Thursday, May 30, 2013
Manhattan Thoughts on a Hot Evening
Tonight I stopped by the bank after work. I was all alone in the vast lobby, except for a long wall of ATMs and one young woman in a cheap but pretty dress. As I fed my card and got my cash I realized she'd stepped back from the machine and had started crying. By the time I left she was sobbing, but her back was to me, and the body language said to this longtime New Yorker, "Back off, I don't want comfort."
So all the way home, I wondered why a girl would turn away from the ATM screen and start crying.
If it were a silent movie, she would be crying because she had no money to feed her child at home, and the social worker is about to take him away. She's wondering if she must take the Easy Way and walk the streets.
If it were a pre-Code movie, she'd have told me little Timmy, her kid brother, needs an operation so he can walk again. I'd have withdrawn the maximum and left with her saying "God bless you!" As soon as I was out of sight she'd have walked out, hips swinging, and there'd be Warren William just around the corner, waiting for her. They'd get drunk celebrating at Slim Jim's Speakeasy and laugh at me.
If it's film noir, she's crying because Dan Duryea is going to kill her milksop husband unless she comes up with 10 grand by midnight. He's not much of a husband, but he's all she's got. She walks slowly down the street, smoking a cigarette and thinking of that mean old man across the airshaft, who keeps his money in his mattress, and has no one to miss him if he's gone.
If this were an early 1960s arthouse import, she would be weeping at the futility of man's existence in a postwar world without meaning. As she left the bank, the streetlights on 6th Avenue would cast no shadow.
If it were a 1970s New Hollywood piece, she'd be crying because she finally decided to divorce her uptight, undersexed, Establishment husband, and now he's cleaned out their joint bank account. She goes home and the nebbishy guy who lives downstairs offers to share his Chinese food. They eat it out of the takeout containers, as they sit on the floor of her now-empty apartment.
If this were Manhattan in the early 1990s, as I knew it, she'd be weeping because her dealer told her that her credit is no good.
But this is New York in 2013, and she was most likely weeping because Citibank has plenty of money, and she does not.