On a just-cold-enough-not-to-be-warm evening in April I am at work, delivering pizza; mostly on streets lined with brownstones. Down these lanes I pedal doggedly, lurching on an old blue/green mountain bike with a large wire basket mounted above the front wheel and a habit of breaking down with reliable frequency. Tall and thin with a long, thick mane of red hair, like some sort of anthropomorphized paintbrush, coupled with a somewhat eccentric wardrobe and what a former acting teacher of mine described as "a good face," I look a bit singular, especially at someone's doorstep with meal and a bill. A quick cross-reference of the men mounted on the food laden bikes and scooters that zoom past or alongside me throughout the night confirms this.
My exoticism does not go unnoticed. A doorman on Dean Street gives me a consistent greeting. "Shyaaan Weiyte," he says, alluding to the famous red-headed snowboarder. The words drift slowly past his sparkling grill on a soft Jamaican accent. He once had me pose for a few iPhone snapshots so he could show his friends.
Near dusk, I lock my bike to a fence outside of a large, old apartment building on St. Johns Place. In the lobby three men at the end of middle age are horsing around. As I pass by them on my way to the stairs I slowly realize that the sudden shouts of "Faybio, Faybio, Faybio!" are being directed at me. I turn around. "Fabio?" I chuckle. The three explode with laughter and literal knee slapping. "Fabio! He looks like Fabio!" Says one to the others with a swaying arm stretched out in my direction. "You're delivering food? I live on the other side of the building in 3D," he says proudly. Another says, "I dunno man, to me he looks like a guy who..." he puts his weight on his back foot executes a series of arm flourishes against strategic points on his friend's body. "I look like I know Ninjutsu?" Again they burst into a jovial frenzy. "Have a good night guys," I say as I slip up the stairs. When I return, the mood has changed. They are gathered around the doorway inexplicably hushed and serious. I slip through without a word, which seems to suit them.
I climb three flights of stairs in a brownstone on Prospect Place to be greeted by a mother and her two children. One of the children, a little girl no more than 6, asks me if I am a boy or a girl. I tell her I am a boy, but I have long hair the way a lot of girls do. Her mother tells her that when she met her father he had long hair like mine. Father's head appears around the door frame to appraise his wife's comparison and we share a brief smile. The little girl is unconvinced. "You look like a girl," she says. "Some people make a good living that way," I want to say, but think it might be rude putting her parents in the tight spot of explaining to her what I mean. She asks me my name and I tell her, setting the record straight. Her younger brother had greeted me by exclaiming "Hello, Pizza!" He now asks why my delivery bag is red. I pause my bill counting. "Good question" I say. I've never wondered about this before, and I tell him so.
Ernest Merrimont is a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College where he studied writing and theatre. He lives in Bushwick, where he copes with the tribulations of being a young, white, educated male. Non-fiction poetry comes out of his phone and goes into the internet here: http://txtmuseum.blogspot.com/.