Familiar Things

There are four main characters in this story.

The first two work in the coffee cart on the corner of 15th and 8th. They are young, tan, and slender, making the most of their impossibly small restaurant. Their windows are lined with frosted donuts and photos of bright yellow egg sandwiches that I know they did not make. For a year we ignore each other when I walk by. After some time, they begin to say 'hello' and sometimes add 'beautiful' to the end. After three years they start offering me free coffee but I decline. I change jobs and now I walk the other way down 15th street. We don't see each other anymore.

The next person I'm thinking of is a security guard in Chelsea Market. He stands by the Moroccan goods store towards 10th avenue. I have never actually seen someone purchase something from this store but it has been here for as long as I can remember - which is forever. For two years now I have passed this guard (whom I know to be a guard only by his blue shirt and serious hat) and on rare occasions we make eye contact. We have never acknowledged that we recognize each other and now it feels too late to start over. I tend to walk outside now.

Our final character is a homeless woman you will find around Chelsea. At any given time, she has no less than a dozen shopping carts lined up on the sidewalk. They are filled with indiscernible items, things you and I have probably discarded. She wears layers of torn fabric that sometimes hide her tiny frame, to the point that when she is sleeping she disappears completely. I used to wonder how she moved all her belongings around and when and why, what she collects, how she ended up here. I am so used to her now that when I see her I have stopped wondering and consider her part of this little world like the architecture along my commute.

This is one of the stranger tricks New York plays on you - turning people into scenery.