August 11, 2004

Man

There’s a man who sells candy bars on the subway. He keeps the candy bars in a cardboard box. I used to see him when I lived in Williamsburg and rode the JMZ train. He would walk from car to car and hold out his wares for the passengers to see. He never said anything. Maybe he didn’t speak English. Or maybe he had nothing to say. The one time I saw him make a sale, he held up a forefinger to indicate the price of a particular candy bar. One dollar. Probably all the bars cost a dollar.

He was beaten down. People who sell candy bars on the subway are invariably beaten down, but he was beaten down more than most. I believe this hurt his sales. He never smiled, never tried to make eye contact. He was like zombie, shuffling from car to car.

Once, late at night, I boarded the Brooklyn-bound J train at Canal and found him sitting there, alone, in the middle of an empty row. I had never seen him sit before. He had his cardboard box in his lap and was gazing across the aisle – at nothing, apparently.