What We’re on This Earth For

by

09/06/2008

Brooklyn, 11205

Neighborhood: Brooklyn, Outer Boroughs

“You’re blocking the whole fucking street, you’re a total asshole!” The woman in the road screamed at me. But she only knew one of my attributes and that hardly qualified her to give a generalizing narrative to all of the other onlookers. I agreed to move my vehicle but she was the bitter, lingering sort. I wasn’t sure if she even had a car in this equation or if she was just passing by and decided it was her task to reveal me. She had dark glasses and t-shirt that she would probably pass on to her child when the son/daughter grew big enough. She also had a cell phone with a camera built in that she used to take a photo of my truck and me. I don’t know what she intended to do with that picture but I was certain that it would not be a flattering one of me, I never look good in digital photographs. After I moved my vehicle enough to allow traffic through many cars zoomed by. Some drivers gave me a look that signified naked hatred, others shook their fist and became as verbally abusive as they could with the half second of face time they had with me as they passed. A lot of the travelers just drove by with no recourse; simply glad the ordeal was over. The unifying thread was that none of them stopped to thank the angry woman who’d exposed me and delivered them from suffering. Not one tip of a cap or wave of a hand to show gratitude to the commoner’s champion. She stood across from me on the opposite curb and grimaced. I recognized her pain; I’d housed that pain before myself.

“You’re…you’re a fucking asshole” She told me again as I got in the cab. I stared directly at her eyeglasses to let her know that I knew. Her glasses were dark and I could not see her eyes. I drove away and by the time I turned the corner and went out of view she had still not gone into a car.

My next stop was the storage center in Brooklyn where I would unload the furniture I had. I always felt more as ease in the outer boroughs because the streets are wider and reprisal for inconveniencing the public is less ostentatious. The girl whose items I was moving rode in the truck with me, her name was Tia, she was very beautiful and I struggled for a way to reveal without being obvious, that I was of a higher class than the average mover. I tried to lure her into asking me questions but everything I said seemed calculated in my ears.

“The thing about moving is you pass a lot of stuff, like buildings and colleges, there’s a lot of colleges in New York, I remember college.” I groped. “What are you…oh, this is a great song, on the radio.”

“Don’t you get tired moving stuff by yourself?” She asked with a sort of obligatory disinterest.

“Not when you have the strength of 2 men and do cocaine in the morning.” I told her. She sighed and looked at a passing cemetery. I didn’t care, her looks made up for her total lack of a sense of humor. When we drove by a crowd of Hasidic Jews she stared as she had never seen them. I gauged her surprise and said.

“Oh yeah, you’ve never seen the Hasidic Jews before? You have to get out of Manhattan more.” She looked toward me with dread to see if I was in the early stages of inviting her somewhere. I saw her anxiety and trailed off in what I figured was a vague populist complaint about traffic. Eventually I just told her that this was not my real job and that I was only helping out a friend on the side for some extra cash. In the end I think she was less impressed with a guy who had to moonlight as a mover than just a regular mover.

When we arrived at the storage facility Tia went in to rent a locker for her stuff. I waited outside and started to unload the back of the truck. The furniture was really too much for one man to be handling safely so I searched an employee to help me with a dresser. I found a stout young woman behind a counter. She was not really working so much as she was looking at her fingernails and dancing to the radio. Being that she was a girl I asked only if she might hold open the rear door of the truck while I pulled the dresser out.

“Uhm-uh, no, um, uh uh, no I ain’t doing that” She told me and went back to dancing. A top forty pop song came on and she announced that it was her favorite. I remember thinking that her life was going to be either really easy or really hard. A guy was walking across the parking lot and I stopped him with the request for help. He looked gnarled around head and body but he looked like he’d lifted a lot of things in his day. He gladly obliged and when I told him afterward that I owed him one he replied by saying.

“Uh-uh, no sir, no that’s what we on this earth for, now god bless you.” He walked away and I really did feel like I owed him one at that point. I like it better when I tell someone that they are owed one and they agree that they are owed and settle for a future reciprocation. We both know that we’ll never meet again to reconcile the debt but at least I don’t feel like I’m in the karmic red.

Tia came out from the office and gave me a check for the cost of labor but she stiffed me on the tip. Had she been married instead of just committed to a boyfriend I might have protested, but I didn’t want to blow any future shot I had. She then left abruptly before I could think of something clever for her to remember me by. I unloaded the rest of the truck by myself and got ready to leave. The diesel engine took a minute to warm up and as I sat there I saw the young girl employee who had earlier refused to help me. She was still just dancing to the little radio, still doing what she was on this earth for.

Granger Greenbaum is a Brooklyn artist whose writing can be found at imminentbystander

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