One Saturday night, my friend Tyler and I found ourselves deep in Harlem at the intersection of 150th and some random deserted street. We were walking, talking about how we didn’t know if we should be here this late, when suddenly Tyler was like, “DUDE!!!” And he pointed at a pair of beautiful looking shoes looking like smashed exotic flowerpots lying on the street between two parallel parked cars.
We approached closer.
“Dude those are so fresh,” I said. And they were. They were Converse All-Star High-Tops, Hawaiian flower print edition—available only to select Chinese retailers in 2012—and they looked hella clean; as a matter of fact they looked new. An insole was sticking out of one of them and their shoelaces were splayed out like guts; they looked like they had been thrown away in a hurry.
“Yo,” I said. “They’re beautiful.”
“Dude,” Tyler said. “I know but we should leave them alone. We don’t know whose those are.”
“Dude I want them,” I said.
“Dude I know but this could be a setup,” Tyler said. “Like, we could grab them and two blocks up…some dudes could be waiting for us and be like, ‘Yo you got my shoes,’ and then what?”
We stood looking at them for a couple seconds. They were like free money, any second now someone else could come along and snatch them. We had to make a decision quick; this was like the part of the movie where action music started playing or the part of the arcade game where you have 10 seconds to either insert another quarter or leave forever. As Atlanta rapper Young Scooter says, “decisions, decisions, don’t make the wrong decision…”
“Yo man, I’m gonna take these,” I said. “I have to.”
Tyler looked at me. He knew, I knew. His eyes and his grin were the same thing, on fire.
“Then do it,” he said.
I looked around, no one was around. I stepped into the street, now it was just me and the shoes. It was like they shined, whispering with voices from an ancient language that grew louder as my hand came closer, like this was some Lord of the Rings shit right here and I was about to grab The One Ring To Rule Them All from its asphalt altar. But I got it over with and grabbed them and then it was over and I had them in my hands. I sighed—I half-expected a bomb to have gone off, or at least a couple dudes to have jumped out of an apartment and beaten my ass.
I stepped back onto the sidewalk.
“Let’s go,” I said, and started walking briskly in the opposite direction from which we came.
“What are you doing?” Tyler said. He caught up with me.
“Dude like you said people could be waiting for us up ahead,” I said.
“Dude I was kind of kidding…think about it, if something would have happened it would have happened right there. I honestly think there might have been a fight over those. Like look at how the insole was out, somebody might have tried to rob someone for those and someone broke it up or something,” he said.
Maybe…what other explanation could there be?
We made our way back up to Broadway and started walking down from 150th to where I lived on 116th. The shoes dangling from my hands, they started to get unwanted attention. Some sketchy-looking dude passed by us and craned his neck to stare at them, like they were an attractive girl or something, and I didn’t want that kind of trouble.
“Dude we gotta hide these, we have 40 blocks to go and it’s 1 am in Harlem,” I said. I took off my sweatshirt and wrapped the shoes in them.
“Good idea,” Tyler said.
I walked back like that, with them as a bundle under my arms. When we got back to my room, we unwrapped them, they were even more beautiful in the light.
“Christmas came early,” I said, and put them on my feet.
My freshman year of college, I only went to a bar once and this happened to me. My friend Adam and I decided to get drunk on a Tuesday night for no reason other than to get drunk on a Tuesday night. I had to read something like 100 pages of The Odyssey and he had a 3-page paper due the next day; oh well. As we were walking back we saw a chair on the sidewalk.
It was a beautiful chair: cushioned, adjustable, and it had wheels. Its ergonomic plush bottom seemed to smile at me and say, “hey Zach. Come take me away from this place.” Plus, I needed a new chair—the two blocks of wood at a 90 degree angle that my school gave me was crippling me day by day.
“Yo I want this,” I said.
“Are you serious,” Adam said. He laughed.
“Yeah,” I said. “I need a new chair.”
Adam laughed again. “Go for it,” he said.
“Just wait,” I said. I circled around it to make sure there were no problems. Nope—she was clean. Was I really going to do this? Yes I was.
“Yeah I’m gonna take it,” I said. “There’s no reason for me not to.”
I pushed her uptown slowly, with care—like an old lady in a nursing home— something like 15 blocks and we made it back to campus. I wheeled her up to my room and left my old chair out in the hallway.
Looking back, that was a great chair. I kept that chair for the rest of my freshman year, until my campus storage people lost it over the summer. Oh well—I guess she was never mine to begin with, and it was fun while it lasted; just like my girlfriend of that year too.
Mini Crunch Bar
Yesterday, as I was coming back from my poetry class, I saw a mini Crunch Bar on the ground, tucked away in the pocket between the sidewalk and the grass. I don’t like Crunch bars, or candy really at all, but it was free, so you know I had to grab it.
I’ve found food before on the street in New York: beef sticks, bags of chips, Chipotle. I only touch food if it’s unopened, but until this point, I had never eaten anything. I would pick stuff up, think “technically, philosophically, I should be able to eat this,” but I would always put it back—cause it’s a big leap between what you think is acceptable and what you do in real life. Plus, I always had these paranoid thoughts: what if there was something wrong with it, what if someone had poisoned it, what if this was even some bioterrorism shit or something, dusted with anthrax or something.
But as I picked up this mini Crunch Bar, I came up with the idea for this article, because of all the other stuff I’ve found on the street in New York City. And so I put it in my backpack and thought that I would eat it for the purpose of this piece.
Now it’s Halloween night as I write this. I’m in the library, it’s 11 pm, the sounds of college fun and partying are outside and I’m here working on my computer alone. The only people here with me are obvious foreigners, and also some guy who was dressed as the Joker in the bathroom who looked like he was doing cocaine.
I unwrap the wrapper and the Crunch bar crumbles out of it; I can tell it has already been through some shit. “Happy Halloween,” I say to myself as I eat it one bite.
It tastes fine. The whole thing is over in five seconds. I get up, throw the wrapper away, and get back to my computer. Halloween is over and I am alone again.