David thinks his faith will save him, but death is coming for us all. Tuesday doesn’t care how long he’s worked, his tired eyes hiding behind his kind smile and midnight shift. A halo of perspiration steaming from his broad and hunching back, grays surrounding the edges of beard and other places where they shouldn’t be. His head, his arms, his chest; but not his heart. Tomorrow he’ll be trimming the hedges around the church, and David isn’t Pentecostal, but what’s it cost to do something nice for someone else?, he says.
David is sulking home from lifting sixty pound boxes and weighted pallets until the wee hours of 4am. I’m recovering from myself and too much Bacardi on the front steps, offer him a cigarette and don’t bother asking how his day was. Because we both know it was miserable. His body is a walking exhaust, crying aches behind a wide and haughty grin his experience doesn’t deserve. Forty five fieing for fifteen dollars an hour, starved for sleep with meandering teenagers just out for a buck and high. He does his best for the two kids waiting upstairs, I forget their names. Somewhere around three and six, and the light inside of him doesn’t stop thinking of others.
“How’s your mom?” He says, like my circumstance means much more than his own.
David is too good for my own good- barely keeping a grip and offering hands he doesn’t have. Here was a man being destroyed and I had the nerve to think myself worse off. I could feel myself becoming consumed and overwhelmed by the world- but not by David and his tragedy, or an excessive and unrelenting emotion. No, my days were awfully regular and pained by nothing but the dull sharpness of routine. Of complacency. Where men far greater than I suffered wars, famine, and persecution, I only struggled to maintain my sanity against the bland reality of existence. The unmentionable and troublesome degrade, not against the graze of strife and grenades, but worried and debased by the grey life.
“She’s good, but hates when I travel,” I said. Because his type of perfect disturbed me. I needed to see some envy, some lust, any kind of ugly that might make the disgusting bubbling in me feel dignified.
“She’s good, but she complains when I leave New York. I was in Cuba last month, I think I told you? Sayed in this little studio near parque central, it’s like their central park. It was this studio with a great view and the landlady never bothered me. I came home at three, four, five in the morning, or sometimes not at all. And she didn’t care. Three days in a row I met her in the elevator, and each time it was with a different girl. But she never said a thing. Once it turned out they knew the same cab driver, grew up in the same town or something. But my mom, she hates things like that. She thinks I should settle down and calls those kinds of girls prostitutes. ”
David chuckled where I didn’t expect him to and looked sad when there should be a punch line. He was excited for my youth and all the dumb I’d done, and while he applauded it, at the same time, he managed to make me feel guilty and not condone it.
“In a row? You’re crazy,” He said. “I thought you were going back for the cigars but obviously not. What’s important is that you had a great time, and I know you wouldn’t tell those ladies anything that wasn’t at least bordering on the truth. Listen- you’re young. You need to be that. No, not stupid, just young. Go to Cuba, go to Germany, go to Bermuda, go. Just go. And don’t worry about it having to end, because it will when it needs to.”
They say each man must bear his cross, but Atlas carries the most. Silently the world turns on his back, silently he winces at the grinding on his shoulder blades. And he still offers a hand, not to Herucles, but a nobody on a stoop turned stupid in disposable income.
“Where you going next?” He asked, my heart on the break of a sigh.
David thinks his faith will save him. And even if it won’t, in a way, he’s saving me.