Monday Morning Martin
Monday morning Martin woke up downtown. He saw all the business people shuffling to work amidst the hazy sun light stabbing down between the buildings. A businessman in a grey suit caught Martin's eye and Martin decided that his name was Mark. There was no need for a last name. He was just Mark.
All day, Martin was Mark. He buttoned up the nice coat he'd found behind a dumpster in an alley just a few blocks away. He straightened his shoulders and fished a tie out of his bag to go around his neck. He never got the tie tied right- by the end of the day, he'd decided that must have been the problem.
When Martin pointed his feet right out ahead of him, he knew that he was doing the good work. Corporations made the world go around. Mark's corporation bought and sold goods all over the world. Hundreds of millions of dollars passed through it's bank account daily. He was connected, important, even vital to the global economy. The very thought made Martin fill his chest with air, lift his chin up and look out at the grey strip of sky between his office building and it's next door neighbor.
Mark had to finish those reports, he fumed, and pounded his fist on the concrete wall of the flowerbed. He found a bag from the Gap that was still fairly nice looking for his briefcase, yesterday's news became the papers inside.
By noon, he had finished the reports, the crumpled newsprint reordered and refolded. Then he left them with his secretary to be delivered to his clients. The old man feeding the pigeons would not speak to him, so Martin left the papers at his foot. Mark silently acknowledged that sometimes, secretaries had too much on their minds for those little pleasantries that people take for granted.
Martin had to hurry now. He had to meet a client for lunch at one o'clock at the Russian Tea Room. But when he got there, things got a little out of hand. In retrospect, Mark realized that it was poor form to be stuck downtown without a company car or even cab fare. Also, he might have smelled a bit, well, earthy, after running seven blocks in order not to be late. And his tie had been untied.
"But I have reservations! If you would just look at your reservation list you'd see!"
The host took a quick glance around to see if anyone was listening, and then he leaned over to Martin. "If you don't get out of my sight right now, you crazy bum, I'm going to call the police!"
Martin tried to punch the host at the Russian Tea Room and ended up at the police station. He gave them his name, but Mark knew the police are never satisfied with the truth. He was booked as "Mark Doe" for disturbing the peace, and they made him eat some cardboard tasting beef and some sort of goopy pudding paste. They did, however, take pity on him when he discovered that the phone number of his secretary had been changed and he could not get anyone to bail him out.
They let him sleep in a spare room in the courthouse basement that they kept for just such an occasion. The only other businessman staying there tonight was a small, blonde man with thinning hair. Martin watched the white fibers between the sleeve and the body of his grey tweed jacket tense and loosen as the man sobbed. There was a dark greasy stain on the left leg of the man's slacks.
Tuesday morning Martin woke up in the city jail. He saw all the criminals and riff-raff that had collected through the night. A police officer came to release Martin. Martin decided that his name was Maury. There was no need for a last name; He was just Maury.
Maury had bad guys to catch, so Martin headed for the projects. Since he could not find his squad car, he hopped on the bus and confided in the bus driver that he was a policeman under deep cover. The driver nodded in understanding, but that didn't get him a free bus ride. So he stalled as long as he could by saying, "I've got a dollar here somewhere," and running through his pockets until the driver caught on and kicked him off.
It was thirty blocks to the projects, so it took Martin all day to arrive, getting on each bus and stalling, kicked off again every few blocks. He walked the final six blocks. As he waited to cross the street to the burger king at the Rosewood projects, Maury watched a man in a beat up red camaro '77 leave his order on the asphalt. Maury arrived too late to inform the good citizen of his oversight, so Martin snagged the bag and sat down next to the bushes on the side of the parking lot to dinner.
The bag had two whoppers with pickles and onions, an american chicken sandwich, and a small order of fries. Martin remembered that cold fries were about as tasty as cold vegetables, so he ate them first. Then he ate the chicken sandwich, a fried slab of bird on a sesame bun with orange cheese. But the whopper needed mustard, and the guy who bought them had forgotten it.
Martin got up and went in to the burger king. "Excuse me, could I get some mustard?"
A manager appeared from out of nowhere. "I'm sorry sir, but I'm afraid you will have to leave. Now."
"But..." Martin protested, and even pulled out the whopper from his jacket to demonstrate. That was the problem with being deep undercover, Maury thought. Everyone treated you like a homeless person.
Martin ate one of the burgers anyway, and stashed the other one in his pocket. He crawled into the bushes on his belly, stretched out flat under the twisted branches, propped himself up on his elbows, and peered out through gray leaves at the Rosewood Projects. It would be a long stakeout. Maury watched the people coming and going, carefully noting anyone who looked suspicious.
As the evening stretched out before him, Maury reflected on his job. It was a thankless one, where he would constantly face the bad elements of society, heart-wrenching dilemmas, and life-threatening situations. But he truly felt that night that he was helping the people of his city, in what small way he could. So he swallowed his anguish, and settled down to work.
