Monday, March 17, 2008

If you've ever attended an event at a concert hall, arena, stadium, etc. you know how ridiculously crowded the surrounding space can be. People milling around, bumping into you, looking around while yelling into their cell phones "Where are you??!!! I'm right here!".

Saturday night I made the ridiculous mistake and advised my girl, Jo, to meet me in front of Madison Square Garden so we could walk over together to the PATH train for a get together in Jersey. Completely oblivious to the NCAA tournament going on, I marched right into the center of madness that is Madison Square Garden. Since I arrived before Jo, I stood off to the side and decided to partake in one of my favorite hobbies - people watch. It allows my overactive imagination to roam free and come up with vignettes on the story of peoples lives. Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to take pictures of the people I watch (still without my beloved digital camera...SIGH) and post what my story of make-believe reality is for them. Or maybe not.

Well anyway while sipping my venti skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte from my beloved Starbucks, I was constantly accosted with "Want tickets? Got tickets!". For those unfamiliar, right in the center of this March Madness is the realm of scalpers. Visually seedy men, who somehow scored tickets to coveted events and wish to charge you your children's tuition , your mortgage and possibly a pint of blood for a coveted seat for said event. I focused my people radar on them for awhile and observed them in action. They seem to work in teams but are always in competition for the good old dollar. They scurry. They whisper. They scan the crowd watching, looking, circling swarming then pouncing on their prey. Reminiscent of a drug fiend trying to bargain for a hit, they have this rapid fire speech that leaves the consumer a little overwhelmed and their wallet excessively lighter. After being engrossed in this scene for longer than I ever wanted to be, I turned to see if Jo was coming up the escalator. Instead of finding Jo directly in my line of vision. I found Richie. Richie is a dude I dated very briefly in high school. He was a basketball phenom, having reached 6'3" by the age of 14. He loved basketball. He breathed it, lived it. sexed it (since he wasn't getting it from me...hahahahaha). Just the sound of the ball hitting the pavement in neighborhood bball courts brought a gleam to his eye and a confident smirk to his face. College scouters were already knocking at his door in the projects his freshman year of high school. He was what they called destined in terms of a basketball career. Fast forward to the present and while I'm not a basketball expert, I've never heard basketball career and Richie's name uttered in the same sentence. At least not in present tense. I run into him from time to time, more infrequently as the years fade. So I wasn't shocked to see him Saturday night. It seemed befitting that I would run into this bball addict at the Garden during March Madness. I saw that he was talking to some people so I took two steps in his direction knowing that I was now in his line of vision. I observed him for a minute and thought "damn Richie's getting old". I tried to dismiss this thought quickly seeing as I just had a birthday and am in fact "getting old" myself. He finally looked my way and it was gone. That gleam in his eye. The smirk on his face. His charming exuberance. All gone.
"Hey J. What's going on? What you getting into tonight?"
"Hey, Richie. I'm good. Waiting on my friend so we can go to Jersey for a get together. How are you?"
"Yeah? That's what's up. What's good for tonight?"

What???!! Before I could respond with "Dude, didn't I just answer that." and a chuckle, I saw his eyes darting back and forth. He wasn't paying attention to our conversation, he was watching the crowd. Initially, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and thought, maybe, JUST MAYBE, he's looking for his friends so they could get their night on and poppin'. As soon as that thought fluttered in my mind, it just as quickly passed when a very short older man with a permanent scowl approached him with "Mannn, Rich. Don't ever do that shit again. mannnn. It ain't right.You know better than that, mannn. Come on!" And that's when it dawned on me that he is one of them. He wasn't out there to meet some friends and kick back with a few brews at the game. He was trying to sell that dream to others at a ridiculous rate.

As he walked away with a "Aiiight, J. I'll holla", I watch his once confident swagger swarm the crowd for his prey. I watched him circle the crowd and scurry from one side of 7th avenue to the other. I know a few times he caught me watching him as he held my gaze for a few seconds before sniffing out fresh wads of twenties from the Bank of America on the corner, just waiting to be handed over. Then the questions began to swarm in my head: How the hell did you get here? What happened? Is this why you look "old"??

My girl, Jo arrived a few minutes later, and I relayed the encounter to her. Her ever optimistic nature said "Well, maybe he just had an extra ticket to the game to get rid of." I gave her the "No, girl" side eye and explained that I KNOW that's not the case. Our conversation continued about dating and men and this get together we were going to, but my mind wandered back to in front of Madison Square. I know my life hasn't exactly taken the path I thought it would when I was 14. But what twists and turns led him there. Where did he lose that gleam? The sadness weighing down his cheeks didn't appear overnight. Life is full of harsh realities and disappointments. I am fully aware of that (umm have you read my blogs??? hahahahahahaaa). But I've witnessed the beauty and joy of life also. And I wonder if maybe witnessing that beauty and joy keeps the gleam in my eye and the swagger in my strut? And if that's the case, why didn't anyone show Richie?????

3 comments: said...

Interesting I must admit. Life twist and turns sometimes do turn our hopes and dreams into shattered pieces, but thankfully, we have those that use the power of words to reaffirm, and inspire the Richie's of the world. "why didn't anyone show Richie"

maybe Richie is waiting for you to finish that book to inspire him to dream a little louder.

rashad said...

Would this Richie happen to be Richie Parker?

makeba said...

That's a rather sad story to read but a reality. Don't know the brother and surely don't want to pass judgment on him, but I wonder if his love of basketball got the best of him. I guess for some of us chasing the dream is what keeps us from facing life's harsh realities. Its knowing when to wake up and realize that the dream you are chasing is only meant to dream. Ironically, keeping grounded in life's realities for some of us is what keeps the gleam in the eyes. If you were thinking the thoughts you were thinking can you imagine what he was thinking? But then again, hell maybe your friend was right, maybe it was just an extra ticket and you caught him on a bad day! BTW, did you give your friend the sideway look from your previous blog with the young girl and President Bush! LMAO