Click: true moments collected over the years. Stories too short for the stage.
Morning rush hour. I’m grimly heading down the steep subway stairs when an old man comes pushing through the crowd, talking a mile a minute.
“Move now, move on outta my way. I’m an old man, and I’m gettin’ down the stairs faster’n you.”
We crowd onto the subway car. I stand next to him and he sits down next to a woman in her early twenties, who turns to him and says, “Hello!”
“Well, hi there, now. You be careful what you say. If you say hi in Toronto something’s wrong with you. You better move to Vancouver where everyone says hi. If you wanna be unhappy move to Toronto. In Vancouver, people are relaxed. I’m headin’ out right now to get two beers to wake me up.”
Everyone within earshot starts to giggle.
“Naw, my doctor told me to do it. That’s a medicine. If you take too much medicine you’ll get sick. You know? So you only take what you’re supposed to take. See, that’s what happened to Elvis Presley. Ya see? The doctor gave him medicine and he overdid it. So he died young. Forty years old. I’m seventy, you see? He shoulda lived to a hundred and ten, Elvis Presley, with all that money. A whap-baba-looba-and whap-bam-boom.”
Big laugh. The train lurches and I start to fall, and this twentysomething guy reaches out lightning fast and catches the hood of my sweatshirt and steadies me.
“You’re all laughin’ but I’m givin it away for free. You want a big show, you gotta pay. It costs ya $150 to see me. It’s very expensive. Just trust me. I’m – look on tv, you’ll see me, ya’ll will know who I am. This is not my real face.”
The train pulled into the station and the young woman sitting next to him gets up and waves. “Have a nice day!” she says.
“Okay, now, bye bye.”
“Now which stop – oh, this is College. I don’t go to college anymore. I graduated. I’m a professor now. That’s right. But I don’t teach. I prophesize. I prophesize. Oh, what is that? I ain’t never used that word myself. It’s new to me. That’s a big word, prophesize. I’m gonna hit the road. I’m goin’ to Kansas City. Kansas City, here I come… they got some pretty ladies there I’m gonna get me one… I want more than one. I’m not satisfied with one lady. I gotta have more than one. I got an old lady and a young lady. How you like that? That’s not bad.”
The woman across the aisle coughs.
“Careful, you got your flu shot?” (Huge laugh.) “That sounds pretty rough there. I hope you don’t sleep with the window open. If you do, cover up good.” He heads for the door. “Okay, bye bye. I’ll miss ya.”
Lots of people on the subway car say goodbye, and as the train pulls into the station he sings, “Enjoy yourself… it’s later than you think! Bye bye folks, I’ll miss ya. Put an egg in your shoe and beat it!”
The doors close and a woman says, “That just put a smile on everyone’s face.”
And I walk up the stairs and out into the cold morning and it feels like that smile has stretched somehow to cover the entire city.
Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.
Photo Nuno Beirao