Posts tagged ‘New York’

Rory and the Gummy Worm

I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt. Not really. I just wanted to prove them wrong.

Mom and Dad were always nagging, always telling me I was “too” this or that, not good enough in school, not a lady, not proud to call me their daughter. They didn’t always tell me in words – it was in the stares and the eyebrow raises, too. I wanted to show them what their life would be like without me. Just for a little bit.

That’s how I ended up here, living on the streets of Manhattan, far away from my the rural heart of America where I grew up. It was going to be temporary.

But today marks five years since I left. It was a slow fade, each day seeming short until I would look back and realize the greater changes: my hair was longer, my face dirtier, and everything on me skinnier.

Other than that, today isn’t really any different than any other day. I wake up with a start. My eyes feel like someone rubbed sandpaper in them, but that’s not really unusual. Lack of sleep does that to a person. I sleep with my head resting on a balled up shirt, one hand balled up under it, clutching my pepper spray my parents bought me so long ago.In the other hand is the plastic bag of clothes tied to the other hand, and even with those precautions, I wake up every few minutes in a fit of anxiety. Being a lone female on the streets doesn’t give a girl a chance to relax.

I walk to the shelter for a shower, walk to a bakery a few miles down that usually throws their day old bread in the dumpster. Today the dumpster in the alley is empty. Darn. Old Sal must have gotten there before me. We have a sort of understanding that it’s a first come first serve thing, and that long red light made me later than normal, so I guess it makes sense. Old Sal was in the right, but still. My knees kept knocking together I was shaking so bad from the hunger. I couldn’t find anything in the dumpsters yesterday either.

I walk further, searching for more dumpsters and more forgotten bits of anything. I found a dirty gummy worm on the sidewalk, but that was it. I leaned down to pick up the candy worm, and when I straightened, there was this girl cop blocking my way.

“Miss, have you seen this man around here?” She holds a picture in my face. They always did that. Like because I was homeless I was blind, too.

“No. What’d he do?”

“Not my job to say.” She sounds so official, like she’s rehearsed that line, like she won’t take crap from anyone.  But then she stares at me. She crosses her arms over her weapon-equipped belt.

“Where’s your family?” Her voice was quieter, less ‘I’m-a-cop-so-listen-to-me” than before.

I didn’t answer, but I start walking down the sidewalk. “I got places to be…” I mutter. It’s true. I do. I need to scavenge the dumpster behind the Chinese place before Old Sal and her posse beat me to the crumbs in that one, too.


My heart stops but I don’t. “What?” I ask.

“Rory Olsen. Missing person. Last seen five years ago, never came home after school. ”

“I don’t know who that is. Stop following me, lady.” I pick up my pace, but she’s still on my heels. I don’t have the energy to run.

I turn around and for a second I think I’m going to threaten the cop lady.

She whips a business card out of her pocket and hands it to me. “The number for the tip line is on there. You call it and tell them you know about the whereabouts of a missing person, they’ll tell you how to contact your family.”

I frown. Most cops I’ve met would’ve haul me to the precinct like an animal. “Aren’t you going to send in the tip?”

She shrugs. “That’s for you to do.”

A couple walks past us and she rushed off to ask them about the man in the picture.

I snatch the card and stuff  it inside my sweatshirt before someone sees that I accepted something from a cop.

I walk on numbly. No had one ever recognized me before. It’s been years, and I always wear a hood.

I knew that this was only meant to be a scare to my family – just a week, maybe. My purse was stolen when I arrived in New York. I had no bus money. I tried to get a job, but no one hires a person without an ID. I knew my home phone number, but the more that time passed the more I knew I didn’t know how to go back. I saw my face on the newspapers that I stuffed my shoes with and on the telephone posts that I walked by. But soon the newspapers started reporting new missing persons and the posters on the poles faded. I thought my memories of home had faded too, but I was wrong. I remember all to well my childhood bedroom and my mother’s smile and my father’s mustache.

I realized I am still standing in the middle of the sidewalk holding a gummy worm. My stomach growls angrily but I let the dirty worm fall back on the concrete.