By seven that evening, there were fewer people out on the street. In the deepening darkness he could see the blue glow of television screens bouncing off ceilings and shining through pulled shades. One man, wearing a t-shirt that read, "I DO MIND" who kept going in and out of the building, stuck out. Sometimes he was alone, sometimes with other people. After a while Maury decided that this was his guy.
But after two thirty in the morning, Martin didn't see the guy come out anymore. He ate the last whopper. His mind drifted, his eyelids became very heavy. His head began to slip off of his palm. He fought it, jerking his head up and opening his eyes wide, but finally he fell asleep with his head on a root poking out of the dirt.
Wednesday morning Martin woke up in the bushes across the street from Rosewood projects. The sun was peeking over the top of the projects, bright and silent in the crisp morning. He saw the people getting up, kids and adults waiting in a stupor at the bus stop, moving slowly onto buses and into cars. Some just sat on their porches, or stood by their doors for a while and watched the morning before turning on the television. He saw a man who was a bit more well dressed than the others, in a smart black suit, wearing rings on his fingers and hoops of silver in his ears. This man was a pimp, Martin thought, and his name was Marvin. There was no need for a last name; He was just Marvin.
Marvin had to find some new girls, and so Martin headed for the red light district. With a swagger in his step and a half cocked-grin, Martin climbed out of his bush and strolled across the street in the middle of the block, towards the bus stop. When the bus going downtown stopped in front of him, he forced his fingers between the rubber edges of the back door and pried them apart, squeezing on to the back stairwell of the crowded bus. He hoped that there were too many people on the bus for the driver to notice him or to care if he did.
Everyone on the bus was tired. They had all gone to sleep too late in the evening and gotten up too early. Marvin smiled the pimp smile. He was looking at a hot chick sitting in the back, and when he caught her eye she sneered at him. It's okay, thought Marvin. Some women just aren't willing to put in the extra effort to be successful.
Marvin pulled the chain with vigor at the corner of Templar and Fifteenth. The sign on the corner read "Fantastic Fantasies" and Marvin smiled up at it and practiced his swagger as he walked up the ave. He smiled at every potential protˇgˇ, in the special pimp way. One woman bought him lunch.
"Man, who you think you are?" She asked him when he smiled at her.
"I'm your future, baby," he responded, but as soon as he started the "f" in future she noticed the vacant space where his left front tooth had once been.
Maybe she didn't mean to toss him a five- maybe she did- but she said "Buy yourself a clue," and threw the bill at him. He smiled at it and went to find a the nearest burger king.
And when the sun went down and the lights came up, Marvin the pimp went around to a hotel to look for a new woman. He leaned outside with one foot over the other and wanted a cigarette. Here was a job worth doing, Marvin thought to himself. He had the privilege to manage the oldest human profession. He supplied the most basic of human needs to everyone, without prejudice. He had no cares for legality. It gave him a warm feeling knowing that as long as there was a demand, he would be there to supply it.
Martin stood there for a while, basking in the purity of his profession, until he started to get cold. One of the doors of the hotel room was ajar, and he snuck across the parking lot and peered in.
Thursday morning Martin woke up on a bed in a empty hotel room in the red light district. There were several little bars of soap wrapped in paper sitting on the edge of the sink. Martin stuck two in his coat pocket, and stuffed a nice clean white towel and a roll of toilet paper in his bag. He slipped out the door quietly. Outside the streets were dusty, empty, the night's energy spent. He saw a man in a black minister's suit, one of those shirts with straight black collars and a white square over the throat. Martin knew his name was Milton. There was no need for a last name; he was just Milton.
Martin took off his coat and stuffed it in his bag. He buttoned up his shirt underneath and smoothed the wrinkles with his palm. The shirt was blue with orange flowers, but it was dark enough to pass for a minister's shirt.
Milton had to spend the day showing people the light of god. Martin used a dollar paperback with no back cover as his copy of the good book. He kept his eyes open for other books he could use as those small copies of bibles that Milton had to hand out, but he didn't see any.
Martin straightened his back and held his chin high. Milton knew that this path was the right path. He was not hiding the secrets he knew from others; instead, he tried to help them see the truth, and at the same time was silently resigned to the fact that he could not save the world.
Martin talked to people in a quiet voice, when they would listen. He listened quietly, too, trying to understand what others were thinking and feeling. Later on that evening he fell in to walking with another minister.
"Good evening." The man said.
"Good evening, my son." Milton said. "I am spreading the faith this evening. Are you doing the same, father?"
"Oh, you are spreading the faith? Have you read the gospel?"
"Every page." Martin thumped his paperback.
"I see. And you believe in our savior jesus christ?"
"I have been saved." Martin looked up towards the sky.
"Oh you have, have you? Well, the shelter over at St. Mary's is serving dinner tonight. I am going there now if you'd like to come along."
Martin ate that night at the soup kitchen, in a room full of men and women who were a little down on their luck. He helped one of the cooks serve the soup, a broth with potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, and some other vegetables. Then he sat down at a table with a bowl of his own, and two slices of wheat bread.
When everyone was done he helped clear the tables. Then he used the water sprayer in the back sink to clean the bowls. It was late when he finished, and other minister offered him a place to stay the night, in with some people who had no place to stay. Milton gratefully accepted, said the "Our Father," and went to bed.
