01 November 2009

All Saints' Day

Today is All Saints' Day. I guess they're not celebrating me. Oh well.

When I was in Catholic school, we used to get this day off. Of course, we were expected to go to church, and the nuns always seemed to know who did and didn't. Still, we weren't obligated to anything else besides Mass, so it was still sort of like a day off. It was like Sunday, actually.

It just happens that today is Sunday. And last night we turned our clocks back an hour, so it was dark not long after 5:00 pm. Kind of ironic for Sunday, isn't it?

The day had been overcast until around noon. Then, the sun peeked from behind clouds, which broke up then scattered like the leaves skittering in the breeze. I walked along Vernon Boulevard, which skirts the East River from a couple of blocks north of my place down to Jackson Avenue, about two miles away. Along the way, there are some spectacular vistas of the Manhattan skyline, including some picture-postcard views of the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings.

The contrast could not have been more striking between the glass and steel of the Manhattan side and the yellow and orange leaves swirling among the rust-colored bricks smoldering in the late-afternoon autumn sun on my side of the river, where the working-class (but gentrifying) neighborhood in which I live gives way to factories, most of which are closed for the weekend. Still, some a couple of trucks rumbled through the area.

The light of this afternoon made everything and everybody look good. At least, everybody and everything I saw was beautiful. Really! And I was in a frumpy outfit, my hair was a mess and I had on no makeup but my lipstick. But men were looking at me, and one tried to chat me up as I crossed an intersection. And a truck driver--the only one I saw today-- yelled, "Hey, gorgeous!"

I didn't turn. "Hello babe." He couldn't have been talking about me.

"You! With the purple bag." I was the only one who fit that description. "How'ya doin'?"

I smiled at him. "Have a nice day, darlin'," Yes, he was talking to me. "You do the same," I cooed.

We hear all sorts of stories about women who are abducted and worse in scenes like that one. Such a vision flashed through my mind, but before it ended, he was out of sight. Of course I'm careful, but I don't think the man meant any harm. If he was out driving that truck on a Sunday, he may have just wanted human contact, if only for a moment. Or, perhaps, he was flirting just because, well, he could.

The odd thing is that as I become more vulnerable, I become less fearful. I take the precautions any conscious woman would take and understand the potential for sexual or other kinds of violence. But at the same time, I understand that even if he's big and tough, he's still a man. So I have some idea of how he's thinking or feeling and can work with or around it, as need be.

The truck driver was lonely and probably feeling that he's getting old (though he didn't look very old to me). He wants to make sure he still has his virility and charm intact. What better way to find out than to test them on whatever woman passes by? I gave him a smile and, as it turned out, that was enough acknowledgment for him.

It's not that I feel pity for him. I just understand what it's like to live in a male body, with testosterone bubbling over, yet feel time passing you by.

After all, it was Sunday afternoon. And it was All Saints' Day, with the glow of the first early sunset flickering in the fallen leaves just before the first long night of the season.