I think of Old Sal and all the others I’ve met these last five years. Edward, Tasha, Gwen, Bobbi, Pete, Arnie, that kid who said he couldn’t remember his name, and thousands and thousands of others I’ve either forgotten or I’ve never met. I never asked any of them, but it’s pretty darn safe to guess that they’re out here not by choice. They don’t have a family or home to return to even if they wanted to.

I feel the lady cop’s card poking my skin under the sweatshirt.

Maybe it’s not too late for me.

Skype Funeral

I am sitting down on my lawn chair by the water, watching a Skype funeral.

It’s nice to be able to look away if the funeral gets too sad, although this one isn’t too bad. It’s my third this week but I don’t really know the person. I’m simply watching it because my friend said that they paid for the upgrade for the funeral Design Piks and they apparently have an eccentric taste.

WELCOME scrolls across the black screen in glitzy gold letters. I feel rather odd being welcomed to a funeral but it is the fashion to start with a welcome for all of the Skype funerals ever since the first one four years ago.

The screen pans over many pictures of the man, Harold Hansen. They must have taken video of a bunch of his printed photos and then set it to fast forward. I am not really impressed with the expensive payment so far.

From the pictures, I notice that he was an ugly baby but made up for it in his teen and early twenty years and even as an old man he looked pretty spry.

The next part, the screen flashes brightly and they are showing this picture of the man right before he died. I wasn’t expecting the flash, like a little bit of heaven. I wonder absentmindedly if he went to heaven or not.

“Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls,” a background voice announces, almost like we are at some sort of carnival or theatre. “We are glad to have you, yes every one of you, join us for this special event. According to our statistics, over 3 million viewers are currently watching the funeral of Harold Hansen.”

They are panning the camera over the casket and I look away. A soothing female voice interrupts my lake viewing with, “Hansen was a man..” they flash pictures of manly men, “A man to be remembered.” They flash pictures of statues and oil paintings and such things as that.

So far the graphics have been phenomenal, but people can get that type of thing on their old, out of date iPhone Argent 7’s now so I don’t’ really see where the upgrade money really helped. They transitions between pictures and audio has been nice too, I guess.

And then they get to the documentary part. It tells of Harold’s life and shows different video segments that he took and that his is it. It is really quite vintage looking and as I follow him through high school years or leather jackets and college years of unopened textbooks, I feel like I know him.

I look to the white caps on the lake again while they discuss his first wedding. His wife was quite beautiful, I notice when I look back at the screen. There is a black and white picture of them kissing and I wonder if he looked at it a lot.

The later part of his life was rather dull when he did some important political things. I stop paying attention as the video goes on twenty minutes. I don’t know how long it is projected to take. I let my mind go back to the first Skype Funeral I ever attended.

It was for Lady Gaga. We were told, via the press, that she was only having a Skype funeral as per her will. It was the huge rave and, of course her family paid for all of the Skpe users to watch it at the same time. You see the main part of the funeral on the top as a partial live stream and partial pre-recorded segment from some studio that makes stuff like this and then on the bottom inch of the screen, all of the faces of other users watching the funeral with you.

There were over 20 million ‘attendees’ of her funeral.

Gaga’s funeral truly was monumental and paved the way for the future. They played parts of each of her songs and different quotes from interviews and it was weird, of course, all put together in a strange Skype video.

And so it became the fashion right then and there. They didn’t tell us until later that she had actually had a real funeral to go along with the Skype one and that we hadn’t attended her “one and only” funeral. But by then the idea of a Skype funeral had taken over.

And here I am now. They are finally done with Harold’s life story. “There will be a statue of Harold in New York and we hope you will al come visit it as a tribute.” They are playing Amazing Grace as the leaving song but right in the middle, the words “Special Announcement” pop up on the screen. I watch them scroll.

“Do you really want this to be our world? Do you really want to be watching Skype funerals with your ass stuck to your chair? All electronic and no real emotion? What about welcoming your children into a world that you are proud of instead of into more and more Skype funerals? –Harold Hansen”

Amazing Grace continues to play and I log out. I would give this Skype Funeral a disappointing B. Skype funerals are to remember the person and feel for them, not about tut-tutting the world for something that has allowed more people to mourn for those they loved. Oh well, one dud for the week isn’t so bad.

I have three hours until my next Skype funeral and I hope it won’t be as crappy as this one was.

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