Wild Thing



Neighborhood: Upper West Side

Wild Thing
Photo by Roman Kruglov

I was walking down Broadway near Lincoln Center at noon on a Thursday afternoon in May with my old friend Ruth Lopez when we came upon two people on the sidewalk, doing it. It was daytime, it was close to lunch even, and yet there they were in flagrante dilecto. The man was on top of the woman and they had his coat over them. But there could be no doubt, they were doing it. And if I had to describe it in more detail I would say it was at a medium speed, not the slow lazy kind of Sunday morning doing it. Not the harried oh soon-the-kids-will-be-home doing it. It was a regular paced sexual act, accompanied by some very low level sounds, which I believe were coming from the woman.

I stopped and my friend Ruth stopped about twenty feet after we passed them.
“Did you see that?” I asked.
“Yea, that couple is doing it.”
“Could they be, right there?”
“They are, they are doing it,” she replied.

Ruth is a roaming arts reporter so we sort of talked a little after that about whether these people might in fact be art students, and this act some sort of performance art. But the theory didn’t seem credible. The couple were not youngish, they were more middle aged and didn’t have an “artsy” look, whatever that is. In fact, they appeared to be, perhaps, a homeless couple. But what ever made them decide right there to get it on? In the middle of the sidewalk, near a store that sold office supplies and a CVS? Could desire be so bold, as to snatch one mid sidewalk? And if it is, why had neither of us ever experienced such a feeling. Neither one of us were members of the “mile high club.” I confessed to Ruth that I had once had sex in the subway, late at night– it was the L train’s last stop in Manhattan– but it was down at the end of the platform in a rather secluded spot. And as I recall it was sort of rushed and not very gratifying. It might not even have really been consummated, now that I think about it. We were really just messing around. NO, Ruth and I determined, we really were not a part of the society of the sidewalk sex actors. We were not even close. Another breed of humanity, like we were labrador retrievers to their pit bulls. This thing they were doing, it took another genetic strain.

But more astonishing to us than the act, the couple, the daylight, the bravado, the passion that it must have taken, was the way that other New Yorkers were treating it. I do not exaggerate when I say that Ruth and I were the only people who stopped to sort of glance back. We were the only people who even seemed to notice that the couple were having sex on Broadway. The crowd of walkers sort of parted around them and then came back together once past. Everyone was looking up, the way New Yorkers do, at nothing at all. That blank Walking New Yorker expression that says “do not even think about approaching me or talking to me for any reason at all unless I am a very good friend of yours.” The rest were staring down, at their hand held devices. Texting. The couple who were fucking did not exist for them. I even wondered if they noticed at all. Clearly, if they did, the fact that two people were doing the wild thing on Broadway at lunch hour in the middle of the sidewalk did not merit any kind of attention shift- wither from their screens or the blank screen of the day, opening in front of them as they walked. They did not even flinch or glance at them; they just ever so neatly walked around.

Ruth and I decided to get a Starbucks after that and we talked about it a little more. What did it mean, that these two people were doing it there and what did it mean that nobody cared or noticed one whit? We came to the conclusion that we had just seem something, maybe some sort of magical thing or like a science fiction movie thing. Something maybe nobody else could see. The New Yorkers had chips implanted in their brains – call them Walking Chips – that prevented them from seeing things along their way. (Ruth and I are both from New Mexico, where perhaps we have Notice Everything Chips that allow us to absorb the incredible frequent sightings of beauty in our state.) Either that, or we were such uptight biddies that what we saw, that seemed so weird and strange and wild to us, really isn’t. It is just a garden variety thing to see. We were over reacting. We were sexual ingénues, who didn’t get it that such a thing is nothing. It is a non event. Get over it.

I said to Ruth: “Do you think they could get arrested for that? Like is it illegal to do it right on Broadway by the CVS?”

I believe Ruth then mentioned that no naked body parts were actually showing. And movement, rocking sexual movement, well there was probably no law prohibiting that.

Around this time we realized it really was lunch time and we were hungry. Sushi or some sort of Mexican thing? Deli or diner? Mexican food in New York City is always a disappointment to New Mexicans. Somehow, while crossing the country, people just forget how to make it. My apologies to Chipotle and all other establishments who try. In the end we decided to go diner. Nothing like soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, comfort food– or a big dish of iceberg lettuce topped with pseudo bacon bits and a weak tomato, we joked. And so we walked over to Seventh Avenue to find some lunch.

Elizabeth Cohen is an assistant professor at SUNY Plattsburgh where she teaches poetry and memoir and lives with her daughters, Jojo and Ava. She is the author of The Family on Beartown Road, a memoir, The Hypothetical Girl, a book of short stories and four books of poetry.

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