“Oh! Excuse me!” She was new in the neighborhood, and was terrified.
“It’s fine,” I said. Her eyes hadn’t relaxed and she continued to stare at me. After a tense pause, I waved her away. “It’s fine—go along now.”
She backed away slowly. “I didn’t mean to bump you…God bless.” She crossed herself.
I turned and headed past Luccio’s bakery and down to West 54th. It was a Hell’s Kitchen summer Saturday and a few kids were playing with a hose, soaking one another as I went by. A Sicilian boy tried to spray a little girl but she was too quick and instead, he got me on the arm.
“Johnny Brazzi!” his mother shrieked from the stoop of their building. She ran over and yanked the hose from him. “Show some respect!” She looked up at me. “I am very sorry—“she turned to Johnny “—apologize!”
Johnny stared at the ground, shuffling his feet.
I started to speak but she interrupted me, still looking down at Johnny. “Johnny, what do you say?”
“Sorry,” he said softly.
“It’s okay,” I said, “run along,” and felt the eyes from across the street. The old men that played checkers and smoked cigarettes in front of Hudson Market had taken an interest when they’d heard her shriek. I glanced over and they averted their gaze—Mario Abruzzo, the mortician, nodded in respect and I tipped my fedora back to him—then they all went back to their games.
I turned up 9th, heading for the park and realized I was late. I picked up my pace, made it across West 55th before the light, but didn’t make it across West 56th in time. A car blasted its horn as I reached the sidewalk. I didn’t pay attention to the noise, but then a shout stopped me. A cop was in the street, having stopped the car, and was walking around to the driver side. “Show some respect,” he yelled at the driver, a middle aged man with accountant glasses, and then turned to me and pointed. “Apologize!”
The accountant’s face was flush with fear and shame. He meekly put up a hand. “Sorry,” he said almost whispering.
“Louder!” the cop bellowed.
I waved him off and nodded to the cop. He nodded back, pride and vindication on his face, and tipped his hat.
When I finally got to the park , I realized I didn’t know the meeting point. This was not like me—I have to be very organized—so I headed east and began searching for faces. Soon I came to the crowds by the rink. This was a usual meeting spot, but there were others so I continued searching. People moved out of my way.
Then, I heard: “Salvador!”
My brother-in-law emerged. His face was tense, but he seemed relieved to have found me. “This way,” he said putting a hand lightly on my shoulder and leading me away from the masses. “We were worried something happened to you.”
“It was close,” I said smiling to myself.
We went down a path, in the shade of the trees, and turned a corner to a quiet meadow. They were waiting patiently for me. I remembered the spot now.
“Uncle Sal!” my two nieces shouted.
I kissed them on the forehead and held them tightly. When it was her turn, my sister hugged me too, then became stern. “Next time we are coming to get you.” She kissed me on the forehead. “This city is no place for a man in a wheelchair.”
He had wandered the forest for a very long time, alone. And he believed it was good. When he had emerged and the shine of the world consumed him again, he sat on his mat and the teacher asked for the sound of “Om.” He heard the tones start apart, every set of lungs searching for greater resonance; they shook and sharpened until the quaking harmony tightened like a bridge being raised by its cables, and was one. The singular tone of many fastened to his soul. A tear came to his eye. And he believed it was good.
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Caleb Garling lives in San Francisco and wrote The St George’s Angling Club, available at