Manic in Manhattan – Part II
By CHRIS ROSTENBERG
As the night wore on, I wanted to call a friend for help, but I believed the telephone company had a computer that would identify my voice and send my enemies to “get” me. I thought of asking a stranger to make the call for me, but they all avoided me … it was New York City, after all. I came to a police call box and used it to ask for help. I did not say I needed a hospital, but instead reported that President Clinton was hunting me down. No cop presented himself to me, but eventually I spotted a police car across the street and the officer watched me with an expression of disgust on his face. I didn’t approach him.
I found my way to Washington Square Park, my favorite part of the city, but the place seemed alien. The statues had writing engraved not only on their fronts, but on their backs, which was a new one for me. Had I shifted to an alternate reality? Had I been born in this world? How could I prove my identity if my own parents didn’t know me?
I wandered around the streets of Greenwich Village and the stores did not seem exotic enough. After I sat down against a corner, a pushcart man offered me a cup of coffee. I thought: Wow, somebody is finally being nice to me; then told him I didn’t drink coffee. He asked me to move somewhere else because my filthy feet were scaring away his customers.
Suddenly, I saw a familiar face, Penny Pern, my sister’s good friend. I asked her if she recognized me, and she said Yes. We parted and I returned to the park, relieved. I went over to Washington’s arch, which was gated off, and took out my bird. The poor thing would have trouble competing with the other birds, so I massaged his head and neck and wings and gave him a brief pep talk. “You go take on those other birds! Get the best food! Kick ass!”
Then I found a police officer yelling at some kids who were skateboarding, ordering them to quit, that there were too many bystanders. I was convinced the kids’ First Amendment right to express themselves granted them the right to skateboard in the park, so I told the kids to go on and skate. “Hey,” the cop said to me. “Are you from Westchester?” This floored me, because, Yes, I was. But how the hell did he know that? My paranoid conspiracy theory could not account for my enemies infiltrating the NYPD. (It turned out just after Penny Pern had seen me shoeless, she’d called my sister, who’d called my mother, who’d called the police station, who’d told the police to look out for me.) The officer came at me with handcuffs.
“Are you arresting me?” I asked.
“No, I’m protecting you,” he said. This appealed to my grandiose sense of importance so I went along with him to the station.
Chris Rostenberg is a freelance writer. Correspondence may be directed to ChrisRosty@gmail.com