WHO ARE YOU? (tbt)

This is for you, a man after being a woman. For you looking like a Vietnamese guerrilla but you are probably Korean. For you with short hair and thousands of tattoos. For you getting on the ferry at nine twenty from North Williamsburg, every morning, always dressed in black. For you, always sitting in the wider spots near the entrance but if a nanny or a mother has a stroller, you step aside and smile. This is for you cause I would like to ask you who you are. Because I am intrigued by the rings that you wear on all your fingers after taking them out of your pocket. They’re massive, self-centered silver or metal rings. I would like to ask you why you wear them, what they mean, and why you wait to be on the ferry to put them on. Maybe you hurry in the morning, you postpone the alarm three times because you hate waking up early; Maybe in the evening, you leave the rings in a wooden bowl or, who knows, maybe crystal, on the bathroom cabinet next to the sink because it bothers you to sleep with them on. And then, after drinking your cup of black coffee (I’m sure of that), you look at the phone and, since it’s nine-fifteen, you grab the rings altogether and throw them in your pocket, you put on your shoes, your jacket, and you take your worn black leather briefcase that you find near the front door, ‘abandoned’ there without love from the night before. And just like the blond girl with the red ballerinas who puts her eyeliner on her eyes trying to evade the waves of the East River not to stick it into her eyes, you put your rings on. And once settled in, you look at your hands, and even if you don’t notice it, you smile. I rarely see you looking out, maybe the bridges, the skyscrapers, and especially all of us got you annoyed. Even the black suitcase of worn leather, more worn than your skin, has annoyed you. And maybe you also got tired of your tattoos, now expanded and watered. You just take care of one thing on that boat: children. You look for their gaze, their smile, and when they respond to your smile by opening those bare mouths wide, you look down.
I wonder why Dumbo is your stop, I wonder what is your job. I wonder if you are moving out soon like everyone else here and if I see you again. I wonder if before then I will manage to attract your attention, I wonder if before then I’ll have the courage to ask you who you are. Because maybe you think you’re not enough for yourself, but to me, you are a Vietnamese guerrilla who wears rings to punch the past that gave him the wrong body, to me you are one of the skyscrapers of New York City, a big one, whoever you are.

Christian Sterk


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