an understatement. As much as my love for NYC may be it would KILL a weak willed individual as myself. I mentioned my taste for the suds a bit back. I have put that monkey to rest and let’s just say my taste for mind altering excitement was not limited to distilled beverages alone and luckily those monkeys are sleeping soundly as well. Though I am not one to pass up a few hits of a joint from time to time. Especially while at a concert…. AH, whats that?
    Oh, early dismissal. My daughter just burst through the door with a trail of friends….. Her and my wife are the shy ones. It looks like you want to get on with that book you want to read and the dog is also crying to be let out . Time to bark at that wretched mailman.. So the mundane duties of stay at home dad once again begin. I never thought it would end up like this while I was lying on my prison bunk in New Orleans back in 94′. The girls are waiting on me for a ride to the mall. Oh, how you have inspired me…. I hope we can become good chat buddies.? Maybe I’ll write of my mall experience tonight… I’m glad the singer made you smile. I bet you look great when you smile, and my guess is that you need to do it more. I guess everyone does.

  • Emily says:

    This guy sings at my Laundromat!!!!!!!!

  • Fran says:

    Apparently he is a bit of an icon in Park Slope. I’ve seen him many times since I wrote this piece.

§ Leave a Reply

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