I was waiting for my friend on a corner in Chelsea. She was hunting for a power bar in a bodega. A lanky man passed me.
He was all arms and legs and Adam’s Apple. There was a parakeet in a vest perched on his finger. He walked very slowly because he was admiring his bird.
People watched him with curiosity and contempt. A lady in a leotard tried to pass him but it was crowded and he had his elbows out.
Suddenly Leotard Lady screamed and dropped her bags and startled everyone.
She threw her arms wide as if to bear-hug somebody. The Bird Man stopped and turned around and glared at her. Then Katie Holmes leaped into Leotard Lady’s open arms.
Katie swung her purse in a great arc and smacked the parakeet right off The Bird Man’s finger. He shouted, my bird, my bird! Katie was too busy hugging the lady in the suit to notice.
The parakeet fluttered around and screeched. The Bird Man plucked him out of the air and put him back on his finger. He yelled, watch where you’re going!
Katie Holmes paid no attention. She locked arms with Leotard Lady and they paraded down 7th Avenue like schoolgirls. The Bird Man continued walking north.
My friend came out of the bodega. I told her I’d just seen Katie Holmes. She said she’d just seen a man with a parakeet in a vest.
A large man in a slate jumpsuit stood at the intersection of 18th and Irving Place. He was devouring a bagel and lox. I watched him from the opposite corner. We were both waiting to cross.
He was at least six feet tall and his gut hung in the jumpsuit like a bowling ball in a hammock. His hair was black and grey and untended. He looked to be in his fifties.
He tore into the bagel like a hyena into a wildebeest. Clamped his jaw, shook his head back and forth and back and forth. Flashed the whites of his eyes.
The crosswalk signaled us to proceed. He stepped off the curb with his eyes on the bagel. I stepped off the curb with my eyes on him. At once fascinated and disgusted and jealous.
We passed one another. He pulled his eyes from the bagel to glare at me. Cream cheese was smeared around his mouth like rabid foam. My heart stopped and skipped and I knew that I knew him.
Alec Baldwin furrowed his brow and stared me down. Like a bouncer ready to punch. Rubber-necked to keep his eyes on me until he got to the opposite curb. Then he tossed the last of the bagel into his maw. Wiped his chin with his sleeve.
I watched him storm south on Irving Place until he disappeared in the fray. A car honked and I got off the road.
I bought an everything bagel with lox and went back to work.