Not a Big Deal (Excerpt) by Phillipe Chatelain
Author’s note: Not a Big Deal tells the story of a tragic situation that serves as a catalyst to connect very different people. New friendships are formed and old friendships are questioned, but at what cost?
The sun is out. It’s a Saturday in September, but every day is Saturday when you’re out of a job. He walks to the newspaper vendor and buys the Post. He won’t read it besides the “Weird But True” section, but he liked looking smart on the train by carrying around a newspaper and listening to his iPod. He looks up at the buildings, as if they would give him an idea of what to do today. It works.
He descends the all-too-familiar yellow steps into the subway; arguably the bowel of a large city, but for him the subway is his sanctuary. He finds solace in something about it, perhaps the momentary disconnection from the outside world and the constant entertainment of staring at strangers. It’s socially acceptable, for the most part.
He heads uptown. Forty-or-so minutes and he’d be back in the Bronx. He makes it a point to go to the Bronx often, not just to see his family but also to admire how beautifully different these two boroughs are—immense urban centers in their own right, populated and frequented by very different groups of people.
The train doors open and he emerges with the swarm of people who get off at Burnside Avenue. It smells different here, a hint of Spanish food from the many restaurants that line this block. After deciding not to take the bus to University, he starts walking. Most people learn to walk as babies, but in the city it’s easy to tell who is not from the area from how they walk. A lot of people here will agree, it’s different walking here than anywhere else in the world. Something about the stride, not solely about the speed, of how one walks. We’ve got “swag.”
It is that swag that catches the eye of Selena. He doesn’t see her looking; he, as usual, is in his own world. The clear call out to him, “Oye, papi,” made him turn around completely, having passed her on the street, and strike up conversation with her. She is beautiful—curly brown hair, light brown skin, an attractive smile, and hazel eyes. They talk about where each of them is from and before no time exchange phone numbers, agreeing to get together that night.
When he walks away from Selena, he thinks back to what he walked away from at home. Who knows if Hollister is still at home, in bed alone, thinking about him?
© 2012 Phillipe Martin Chatelain, all rights reserved.