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In The Plaza

By Damion Hamilton

It was one of those days, in which one was happy to be alive. Tony wasn't normally conscious of this feeling, but he felt it this day; perhaps it was do to the weather, or perhaps it was do to his beer buzz, or perhaps it was one of those magical days one gets at times. It was probably a mixture of all three. He didn't need to rationalize it-- he just felt it. But it was probably do to the fact that he was still young, and this was one of his off days from work-a Saturday afternoon. And he knew that he could do whatever he wanted this day, even if it was just nothing at all. He could do just that. But he had plans this day; he wanted to hang out in the plaza. In his city, the plaza seemed to be the center of life, were a lot of people went to relax and walk around. The plaza had stores: coffeehouses, music stores, bookstores, and restaurants. The plaza really wasn't much, but it was better than the working class suburb he grew up in.

Nothing much went on there, in those residential neighborhoods-a lot of times he wouldn't bother to leave the house, as a teenager, do to this-his mother would call him affectionately an "old man." He remembered being depressed often, and thinking life was so boring. He would look outside, and see nothing but houses, trees, cars, and front lawns. Why go outside? There was nothing out there for him.

One saw the same people everyday. He would see his neighbors-young and old, and not even speak to anyone; it all seemed so sad to him, all these people (including himself) stuck in the middle of nowhere. He had never been anywhere else, yet he always had this vague feeling, that something was going on "out there." But he didn't know where that was. Perhaps he would go there when he was older. But for now, he would have to retreat into the bright, flashing world of television-were there was always exciting people doing interesting things.

He discovered the plaza, and that changed things for him. The plaza was in his hometown, but it seemed like a different city to him. There would be people walking the streets, lots of different types of people: color, races, creeds, foreigners. And people would be sitting outside of restaurants and coffeeshops, there would be street magicians playing on Saturdays. He was overwhelmed when he first ventured into the plaza-why couldn't the whole town be like this? He thought.

It was a breezy and sunny Saturday morning, so breezy and sunny that one felt a natural high from it, and he almost didn't need the can of beer he was about to drink. But he thought since he was already feeling good, do to the weather, imagine what he would feel like with the buzz from the beer. He usually always drank beer whenever he caught a train and went to the plaza. He needed something to guard himself against the serious and dull faces he encountered on the trains. He noticed that the faces on trains suggested waiting, and while people were waiting they were usually in despair.

He got on and off the train, looking out the window most of the time, at things he saw dozens of times before an old cemetery, an old stockyard, a junkyard, and a flea market. He watched these things with wonder, as if he were just viewing these things for the first time.

When he got off the train, he felt: young, strong, good looking and invincible. He felt as if the door of good fortune was opened to him, waiting for him to come through the threshold. Young girls and guys were all around, and they were wearing clothes, which showed off their young flesh. He kept watching the young girls-he wished that he could walk with them, but nearly all of them were with some young guy, and the one's that were alone didn't look in his direction. The whole plaza seemed to be vibrating with the celebratory sounds of jazz music. People stood in crowds, to listen to the musicians play. He tried to stand in one of the crowds huddled around one of the jazz bands, but he became very bored within five minutes. He wanted to be cultured, but jazz bored him terribly. He found a seat outside of a restaurant sat down and watched the passers-by and felt the alcohol tinkle in his body. He watched the way people walked the clothes they were wearing. Everybody seemed terribly alike, with the same hairstyles and the clothes that they wore, and people seemed to walk in the same manner. Cars went up and down the street, playing loud rock music, or loud rap music. And a lot of the kids looked like rocks stars or rap stars he had seen on posters or television.

He watched the people come and go, for about a half an hour, and began to feel self conscious about sitting outside, watching all these people. Then that feeling went away, and he became lulled by the music being played in the background, and the sun was shining brightly. It wasn't the kind of day, one should feel anxious or depressed-there was plenty of other days to feel like that. He watched a sparrow peck a hamburger wrapper-right near his feet, and it didn't even seem afraid of him. It pecked at the bun furiously, as if it had not eaten in a weeks.

He wished a pretty girl would sit down next to him, he just keep watching all the girls, and his eyes followed this one girl in particular, who was walking a small brown dog. She had on a tank top, which fit her voluptuous physique quite well.

He saw some one sit down at his table out of the corner of his eye, and this shocked him a little, people rarely sat down next to people they didn't know. And he really didn't want to be bothered, with anybody, especially if they were a beggar. The man didn't speak for awhile, and Tony wouldn't acknowledge his presence, he just kept the girls, and closing his eyes periodically then the man said.

"It's a nice day out, isn't it?"

