“Do you know what poisons cows?” He said.
A plastic bag rustled between the trees and three children playing skip-the-cracks across the sidewalk. There was a fruit cart stand, so small and undefinable on that little corner of East Side New York, selling green and purple grapes by the pound without the seeds. Bananas bagged in bushels and boxes full of strawberry grays. Take your pick of processed shit organically packed in neat elastic little cartons. Fresh off the Nope.
There was a fruit cart stand, so small on that little corner of New York. Hungry hands lined and ashy, taking their turn turning fruit ripe enough to make the best off a dollar bargain. Used napkins, coffee cups, chewed up gum blooming petals of thick black sinew between ceramic oaks and mulberry shrubs. An addict waltzed between the crowd, unsteady toward Elysium, to the rhythm of his poison drum – bleary eyed, bent, and grinning. I watched a plastic bag settle on the flora of a steel lamp post while three children played skip-the-cracks on the edge of coming traffic.
There was a fruit cart standing on a corner of New York because nothing ever grows here.
“What?” I asked.
Mingo shifted his weight against his cane and I heard a thousand bones groan and adjust to his new lurch. We were leaning on concrete slabs edged enough to take a seat in, smoking ourselves dry to the bother of that corner deli. The usual suspects. They hated us but we paid our cover, two coffees and a roll with butter, one extra butter and the other toasted,
He measured his cigar while I wiled away my third cigarette that morning, and the lively grey sunstrain of his eyes glint with the patience of decaying trees. Wise and old, or old and wise. I couldn’t tell.
“The cow. You know what poisons them?” Mingo repeated calmly. I shook my head saying I didn’t.
“Esperanza, es una planta. They eat it,” he ran his index finger along his neck, a universal sign difficult to misinterpret, clicked his teeth and the little calf was done.
It began to rain and three children scrambled under the safe pan of an awning. A man leaned against a bus stop map gritting his teeth to the grim blue tint of a text message. He sucked his teeth before closing the phone, his hot mood sizzling in soft hummed cusses; sparks against the drops of heaven crackling between us. The grey clouds gave way to a dark and hazy yolked sun, the children ran and the bust stop groaned. Mingo creaks and the moment is over easy.
“Why do they eat it,” I asked. “If it’s poison.”
And Mingo shrugged.
Esperanza is a flower, bright and beautiful with yellow petals. And Esperanza is also hope, just as bright and ruinous. I couldn’t decide which killed them first, the toxins or definition.
“I killed somebody once,” Mingo said unexpectedly. “Coz’ of a woman.” He was calm, not sad nor entirely delighted. Not resentful or proud, but with the air of a man that’s lived and in living was reflective.
I couldn’t think of what to say and a car chuckled down the road.
“Do you having a girl?”
Down the block a gilded goddesses hips swayed, and she reminded me of a girl I reminded myself to forget. Gray eyed and somber lip’d, the kind of face easy to compliment and hard to misremember. I was staring and I didn’t care, and the longer I dared the sooner I realized that familiar was just wistful thinking. She didn’t look anything like her. The sighs were all wrong. She didn’t have the unhappiness riddled along her creases, she didn’t hold me like a melody at the slight of her hand or fuzzy forearm. She passed us without a crass look despite lingering stares.
But she did look a lot like her when she was walking away.
“Yeah,” I said to Mingo. I heard his head nod solemnly by the sound of his neck creaking.
“Never killed anyone because of her though,” I added.
Mingo laughed, ominously.
“You might someday,”
I clipped my cigarette and said goodbye.