One of my favorite buisness on Woodward has closed. I have never been inside it, but I have road my bike past it, stared at it out of the bus window, and rolled by it over and over for the past three years. I loved the people coming in and out, they looked bosterious, friendly. The window was always plastered with inspirational quotes. The other day the bus was stuck at a red right in front of it. I was reading the quote on the window, something about how we are afraid to make changes because we are scared of who we might become. In the oppisite window I saw “Thank you for your buisness. You were more than just customers.” The ‘For Rent sign’ looked lonely in the stripped room.
I would like to imagine an old man owned the buisness. That he trimmed families for generations, listened to them and soothed rifts, provided a nice place to shoot the shit. I like to think he retired, moved to Florida for some sun and peace and quiet. But rolling by the burnt out buildings, empty businesses, and collapsing city it is sometimes hard to be optimistic. More likely they couldn’t sustain financially. This makes me think of the kids in my neighborhood. They come up to my work every day to see if the good doctor has any work for them or if he would like to buy some salamanders they found in Palmer Park. They hoover around the age of 18, and with no jobs available work their hardest at the hustle. Their friends and family are in and out of jail. I worry about them, they are good kids, hard-working, and honest. I can not fault the ways folks learn how to survive in these parts, slinging rocks, selling stolen items, strutting the streets, begging for money, what other option do they have? Most of the buisness has moved to the suburbs, the bus system is unreliable and if you are already poor its hard to present yourself well at demeaning job interviews where people treat you like some degenerate wasting their time, an attitude I have experienced firsthand. These managers are the same people who sneer at you when you are begging in the street, the same folks who complain about the dirty hippie playing songs outside the coffee shop, the very same individuals who would drive by our Occupy Detroit encampment at three in the morning when most everyone is sleeping and scream “Get a fucking job.” These people have a distaste for the poor, demand they get their shit together, and by their behavior seem that they secretly wish all the poor, homeless, and mentally ill were invisible so that they didn’t have to deal with them. This attitude reminds me of the Willie Lynch letter, directed at keeping black slaves down but equally pertinent in these classicist situations. Some people have jobs, they work hard and pay their bills. The media tells them that the poor are abusing the system, ruining the country. Now these people hate the poor and perpetuate a cycle of classicist slavery, not even realizing that they too are slaves in a system working to keep the majority down for the benefit of a small minority of powerful individuals.
At the bus stop I’m flipping through an old journal, reeling from a horrible week. A man asks what I’m reading. “Arabic?”
I laugh. This is not the first time I have heard my hand writing compared to Arabic. He says “I speak five languages. Italian, German, Arabic, Chaldean, but not English.”
When he laughs his face explodes. The few teeth he has left are long and skinny. His skin looks like Jerusalem, dark and dry speckled with salt and pepper hairs.
I am stressed out this morning, depressed. I have either been called a piece of shit or treated like one by an ex-lover, my current lover, a doctor, a patient, a relator, and my coworker all in a matter of three days. When he went off on me it was the last I could take. I packed up my things and left work an hour early, sitting on the stoop crying and wondering if it might be easier to die or leave the country. My mind is worn down between buying a house, applying for a class, applying for a fellowship, and moving. My face still feels tight from being tear dried, my head hurts. My soul, as always, holding on to the weight of the world, the closing buisness and the lost boys and the GMO’s and the pollution and everything.
The man walks into the liquor store for a pack of cigarettes, he comes out with and extra dollar for the man outside who is down on his luck. He says he works nights at the police station, he just got off and is trying to catch a bus home. He says “If anyone messes with you, you let me know. I got a seven hump camel, a camel limo, he come and kick their ass.” His face explodes again.
He tells me he is from Baghdad. Saddam ruined his country, killed many people, he says. “War, for ten years. I run away. Served in the army, my arm don’t open. That’s a bullet in my elbow. I run away.” He pauses for a moment pursing his lips, “This country fucked up too,” and his face explodes in a laugh again. “No one fuck with me, if they do I beat them with my cane. I have been in war, I know how to fight.” He moved to American in the 80’s. His wife died in a car accident. Their daughter still lives with him, takes care of him. She is going to school to be a doctor, he is so proud. He says “She loves me to death. She a nice lady. She cook good Arabic food.” He is happy, he knows he has done well for her. She does not know war personally, she lives in Southfield and goes to college. He knows how to be thankful.
When I get off the bus I wave to him through the window, I see that big smile bust his face open one more time and it busts mine open too. He reminds that the little things are the highlights here, the irony of a good joke and being united by the late busses, a soft snow, the fact that I have a job, a home, people who love me. The snow is finally coming down for the first time this season, it seems to float from somewhere, not fall from the sky. This clean slate is the perfect canvass for some sketches of gratitude.