He flies onto the train and sits knee to knee in front of me.
Dark t-shirt and jeans. Grasping a black plastic bag between his feet. Gray streaked hair. Flushed in this ridiculous heat but not sweating. Rough but not filthy. Not so old (not so much older than me) but too old to be putting up with this.
Swollen blue below one eye. Cracked above the other. Raw, inflated, white puss flesh and a long streak of red. Blood stipples out the pores of his chin. But his attention is to his hand. A locus of pain he clenches and shakes.
He asks me where the B meets the A.
I tell him he’s bleeding. He touches his face as if surprised that pain had a source.
He needs a clinic but St Vincents is bankrupt. Anyway, he rides the subway to Brooklyn. All night in a chair for an aspirin is not worth losing a shelter bed, his bed.
Adrenalized, returned from the looking glass he tells me what. I parse one sentence out of ten but I get his intent.
This is no movie. Two guys jumped him. They beat the crap out of him but he punched them to the ground. Kicked them in the face as hard as he could. Kicked them while they were down. Kicked them quiet.
Why do they pick on the old? They took $200. To his surprise and joy, they are worse for it. He’s on the B train. They need a doctor or a fucking grave.
This is one of those moments where a crowd is empty except for one man and the one person he happens to talk to.
I give him cash for food or bandages not enough for both. He reaches out to thank me. Touches my shoulder with the hand he touched the wounds on his face and gets off at my transfer. I remain locked in my seat. I’ll take the long way home.