by Robert Lopez
The closest thing to tumbleweed in New York City are the people.
I say this out loud to the woman next to me because I think she is from Arizona.
Whenever it starts to rain I think end of the world. Whenever the telephone rings or someone calls me by name I think Leonidas at Thermopylae or Custer at Little Big Horn.
What this speaks to I try not to think about.
Don’t try to trick me into being happy, is what the woman says back.
We are in a museum when we say this to each other. This particular room in the museum has windows for walls and you can see the weather from anywhere inside it.
This is not just me talking, I say. I pause a moment and then keep talking about the weather until I hear myself say, One bolt of lightening and it’s everyone out of the pool time.
I think I’ve known this woman for years. I think we met in college and have tried for years to get away from each other. The problem is one or the other of us has nothing better to do at any given time. Then I think we came to New York two months ago to help the poor, or feed the poor, something with the poor.
The trouble with me is I think too much and don’t know anything.
I don’t know why this is, though I suspect it’s my own fault.
Outside the rain is coming down like it’s angry with someone. Like someone had made fun of the rain’s mother.
We are sitting on a bench surrounded by twenty giant speakers arranged in an oval. From the speakers a children’s choir sings in a foreign language that might be Latin. When you walk from speaker to speaker you hear a different voice, which is why it’s in the museum, I think. When you are outside the oval, you can’t distinguish one voice from the next. To me, the voices all sound the same, even the different ones.
The woman next to me is looking out the window, watching the passersby tramp through gaping puddles, watching the rain like she’s never seen it fall down before.
This is when I say something about the homeless, something that sounds like at least they’ll have a bath today. Why I say this is because I don’t know how she’ll react and I’m curious.
Between the choirboys and rainfall the woman can’t hear me, though, and from the look on her face I can tell she’s making her mind up about something, something that might include leaving me here on this bench to go play in the rain, eventually finding her way west to feed the poor of Tempe or Phoenix or wherever it is she’s from and that maybe if I’m lucky she’ll call when she gets there.