On November 12, 2017, I strolled by my alma mater during a short trip to NYC. As I roamed around campus that frigid evening, I felt like I had conquered a more sophisticated level of color-centric bias, bigotry and discrimination than I had known in my younger years. Following my bittersweet walk, I visited my fave vegan café in the city. And post-digestion, I headed towards Broadway to get to the Union Square subway station.
On my way there, I spotted a man dressed in a worn-out Santa Claus outfit. He was seated on a plastic crate, and incessantly dangled a coin-filled can, while shouting statements as pedestrians paid him no mind.
FYI, it’s common for me to converse with individuals who appear to be homeless or homeless-ish. However, I had been walking for close to an hour in a temperature I was no longer used to – a.k.a. the mid-40s – and I wanted to get back to my hotel quickly. (I was visiting the Big Apple from Sunny Florida.) So, I mentally calculated my next steps. Do I walk behind this man to avoid him? Or, do I walk in front of him, briefly acknowledging his humanity? I opted for the latter.
I quickly walked by this man, and we locked eyes. I smiled. He smiled back. I believed I was off the hook, so I kept walking. But as soon as I passed him, he yelled, “LADY IN BLACK, I NEED HOPE!”
His words brought me to a full stop.
As my back remained turned away from him, I smiled to myself. One, I loved that he called me “Lady in Black.” Two, I wasn’t Jesus, so there was no hope to be dispensed from my half-full/half-empty Soul. And three, he seemed like a funny guy who had something to say. So, I turned around and walked towards him.
I didn’t know how long I’d be standing in the cold, and hoped my heavy, all-black ensemble would keep my body temperature at a proper setting during our impromptu chat. Once in close proximity, this man and I shake hands and exchange names. He tells me to call him Jimmy.
Jimmy is a man with a soft Soul, sweet eyes, and a strong voice. We talk death, letting go of grief, and why I’m not married. My eyes get misty, so I change the subject. Seeing as Jimmy’s a sharp character, I ask him if he’d like to say something to America. He nods and agrees to let me film our chat.
Excerpt from “Jimmy.” Lensed by ya:z. November 12, 2017.