Reflections: Two Englishmen in New York
At Columbus Circle, for a fleeting moment, an opportunity presents itself.
A sidewalk collision between two pasty-faced men is avoided as both intuitively, if ungracefully, swerve to avoid bumping into each other. They are both headed towards the same crosswalk where they wait, shoulder-to-shoulder, for the traffic to stop. An observant onlooker might guess – correctly as it turns out – from their uncoordinated, somewhat flailing gaits that both men are, in fact, English. The onlooker might also note, despite the difference in ages between these two men, that they are dressed similarly; both wear brown brogues, blue jeans, white shirts and blue velvet jackets. However, having established that this onlooker is particularly observant he or she notices more than that; they can see that though they are dressed similarly, the clothes of one of the men – the older man – are expensive and designer label whereas the younger man’s are from a department store.
As these two men wait at the crosswalk the younger man glances at the older and, though he has never before met him, recognizes him immediately. If you were to ask the younger man he would confirm that he holds very strong views of the older man he is stood next to. If you were to press further, the younger man would admit that he has long judged the moral character of the older man stood next to him. If you were to have asked the younger man only an hour before how he would define “unctuousness” he would merely would have replied with the name of the older man.
The younger man considers that he could lean in towards the older man and tell him that he thinks he should go “fuck himself.” But the younger man, though he would not admit it, is enthralled enough by the older man’s celebrity that he is striken momentarily dumb.
Instead, the younger man – who in his more vainglorious moments views himself as a modern day Frank Capra everyman – thinks homicidal thoughts. As they keep on waiting at the crosswalks for the pedestrian light, and car after speeding car passes them, the younger man thinks about how the most … “accidental” … of nudges would send the older man under a New York cab.
And those few seconds, as they wait for the pedestrian light, last for the younger man the thinking and execution of a thousand “accidental” deaths, until finally there is the glow of the pedestrian crossing light and they safely cross the road before seperating to go their own ways and the younger man can go back to pretending that he’s at heart a decent chap.
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