Excerpt: Central Park West Trilogy

From The Nihilesthete


Something interesting happened to me today. As I was walking home from the subway after work, I stopped to watch an artist draw a picture of Christ on the sidewalk in front of the Maine Monument. There was a crowd surrounding the artist, but one area was left open purposefully. This visual corridor was to accommodate a limbless figure in a wheelchair who was also watching the event. It wasn’t long before the wheelchair-bound figure came to dominate my attention. It was immediately evident that he was some sort of retard, a freak of the kind I had seen just a few nights earlier on a TV expose program. He certainly didn’t have the slightest idea what was going on around him. I could tell this by the fact that he didn’t adjust himself in any way to the dogs, pigeons, squirrels, even the kids romping about. One child nearly landed in his lap (if he had a lap) when his Frisbee knocked into the retard’s chest. Nothing seemed to disturb him or penetrate his consciousness. Except The Artist and her Drawing!

When I accidentally moved into his path just before leaving, I could swear I noticed a pained expression come over his face, or a grimace of defiance. And also, I think—I couldn’t be sure at the time—I heard him make a mewing sound like a cat’s cry.

As I continued on home I persuaded myself it was just an idiot’s reaction and was prepared to forget it. I had even begun to warm my supper up and was, as usual, watching the 6 o’clock news, when I realized I couldn’t. The image of the retard’s face kept flickering before my eyes, intruding itself on the TV screen. And so despite my weariness, and customary unbending attitude to changing my regimen, I decided to return to the Maine Monument. While getting dressed and walking there, I remember being unable to shake the feeling of being a criminal returning to the scene of the crime.

As fate would have it, the retard was still there when I arrived. The crowd had dispersed, and the artist had just finished collecting the last of her art supplies and was now busily engaged in tallying up her earnings for the day. I waited patiently for her to finish and strode briskly up to her sketch at the precise moment she was taking her leave. Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, the retard lapsed into silence the second he saw me. No more mewing sounds came from his direction. And though I gave every appearance of doing no more than admiring the artist’s drawing, even positioning myself in such a way so as not to interfere with his line of vision, in reality I never took my eyes off the freak.

Likewise, I could feel his boring into me.

Almost immediately I came upon a plan of action. Why or what motivated me I can’t really say. Call it premonition . . . some blind instinct . . . but in my own way I knew what I was doing. I stepped on the drawing. As it was done in chalk, I was fully cognizant of the effect my shoe would have on the creation. AND SO WAS HE!!! It was just as expected—the moment the sole of my shoe touched the sketch, the same pained expression appeared on the retard’s face. And he made the same mewing sound. It was evident he was RESPONDING! We were like two implacable enemies on opposite sides of the arena, each making ready to do battle over his most prized and precious turf.

Each recognizing the other for what he was. I was about to go over to the man and take a closer look when a woman emerged as if from nowhere and whisked him away. By the time I regrouped from my moment’s hesitation, they were gone.

That evening I tossed and turned in my sleep.

Needless to say something was brewing inside me.

I promised myself I would try again the next day. He was not there the next day nor the next day nor the next. I am in the doldrums. I have nothing but my job and my apartment. They are not enough. I go on looking.


Untitled © Bernard Piga