The guy just wants to help.
Or does he?
It isn’t clear. All I can tell is, he’s banging on a window of the white Pontiac Grand Am idling at a stoplight on Houston where First Avenue turns into Allen. I’m on my way home and walking across Houston.
“Hey!” the man shouts. “Look! Open da door—hurry!”
He looks Asian or Latino judging from his diminutive frame, brownish skin and pitch-black hair. But that, too, isn’t clear. Let’s say he’s from… Peru. His ethnic background does not matter to the story except in one respect: it marks a sharp contrast to the husky white duo in the Grand Am.
In any case, the Man From Peru jumps and yells amid the sea of traffic. A waning red light is pretty much all that stands between the vehicles and the escape hatch of the FDR.
The Man From Peru hits the back door of the Grand Am. “Hey! Open up!” He’s pointing to the undercarriage of the car. That’s as much as I can see.
The guys in the Grand Am, very well-scrubbed with horsey chompers, snicker and growl, “Don’t touch the car!” There’s an epithet in there, too. But I can’t make it out.
I take another step. A gap opens between the lanes of rumbling, gaseous vehicles. At last I see what the Man From Peru is carrying on about: a white shopping bag snagged between the closed back door and frame of the car, dangling just above the pavement. The shapes within resemble a cereal box and a gallon jug of milk.
“C’mon!” cries the Man From Peru.
An African-American man appears in a oversized winter coat, a crushed baseball cap and dirty, foot-dragging trousers. He shuffles past me. Even though this guy moves as if he’s plastered, he sizes up the situation in a matter of seconds.
“Fuck ’em,” he calls to the Man From Peru. “Serves ’em right!”
I reach the south side of Houston. The light turns green.
The Man From Peru shakes his head, scrambling two cars back to a yellow hybrid taxi. He unlocks the driver’s side door and hops in behind the wheel.
Gradually, all the cars begin to roll forward. The guys in the Grand Am are laughing and slap-boxing with each other, oblivious that their shopping bag will, in another several blocks, probably drag against the ground, open like piñata, and spill their purchases out onto the pavement.
They sure showed that little brown guy, though. Tools.