“Fuck you you pussy ass Mexicans. I don’t need you anyway. Go hang out in this ghetto ass Mexican park.” Then he makes eye contact with me. “And you too you fucking Mexican.”
He noticed me staring at him, wondering what the hell he was talking about.
“Oh, sorry bro. I’m all pissed off right now at those FUCKING IDIOTS AND I DON’T CARE IF THEY HEAR ME because they are a bunch of fucking DRUG ADDICTS. Dude, do a shot with me?”
He approaches the low concrete wall I had been sitting on, approaches way too close, and pulls a bottle out of his pocket. It has some pink liquid in it, and the bottle is labeled 20/20. He then pulls out another bottle, from the other pocket, I suppose, I didn’t really see. This one seems to be Vodka.
“No? What, are you too good to drink with me, mother fucker? I’m not a fucking Mexican. You can do a shot with me. I’m a Goddamned Spaniard. You shouldn’t be in this park, dude. Bro. This is a shitty park, trust me, I know. Do a shot with me bro? No? Man, I like you.” And he extends his hand, so I shake it. “Hey, look, a Porsche.” I’m looking him in the eyes and something about his look makes me think that when I turn around to see this Porsche, he’s gonna grab for my wallet or something. So, I do the only sensible thing, hold on to my book as tightly as I can, and turn around. To his credit, there was a Porche. I asked his name at some point; it is Ernie.
“Trust me, dude, I’m not a Mexican. Look at me. Do I look like I’m 44 years old? No, I don’t. I get all the girls. I was at this party last night…holy shit. Do you think I’m good looking?” He is standing way too close to me, such that I can’t even get up without bumping into him.
“I got an oxycontin. I’ll sell it to you for seven bucks. I don’t do drugs, I just got it. I just do this…” He holds up the bottle. “That and a little bit of weed and coke. But I don’t take any pills.” He looks almost shocked that I’m not interested, and his tone started to shift a bit, to become a bit more enraged. “Damn, bro, you are totally white. You even have blue eyes. You can’t be in this fucking park, man. Go over to the plaza where all the tourists are. This is my park. Blue eyed people aren’t allowed in this park.” He moves a bit, so I take the opportunity to stand up. “I’m sorry bro. I didn’t mean to disturb you. Hey, look at me man. Everything I’m wearing is Ralph Lauren. This shirt cost me a hundred and twenty bucks. Alright man. Bye.” And he turned and stormed off across the bridge.
A few hours passed; then the elderly, grey haired French lady looked at me with her soft, brown eyes when she told me not to worry about it, and I believed her. I had just eaten a blueberry crepe in her crepe shop, and when I came up to the front to pay, she told me they didn’t take debit cards. I had nearly enough, only 25 cents short, in cash. But she told me not to worry about it, so I didn’t, and I went back out onto the sidewalk and headed back through the plaza, holding my book and trying to get it into the long side pocket which was the reason I bought these shorts. I was thinking. Walking and thinking. Then, suddenly, from out of nowhere, this body was in front of me, a face in my face, and eyes I can only remember as black were peering into mine. “Do you support gay rights,” he demanded, not asked, and looked at me with as if to say the only acceptable answer was yes. I didn’t realize what he was at first, then I looked him over, saw the light blue polo-shirt with the ACLU logo on it, and the clip-board in his hand. “I’m not interested in doing a survey,” I heard myself say, and I walked past him, and he snarled after me, “It’s not a survey! It’s not a survey!” A few seconds later I passed by one of his blue-shirted compatriots who winked at me; I found that wink delightful.
A few hours passed; then I walked into the coffee shop by the train station, having arrived a good half hour early, and I saw the colors on her face. The tips of her eyelids were highlighted in black, her eyelids colored a deep blue, which blended to green then to purple which somehow blended into her face, such that you could hardly tell where the coloring actually stopped. Her arms were decorated with tattoos.
I brushed aside my initial thought, that someone so decorated must be hiding something, and began to see the colors as a life, existing both together and separate from this barista. I ordered a coffee, she filled it to the top, and I poured a bit out to make room for cream.
I sat at a corner table in the small, unoccupied dining area. The other guests were outside on the porch, when it started to downpour. The painted lady and her co-worker scrambled outside to get the various tables and umbrellas and other sundry items from the porch. As she moved in an out, hurry, I saw a flash of colors streaking through the room. She offered me a refill and left a good inch at the top, and handed me the cream.
The two (arguably) greatest works of English literature are set in Denmark. That isn’t my insight (I heard it from Michael Drout at a lecture…hadn’t thought of it like that before). Both also have fratricide as a central theme; both also talk about a king’s power being marked by the tribute paid to him; a driving force in both is wergild, explicitly or not; both are set against the backdrop of an ongoing political and martial conflict with men from the north; both have the hero dramatically declare his identity when appropriate. That is what I was doing in Santa Fe. Back on the train, I browsed through the endnotes of the Arden edition of Hamlet. I am no Shakespearean scholar, but I sort of assume, based on various things I have heard, that the Arden editions are the authoritative critical editions of Shakespeare, sort of like the equivalent of Klaeber’s editions of Beowulf. I marveled a bit at the small, olive colored book; I opened it up, and felt a chill when I looked at the publication date: 1895; and not a mark in it, but my name inside the cover, and $4.95 in the faint pencil of a used bookstore owner. Then I went to it. There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. I re-read that scene. He knows death is coming, he has already mused upon the unknown which is the afterlife, it fits perfectly. It has to be in the notes. He is defying augury, for crying out loud! So, I check the notes, hoping it will be there, hoping the authoritative edition will validate my meandering thoughts; but also hoping otherwise, hoping it won’t be there. And, ultimately to my delight, nothing but a quote of Matthew 10.29; only a reference to the second most important sparrow in the English literary imagination. I smiled and closed my eyes.
– Douglas VanBenthuysen