Juan Vargas’s handcart was hit by a truck on 42nd Street. Nearly 40 Barnes and Noble cardboard boxes were scattered across the sidewalk and street on what, in my opinion, is one of the busiest intersections in all of America.
I didn’t know it was Juan whose handcart was ruined in the mishap. One of the foremen at the shipping company ordered that I take a new handcart to the corner of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue.
It was lunchtime, the weather was sunny and warm, and every pretty New York City girl was on the street in short dresses and wearing expensive perfumes that seemed to mingle with the sweet smell of blossoms that filled the city air.
I made good time with the handcart, weaving through this sea of beauty and the smell that only occurs in New York this time of year. There was little time to stop and look at the flowering trees in huge pots planted outside of Macy’s. I felt bad for the poor soul whose cart was struck by a truck in such a busy part of town.
While crossing 39th Street and Lexington, I could already make out that it was Juan Vargas who had been hit by the truck. I saw his silky hair shinning in the sun and the red vest he was wearing. I started to laugh as I rushed nearer to him. He too was smiling, surprised that I was the poor soul who had to bring him a new handcart.
“What happened?” I shouted above heavy city traffic and the roof of a yellow taxi that separated me from the handsome eighteen year old waiting for salvation.
“A truck hit the corner of my handcart. Shit went flying everywhere,” he explained, still smiling. His teeth are small but still very white. I noticed he was growing facial hair. It seemed so silly, those little threads of black Mexican hair spread out upon the smooth tan skin on his face that had yet to earn a single wrinkle.
“Are you hurt?” I asked, pretending Juan was my own son.
“Of course not,” he boasted through lips that had turned white around the edges. It seemed Juan was quite thirsty, or smoking pot, for that matter. I realized then he must have suffered some sort of shock.
“Did the driver stop?” I asked, restraining myself from reaching out to touch him, in fear that if the young lad ever learns that I’m gay, he’ll assume I was making a play, when indeed, I remained quite concerned about Juan who was anxious to load up his new handcart and get back on the job.
“Yes he stopped. He didn’t even say he was sorry.”
“Well, did you at least get his license plate number?”
“I didn’t think about that,” Juan confessed.
“What the hell is wrong with you? You could have owned half of that trucking company. If it were me, I would still be there in the middle of Lexington, sprawled out like those boxes, waiting for an ambulance. This is America, Juan. You need to start thinking like an American.”
The boy who is indeed a legal citizen, having been born in the Bronx, smiled, while pulling his new whiskers, and stated with complete calm, “That’s alright. Karma will come back and kick him in the ass.”
“I’m glad you are alright, Juan,” I said while stepping away with the broken handcart.
“You’ll have to push it back while popping a wheelie” Juan said while giggling. He was right. One of the wheels, although not flattened, had been severely bent from the cart frame.
I made my way back to the warehouse on one wheel, and it seemed the lunchtime crowd had grown and the sweet scent that once filled the air turned somewhat sour, due to all the vendors who sell curry flavored meats upon the streets of New York.
Suddenly my stomach craved a taco as I rushed back thinking of lanky Juan. There were no taco vendors in site– only curried meats. I decided to skip lunch again, because Juan and I still work for just $7.25 an hour.