Tony looked at him, and noticed that the man was about forty years of age, good-looking, his beard and the hair on his head were closely cropped, and he was wearing a white clerical uniform.

"Yeah, it's definitely a nice day"

"Come here a lot. It's the best place to be in the city."

"Yeah, you can say that again."

"I see you around a lot, what's your name?"

"My name is Tony."

"Good to meet you, my name's Greg.

They shook hands.

"Hey, I see you checking out some of the girls out here. There's some nice one's to look at, that's for sure."

"Yeah, real nice, they're good to look at form a distance, especially on a Saturday afternoon, such as this one. I'm off from work, so I feel good. How about yourself?

"I'm just getting off of work, man. I work in a beauty shop.

"I should have known, because your hair is freshly cut, and you look as if you just had your beard trimmed."

"Well, you see me looking good now, but it always hasn't been like this. I've been going through some hard times recently: loosing my woman, my job, and living out on the streets. But the lord blessed me with this job, and I have just been trying to turn my life around. Well, it seems like we all go through our hard times."

"Yeah"

"Wow, look at that one."

A young curvy mulatto woman walks by, smiling at them.

"In my younger days, I used to get a lot of them that looked like that. Now, I'm not bragging, but I had a different girl for every day of the week. So many I treated badly, I feel guilty about it now."

"Look man, don't feel guilty about anything; they probably treated someone badly themselves."

"Karma"

"Exactly"

"So, how do you do with the ladies?"

"I don't do anything with the ladies."

"What, a good-lookin guy such as yourself"

"Yep, I guess I don't know how to talk to them."

"Oh man, that's the easy part."

"For most people it is, but for me, I'm practically mute."

"You're just shy-that's all."

"No, I'm not, I'm just bored. Nothing interests me: the weather, baseball games, dance clubs, cell phones, jobs and jokes."

"You're just scared of women."

"Not really, I've had my chances with women in the past. Just nothing ever came from it. Women on the street, women in schools, women on jobs, women in coffeeshops. But it seems as if something always got in the way."

"Like what?"

"Like just when I was about to get close to them, they would leave or something-that seems like the main thing, women are always moving away from me, or suddenly finding boyfriends. I can wait on a girl, and admire her for months, before I ever make a move; and they usually don't wait around long-they are always finding some boyfriend somewhere. Our time is so short, here on earth and I always act as if I got months and years to live."

"Sounds to me, you never really wanted a girl."

"What do you mean? I think and lust after women all the time."

"Well, there's such a thing as Will in the world, and when one desires something bad enough, a lot of times people get it. A strong will can move mountains my man. Ever notice with prizefighters, how when they are poor and hungry, how well they fight. But once, they become well-fed and successful, how they lose their passion. But as far as the women in your life goes. I don't think you ever truly wanted any of them."

"What?"

"Yep, it's not all good with women, there's a lot of bad, and you're a smart fellow, and even though you may not have ever had a woman, and know what it is like, you probably know this."

"I never thought of it that way-you're a genius man. Now when I think about it, I don't think I ever really wanted any of those girls that badly. I was the type in school, that if I liked a girl, and a buddy liked the same girl, I would let my buddy have her."

"I knew you were the type, but if you really wanted her, you wouldn't have let friends or anybody get in the way of what you desire."

"You're right."

"I know I am

Greg begins looking at his watch.

"Oh, time really flies man. I gotta be leaving to catch a bus. Were you stayin?"

"Yeah, I think that I'll hang around here some more and think about things. It was nice talking to you. Hope you see you around again, I'm down here a lot.

"Yeah, you'll definitely see me around here, and we can talk some more. You're a bright and interesting kid. Gotta go man, take care."

Greg walked off leaving Tony alone with his thoughts. Greg had been an interesting guy to speak with, and Tony began thinking about his will and the will of the world, and began to think that he thought too much, and why didn't he really want all the girls he thought he wanted. Perhaps if you wanted something really bad enough it would become true for you. He looked on the ground and saw the ants crawling around, the ants didn't seem as if they were very much to him; but they had the will to be live, just as much as people had to be alive. He noticed a cat walking down a street, a skinny black cat that stopped and looked suspiciously at the people that approached it from a distance. A cat's life seemed hard, there were so many things that could hurt or kill it, but it wouldn't stop the cat from living. And if it were a male cat it would probably be looking for female cat to reproduce with, and the kittens' life would probably be just as hard as the parents would. Yeah the will to live was a very powerful thing he reflected. All these creatures-small and large seemed brave, and he was too cowardly to fall in love.

Copyright 2006 Damion Hamilton

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