Where Coincidence Ends and Destiny Begins (With a Pun in Between)
New Yawk City. Heatwave. Last summer. You remember the deal. On our first evening, after leaving our stuff at the hotel, the fam and I went out for a walk. Even though night had fallen, the air was stuffy and sticky like Vietnam during the monsoon. Like inside a pneumonic lung. Central Park, which had taken on the form of an infested bog during those difficult times, was sending its miasmic cloud all over Manhattan.
We walked down a deserted Broadway and stopped at a Subway. It just so happened, or so coincidence would have it, that I was wearing a Team Algeria wristband on my right arm that evening. As we sat down to eat, one of the guys behind the counter asked me if I’m Algerian. I said nah, I’m from Romania, but I might as well be. I told him I’d been to DZ on vacation. He said, come back tomorrow night and we’ll talk.
So I did. The following night I went out by myself, after a couple of Red Stripes at the hotel, and headed for the Subway. On my way over, I got caught in conversation with a 9/11 survivor who was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress disorder and constant nightmares, and who had trouble paying for his drugs. We talked about all kinds of stuff, but also about politics; from what he was saying, from what others were saying, and from what I saw around me, it really seemed like the American Empire was crumbling.
At the sandwich place, Omar – for that was the name of my Algerian friend – hooked me up with a sandwich and told me he’d be a while so if I could wait for him to go on break that would be great. So I took my time, finished my food and went out for a ciggy to kill some time. It just so happened, or so the pun would have it, that one of the 96th Street/Broadway subway exits was right in front of the Subway. As I smoked my ‘Port, I saw a young man carrying his baby momma up the stairs, with the little daughter on his side. The woman had probably passed out from the terrible heat under the ground. They went inside Omar’s workplace, and she came to after having some water.
Eventually, my friend came out and we started talking about Algiers. It just so happened, or so destiny would have it, that Omar was from the same neighborhood I lived in. He lived next to the stairs that you take down to Mohammed V Boulevard, whereas I lived further up in Telemly, close to the Pont des Suicides. We marveled at how our paths crossed right there, in New York.
We remained good friends.