The Pigeon Man

Crossing the river, I say a prayer to Kama, Patron Saint of the Doomed. He is our protector, blessed be his name. The sun is nearing its highest point; not a cloud in the sky to impede its progress. We’ll measure its zenith, as well as its decline. Not many are blessed with such an opportunity, to know the rise and fall. Many experience one or the other.Crossing the river, your soul drifts, as the dark spirits that inhabit the underworld find the bridge to be a vulnerable point in reality, to prod and poke and pull unwary souls to their doom. Praying to Kama, in the least, provides us with solace. Blessed is his name.

There’s something you give up once you’ve become this person. There’s something you give up when you’re no longer considered a human being. Whether you have a say in it, I’ve not the wisdom to share. I’ve never reached that pivotal point of desperation. I’ve never been pushed over the edge by whatever unremitting force it is that can make a man into… not a monster, just something society would want to hide.

Society wants to hide from him, but I can’t… for whatever reason, I see him. I wonder if it’s a ploy of some schizophrenic tendency in my mind; the onset of dementia, but as I make my way up State Street, a long slanting hill, I notice a man, obviously homeless, with his back resting against a glass bus stop, roughly six feet wide. I notice at least six people on the other side of the structure, each either looking at their cell phones or wearing headphones. They sway to the sounds that echo in their minds. I see one man wearing a red sweater, bobbing his head. He peeks back to see ‘the Pigeon Man’, if only out of curiosity, but he seems less than interested. People pass us by. Some don’t even bother to look.

We talk about joining together in unity, about life being this ‘utmost significant’… thing, but these are just rhymes to keep us sane. We recite them, like cold mantras to ward off evil spirits. Dare we stop and take a look around us? To what end? It’s a cold world we live in, even with the temperature rising every day. Global warming’s another myth, just like Sasquatch and the female orgasm. Have you heard the one about the Pigeon Man? He turned out to be a black hole! Same myth as any other: insert implausible, undeniable truth that the mind can’t wrap itself around and keep the world busy for a while. People are black holes. If I put my hand out to this man I’ll be lost forever. Stephen Hawking says that’s a myth now too. Lying cunt. If I put my hand out I’ll never escape.

I watch the man feed several pigeons from a lunch bag sitting among the ruins and wreckage of whatever consists of his life. I wasn’t thinking it at the time, but why in the hell did he have the food for the pigeons… enough to feed them and not bother with himself? It isn’t laziness that makes a man homeless, but madness. Dementia, fringe searing thought forms that chew away at the mind. They can start in the back of the mind; call it anxiety, PTSD, depression, schizophrenia, but eventually they destroy even the greatest of us. Muhammad Ali. Ernest Hemingway. Me, probably.

I make my way up the hill, venturing towards Madison Ave, towards what’s supposed to be the ‘Tulip Fest’. I’ve never been, though I have no interest in seeing a bunch of flowers. It’s fun to see people, so I make the journey. I walk along the cracked pavement running between the roads and the sidewalks, until I reach the ‘State Plaza’. It’s a long grey stretch of land crafted by people who think that grey is the color of the world. Black and white, perhaps it’s a statement. Albany is the ‘greyest little city in the world’, with a number of state offices outlying, in-lying, lying every which way. There’s a call for startups, in hopes to bring fresh enterprise and perhaps a change to the malaise of grey fog, but who can tell what the future holds. There’s always talk of change, of making things better, but maybe we’re just doomed to remain within the fog. I walk through the grey, thinking of Tartarus in Greek lore. I think of things malformed, undigested bits of reality, not quite hell, but a world absent of the will to make this into heaven. I look passed ‘The Egg’, a big, grey, oval shaped structure for great artists to perform. If you look passed you’re blessed with quite the view of my home. The land stretches out from this point and Tartarus doesn’t so much ‘frame’ the view, but pull it in. This is the nexus of the universe and everything around us is being pulled in, consumed, like a black hole. All that I behold is my kingdom.

I have yet to claim it. I never will.

I walk along the fountain, which stretches most of the way from Washington St, to Madison Ave. It’s a reflecting pool, for our people to take time out of their days and stare at their most intimate self. See yourself, just to remember that you’re real and what you’re enduring is not a dream, as in any other rendition of Tartarus. Physicists claim that this world might be a reflection. Lying cunts. I see reflections all around me… lying cunts. I see myself as a boy running as fast as I can around the reflecting pool. I have no idea why I ran. I just did, because I was a kid and had so much energy. I see myself years down the road… too old for running… too old for walking. I sit and think of all that I’ve seen in my life. I think of myself, as the Pigeon Man. There’s nothing left to run for, so I sit and feed the pigeons. Rot of the brain is getting the best of me. I forget where I am. I’m at the reflecting pool. I go towards Madison Ave.

