Toothless: Stories of New York



“Excuse me my sisters and brothers! I’m a diabetic and I’m homeless! Can you please help me out!”

It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. Help me.

I had entered the train at the last moment before the doors shut. There was absolutely no room to push through and find a seat. I found myself face to face with a toothless, gall, brooding man in smelly clothes and dreadlocks.

“Excuse me ladies and gentlemen…”

Our eyes locked.

“Hello there!” He said. He came within an inch of my face. I turned away and inhaled.

“Where’ve you been? I’ve been looking for you,”

I kept my face turned away.

“You tired?”

Closer still. Why wasn’t anyone coming to my aid? The walls of the train car felt like they were closing in on me as his breath touched my face.

“I think about you a lot. I think about you all the time.”

Please G-d, get this guy away from me.

“Can I hold your hand so we can pray together?”

He reached for my hand and I quickly stuffed it into my full coat pockets. Coins and receipts. I should clean this thing out one of these days, I thought.

“No thank you.” I said at the wall. He understood that I had directed the comment to him.

“Ok then,” he said and turned away.

“Excuse me sisters and brothers! I’m homeless and a diabetic! Can you please help me!”

I breathed a sigh of relief and leaned against the door for comfort.

I looked at the people who stood around me. They looked as uncomfortable by the encounter as I was.  None of them looked me in the eye. They looked over me, past the top of my head, spacing out towards the billboards promoting Dr. Zizmor and his miracle face treatments.

I wondered: If it was someone else, would I have done something? If this man started up with the woman standing next to me, would I have made a sound?

I doubt it.

After all, this is New York.

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