Friday, January 26, 2007

Sad Kid

I went shopping yesterday with a friend of mine, Amy, because it was our lunch hour and I didn't have anything in particular to do with my allotted time. I hate shopping normally, but, as the alternative was sitting at my desk and clicking the refresh button on my Inbox while feeling overwhelmingly unpopular, I opted to tag along in the interest of my own mental health. So we headed down from Midtown to the Union Square area; she bought shirts, and I skulked around the store scowling at the hipster clerks and trying to puzzle out why anyone would pay 80$ for a pair of jeans with holes in them.

After her stuff had been appropriately paid for and bagged, we made our way back to the subway, down to the platform, and that's where we met him: Sad Kid.

As we stood there, waiting on the F train and discussing how Norbit (who's poster was right behind us) might be the worst movie ever made outside of a Malaysian snuff film, I was tapped on the shoulder. I turned, muscles tensed, fists clenched, ready to defend Amy and I from a mugger's attack or, if he were larger than I, ready to shove Amy into whatever shiv he might be clutching so that I had a few minutes head start. But it wasn't a mugger. It was a short, roly-poly kid, no more than eighteen or nineteen, in a beat-up windbreaker and wire-rimmed glasses. He looked embarrassed in that "just shat myself" kind of way and the conversation we had went exactly like this:

Sad Kid: (meekly) Does the F train stop at 53rd street?
Me: Oh, no... just wait here for the V train.
Sad Kid: Okay... cool... thanks.
Me: No problem.
Sad Kid: That's kind of what I thought.
Me: Okay then.
(I began to turn back to Amy because I'd just thought of some particularly cutting remarks to make about Norbit, when...)
Sad Kid: Boy, it sure is a lot different from Tampa.
(I turn back)
Me: Hmm?
Sad Kid: I said it's sure different here from Tampa. That's where I'm from. Tampa.
Me: (sensing what's coming and trying to end it before I get sucked in) Yeah.
(I quickly turn back to Amy, my eyes screaming)
Sad Kid: (this is delivered almost entirely to the back of my head) I'm here to pursue my acting career. Yeah... I want to be actor. I know it's cliched but I'm really good. I think. It sure is hard getting used to a city like New York when you're from a place like Tampa. Really cold here. I sure wish I could move back to Tampa for the winter. I bet it's warm there right now. Warmer than here.
(At this point, Amy joins the fray)
Amy: I used to live in Florida. It's warm there.
Sad Kid: It sure is, man, I miss it so much. But you gotta be in New York if you want to be an actor. Gotta follow your dream, you know.
Amy: Yep.
(I'm glaring into the tunnel, trying to will the F train to come with my mind. Miraculously, or because I have heretofore unknown special powers, it does)
Sad Kid: Oh is this the train I need? Are you guys getting on this one?
Me: (a near-yelp) No! This is our... this isn't the train you need. Wait here. Wait. Here.
Sad Kid: (a heart-breaking amount of dejection in his voice) Oh. Okay. Thanks for your help.
(The train pulls in and it's doors open)
Sad Kid: See you guys around.
Amy: (sincerely, because she's a better person than me) Take care.
(I say nothing and don't look at him. Amy hits me and tells me I'm awful.)

Well what would you do? I'm not a mean person by any stretch; a little thoughtless sometimes, and a case could certainly be made that I've got the Only-Child syndrome known as AAM (All About Me), but otherwise I'm a total softy. I felt for Sad Kid. Really. I have walked more than my fair share of miles in Sad Kid's scuffed Nikes and know what it's like to be somewhere imposing all alone. Remember, within a span of two years, I moved to New York and to Los Angeles by myself, not knowing a soul in either city. There were a lot of nights spent in still-unfamiliar apartments, drinking alone, watching Comedy Central and eating McDonalds because they were at least things that I knew. And maybe that's the reason that I couldn't look him in the eye; why I literally turned my back on him. It's kind of like a guy who's dieted for years, beaten his body into shape with exercise and discipline, being stuck in an elevator with a morbidly obese person who's eating a jumbo meatball hoagie. That glimpse of your own past is terrifying; that tight-chested feeling of "God, don't let it get that bad for me again."

Now, yes, I didn't have to be such a dickwad to him. Recognized. And I, naturally, feel like crap about it. But also, I'm kind of mad at Sad Kid. I want to shake him hard, tell him that while it's okay to move to a strange city and follow your dreams (hello, that's 60% of NYC's population), it's most decidedly not okay to start telling your life story to strangers on subway platforms. A lack of street smarts like that is enough to get you talked out of your wallet, or worse. I want to tell him to wise the fuck up, kid, because it may hurt like hell to be only with yourself in this intimidating place, but that it won't last forever. It just won't. But you can't force it. You don't make friends while waiting for a train in this town. Just the way it goes.

Anyway, I hope that he does all right for himself. I really do. I hope that Sad Kid turns around one day and suddenly is Happy Kid. And I swear I won't be such a chickenshit next time, should our paths happen to cross again. That means I'll at least look at him; I'm not going to take him under my admittedly meager wing, or anything. Let's not get crazy.


Blogger Beehive Hairdresser said...

Next time you see him, sell San Andreas to him for eight dollars.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Clinton said...


Seriously, if there were a Nobel Prize for Outstanding Achievments in Commenting, you'd be up in Oslo eating herrings and addressing a bunch of scientists right now.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Beehive Hairdresser said...

Thank you, Thank you.

Your eight dollar San Andreas story still cracks me up.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Clinton said...

Ha, thanks! Me sharing that story with the world really helped me come to terms with my own dumbassedness. I own it now, instead of the other way around.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous mmyers said...

I'm a heat seeker for the sad, lonely sack of a man. Not sure why.
Isn't it weird that you see alot less of the sad sack women. Why is that, you think?

2:56 PM  
Blogger Clinton said...

Actually, I think there are probably the same amount of sad sack girls as there are sad sack guys. It's just that they don't cross-pollinate, as it were; meaning, the sad sack guys don't go telling their life stories to normal girls on the subway platform, for instance. They seek out other guys because of some weird "Band of Brothers" mentality. Same for sad sack girls. The sad sacks probably stick to their own gender because the rejection isn't quite as a painful when it's someone with the same nads as them.

At least that's my dime-store psychoanalysis, anyway.

3:06 PM  

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