I’m not too far from my destination, but I already hear music. The music is a group of college-age ‘kids’ sitting on a stoop listening to a rapper I’ve never heard. My first thought is that I didn’t know people still sat out on their stoops and used their radios. Then, I feel the first sting of old age, not that I’m THAT old, just beyond that point where age no longer matters. I’m lost, taken, again, by the grip of that black hole. I pass them without a glance, as they shout every word of the song, cheering, as if they’d hoped to share this moment forever. Duality hits again and I remember acting the same way at their age. Something about that one song that brings everyone together. I can’t even remember the song. It’s beyond that black hole, yet its significance to my story remains.

I continue, noticing a crowd of people herding together at the corner, walking in packs into the park. Washington Park is flooded with people and vendors and booths for assorted goods. Artists have assembled, hoping to pedal their wares, enjoying the sunny day in the park. I hate the herding. We walk along the path. So many black holes grouped together is always cause for a cataclysmic, time-altering event and I want no part of it. There’s so much room along the grass, but we can’t go there. Vendors set up wires and tents and things to keep us trapped. We’re trapped like rats. I make a turn and walk through the maze of wires, hearing someone saying something, but I’m too far gone. I have to escape the herd. Crossing the jungle of wires, I see people laying out on blankets in the grass. I feel more relaxed. I see the tulips decorated for the occasion. I see bright purples and blues. Nothing grey about this place. Even the fountain in the middle, no grey, just faded after years of erosion. I see a beautiful girl in a sundress that passes me by. For a moment, we can stare, sharing in some moment that will go untold, unseen, in the back of our minds for as long as eternity holds itself together. SO insignificant, as it drags itself out; the will they, won’t they, as it stretches beyond the point of no return. We share that glance into each other’s eyes, the most intimate point we can reach, seeing something beautiful and sinister in our souls, before it’s gone.

I leave the park. I pass the ‘stoop kids’ and go back through the grey world of Tartarus. I walk passed the Pigeon Man. He’s asleep behind the bus stop. People sit on the other side, different people, still on their phones. I stop, seeing him, but even the pigeons have left him. What is the world? Black holes all around me. I can’t wait here too long. Down the hill I go. There’s a homeless woman sitting at the crossing, where the highway becomes the city. She sits on the corner. The cars wait at a red light, seeing her with her sign. It’s a clever marketing ploy. I see her around five o’clock every day. She waits for the traffic to pick up, when everyone’s leaving work. It’s like Pavlov’s dog… that sort of thing. She sits on a bucket next to her rusted metal cart, full of blankets and loose bottles. She doesn’t look at me, as I walk passed, but I notice a marble composition notebook sitting on top of the pile in her cart. It throws me off for a moment, but I continue along. Why the hell does she have a notebook? Is she keeping tabs on how many people stop, per car? Is she writing a manifesto about her life? Is she thinking up stocks to invest in, per dollar made today, minus overhead costs for the cart, rags, dementia and various dangers of the city?

I guess I’ll never know.

I cross over, saying a prayer to Kama, as I make my way along the bridge. I look down on the Hudson River, seeing its horizon far along and out of sight. I make my way home. I’m left with so many questions, but nobody ever said they need to be answered. What significance answering so many questions could bring to my life? If you never try you never know. Then, again, sometimes it’s just having that question that seems to keep you together. I find a soft patch of grass and rest. All I see is cloud.

19 thoughts on “The Pigeon Man

  1. This is gripping. Our relationship with the publicly distressed is a haunting one when we choose to notice it. I shall be posting a poem I wrote a few years ago in the next few days, which l called the ‘Glittering Prizes’, prompted by memories of the homeless when I was at university and strange connection between them and students. I’d be interested to see whether you see any echoes of your insights in it – I may have to re-edit it!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Your word smithing is beautiful. I can almost smell and feel the picture that you are painting. I have never been to New York. In truth, all cities can have a tendency to freak me out, the thought more than the actual experience. This reminds me to write about my recent trip to London and that I should write about it, get it out of my head.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Great piece. Especially the part about “joining together in unity,” only to ignore that which is around us. Mostly because we get to choose what kind of unity we would prefer, rather than deal with the difficult people we would rather leave alone and be left alone from.

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  4. Pigeons are persecuted in London and now they have to scavenge around for scraps of food. Years ago a pigeon could earn an honest crust. Tourists used to be able to buy little packets of bird seed from street vendors in Trafalgar Square so they could have their picture taken feeding them. Feed the pigeons now and you will be fined £500. The differences is now you also get your picture in the paper but without the pigeon, the council makes money out of it instead of the street vendor, and the pigeons no longer get the seed which is healthier for them. Just thought I’d mention it.

    Liked by 1 person

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