Benjamin quit his job as a foot messenger today. I admire his ability to walk away from a $7.25 per hour job. He is eighteen, has a mischievous spark in his coal-black eyes. He is short and has a complex about it. He walks around like a tough guy but is as cute as a button. He pulls up his coat sleeves just to show off his tattoos.
After being assigned to the pay check department of my job, I encountered Benjamin every morning, along with a host of nearly a dozen other men who work as foot messengers. Being one of only a handful of Caucasian men at the job, I found it best to remain quiet while awaiting delivery assignment. Benjamin is black and was quiet too. One rarely heard a peep out of him in the warehouse.
I noticed, while walking down Seventh Avenue one cold morning last week, Benjamin was limping like a little football player to the bench. It horrified me to watch him go about his work, secretly spying on him from a corner. I was waiting for a traffic signal to change and would have gone down another block, but I just watched in horror, realizing how bad my old ass must look on the streets of New York.
Benjamin was struggling with a heavy backpack on his little back. He carried a big armload of paychecks in both hands. His bundles were inside plastic bags that our employer provides. The bags do not have handles. They are designed to keep envelopes dry.
I offered Benjamin one of my paper-boy canvas bags that my father sent from Huntingdon, PA. Dad went into the “Daily News” and asked for two of the canvas bags that I used as a newspaper boy. He mailed them to me with a $100 check. Dad worries that I, like Benjamin, work for minimum wage.
Benjamin said that he wished he had use of the bag for the entire six months he had worked as a messenger. It was then that he told me he was leaving because his foot was bothering him. He said the bag was perfect for the paychecks, but he felt it looked like a purse when he first put it on.
“It may have saved your leg,” I said, organizing the paychecks in the warehouse, next to Benjamin. “I cannot believe you are leaving here without another job.”
“I’m not worried,” Benjamin said with a spark in his eyes. He explained that he does not believe in God or a heaven after this life. “There is a power we can use to change things. I can’t explain it, but I know that if I will myself to get a new job, I’ll get one.”
“What kind of religion is that? Buddhism?” I asked.
Benjamin smiled. His white teeth glared at me while is pink lips curled like envelopes shoved in a tiny backpack. His coal black skin appeared to be coated in baby oil and his tattoos seemed to speak for themselves.
“No, it’s not Buddhism,” Benjamin explained, “Put it this way… One day I was playing dice with these guys and I lost almost all of my money. I suddenly used this power to will things and suddenly I won everything back. I won a lot of money in the end.”
I asked Benjamin to autograph the canvas paperboy bag he returned to me. I handed him the black marker I use for the Barnes and Noble boxes I sometimes deliver.
“Are you serious? Why” He asked.
“You just may be famous one day.” I said.
He quickly grabbed the pen and wrote BENJAMIN in a style of writing one may find in a tattoo.