Friday morning Martin woke up in the homeless shelter at St. Mary's. He climbed out of bed in the early morning, before most of the other people there had woken up, and walked outside. He saw the street getting up, trucks coming and going down there in the industrial district. Then he walked a few blocks over towards the business district. He watched the cabbies at the stoplights, particularly one in a yellow and black checkered cab with a cigarette in his mouth and a nervous habit of tapping the steering wheel. Martin decided his name was Maximillian. There was no need for a last name; he was just Max.
Martin put his jacket on and a cigarette butt in his mouth. Max had to find his cab, and so Martin walked briskly around the corner. He knew Cabbies didn't make any money the time they are away from their cabs... so he felt the urgency of finding the vehicle.
Max had parked his cab very far away, but it was okay. Martin practiced driving while he searched for the car. He would swerve around people on the sidewalk, hands out ahead of him, resting on the steering wheel, feet walking on the gas and the brakes. No one ever used their blinkers on the sidewalk, Martin quickly discerned, and people kept cutting him off.
Despite his lack of wheels, Martin enjoyed being a cabbie. He could feel the pulse of the city beneath his feet. There was beauty in the grime and the grit, in the way the city vibrated with life and death. He alone was in tune with it, he was a trusted, weathered guide through the behemoth.
By midafternoon, Max had about given up finding his cab, and so Martin walked down towards where all the cab garages were. He went into Yellow Cab and told them the story.
The man behind the desk said, "I'm sorry man, I dunno. Maybe try Checker down the block."
But Checker was no luck either. In the end they were not very polite, making him leave when he was only trying to make sure that wasn't his cab he was seeing in the garage.
The other cab companies gave him a similar story. The only explanation was that someone had stolen his car, but the policeman he chased down was as unsympathetic as Checker. Eventually he drove back to the intersection where he'd last seen it, and parked on a bench. He waited and watched the rush hour traffic to see if he could see the car, but no luck.
Later that evening all the skyscrapers were dark and the clean office plazas and sidewalks were devoid of life. No one came down here at night, no cars, no people, no cabs, no customers. Somewhere far off a fountain bubbled. He thought about walking back to the garage and peeking in the window to see if they'd found his cab, but in the end he decided to sleep here on the bench and watch for his car in the morning.
Saturday morning Martin woke up on a bus stop bench downtown, facing the glass facade of a skyscraper. The sky was light but the ground was dark, and the street was quiet. He got up and walked uptown. Near the hotel district, Martin saw a man with a camera around his neck, shorts, white striped tube socks pulled up to his calves, a t-shirt, and a backpack stuffed full . Martin knew this man was a tourist, and he knew his name was Melvin. There was no need for a last name; he was just Melvin.
Melvin hailed from Slippery Falls, Ohio, and he was here for two weeks, to see the sights and enjoy the night life. Today he was stocked with camera and lunch. Martin took off his pants and straightened his boxers, pulled his grimy socks up as far as they would go. He tied an empty cardboard box on a length of string and stuffed everything he had into his black plastic bag. He couldn't get the bag to hang on his shoulders just right, so he had to be content to hang it over one shoulder with his hand and let the other hand dangle aimlessly at his side.
Melvin was going to see the waterfront today, and so Martin walked down, through the shipping warehouses, to the docks. Here, big industry met big entertainment. He saw parks, delis, and waterfront shops, most too expensive for Melvin's modest budget, amid big warehouses and cranes, giant ships tied to moorings the size of garbage cans with ropes thicker than Martin's wrist, or chains with eighteen-inch links.
People smiled at him, not friendly smiles, but mean snickering smiles. Melvin didn't mind. He knew it was obvious he was a tourist, and he knew that the locals were driven to ridicule and detest tourists, although he didn't understand why.
Melvin silently laughed back at the locals who sneered at him. How long, he thought, has it been since they'd been on vacation? Perhaps that was why they resented him, because he was free and relaxed and they were toiling busily. The world would be a better place, Melvin thought, if more people would just relax once in a while, like me.
"Umm, umm, 'scuse me." Melvin waved his cardboard box in the air. "Could you take a picture of me?" After trying in vain to get a picture of him on the pier, he headed back downtown. He walked through the streets with his head bobbing, swinging back and forth, taking in everything new and different about this alien city, not watching where he was going.
Martin stopped at a park with a granite obelisk and read the plaque, a dedication to World War I heroes from the city. He snapped a picture and lay down on the grass to enjoy the early evening twilight. He placed his hands behind his head and crossed his ankles and smiled up into the sky. This, Melvin thought, was relaxation.
Sunday morning Martin woke up on the grass in a park downtown. He saw a homeless man in a store window, hair pasted every which way, scraggly beard, dirty jacket worn smooth and black at the elbows, over layers of scrounged sweatshirts and button-ups, faded blue jeans cut in 1970's style, everything found, collected, selected, borrowed. Martin knew his name was Martin. There was no need for a last name; he was just Martin.