Tuesday, 22 July 2008

On the Street

I was waiting for Brian in front of the restaurant Republic while a red school-bag landed on the curb of the pavement. A pile of notes and a calculator fell out, and were scattered around it. A rather nerdy African-American boy screamed at a tall broad-shouldered street-smart Asian kid. Standing in front of the restaurant, I could hardly hear what they said to each other. A twenty-something African-American man pointed at the school-bag and asked the 'nerd' to pick it up. The 'nerd' picked it up, only to throw it again onto the pavement in utter anger.

These boys were all skateboarders. They hung out in the part of Union Square in front of Heartland and Republic probably everyday. I remember when I was at the 'nerd's' age, the kind of satisfaction I would get from drawing the attention from all the people on the street by picking up something that belonged to me, only for the purpose of throwing it away--a renunciation of property (how socialist!), and most important, the part of the self that makes an intellectual intellectual. The ultimate desire he had was in fact the unconditional camaraderie from the tall kid, who probably skated better than the 'nerd' did, and occupied a more essential position in the clique to which he yet belonged.

Sure enough, the 'nerd' stole the bag of the tall boy and threatened to throw it onto the curb, like the way his bag was treated. In return, the tall boy picked up his skateboard and threatened to throw it into the trash bin, and in the end, he did. The boys then laughed at each other--no psychoanalysis was needed.

Amid the crowd, a 20-year-old version of Thomas crossed the street and marched towards the subway station. A 20-year-old version of Thomas? When have I begun to think of my friend's image when I first met him as a shadow of my past dreams?

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