a guy didn’t smell too good stopped me

and desperate words rushed out of him like vomit


I was young in New York

my southern politeness still intact

this before I learned to glance down and away and keep moving

like a deaf man


“A bug crawled into my brain,” he said, “and laid eggs.”

I thought he was speaking metaphorically

how young and literature literate I was


“Sometimes,” he said, “I laugh but really it’s the bug inside my

brain laughing my reflection in the storefront glass my face …”


he wore a cheap suit like it was the same one he used to keep


“It used to not be like this,” he said, “I had a boat, I had a boat, I

used to go sailing, there was wind, the sun stayed still …”


his eyes clung to me

like he was falling over a cliff

and my sidewalk attention was really my hand grabbing his to

keep him from falling to his death


I was young in New York

the dollar I offered him was like a cloth napkin to a starving man


“When the eggs hatch I don’t want them to, but what do I do

Jesus loves me this I know where is Carol, Carol would know

what time it is …”


a hilarious terror jumped onto his face

twisted his features

then scuttled off like some clicking alien crab


I stood astride my bicycle trying to think about the twenty-two

blocks to my next delivery, and if it would be quicker to stay

on Madison or go ahead and cut over to Third Avenue


but I could not get the burnt ozone smell of his words out of my head


“The mayor was going to do something, I know people, but those

union bastards, Helen help me, I gave them the papers, I got them notarized …”


this went on for another couple of minutes that felt like a couple

of hours

before I said I had to go and peddled away

and let go my sidewalk attention

that felt like letting go of his hand


and I rode strongly through the Manhattan traffic

trying to think of the location of my next destination

trying not to think about a bug laying eggs

trying not to think about the clicking sounds of some alien crab

that surely I imagined, I told myself

that I really really did not actually hear


While the city sleeps, Bob Hudson writes.