Ernest is a 300 pound foot messenger, perhaps the fattest in all of New York. Too big for a bike and just skinny enough to walk down 5th Avenue without bumping into all the well-dressed skinny white women, he makes his way across city sidewalks like a raccoon I once saw in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. He goes almost unnoticed by the affluent men and women in suits and heavy perfumes that seem to run this town. It is really men like Ernest who run the city though. Their love for White Castle cheeseburgers is the very reason White Castle is open 24 Hours. I saw Ernest inside of White Castle early one morning as I rushed down 8th Avenue just a little after six. “Holy fuck,” I mumbled as I picked up my step, pretending I did not see.
Ernest is notorious for “blowing up the spot” in the basement of the warehouse. Raphael, a tall Dominican with really pretty hair who rarely speaks a word, other than a mere whispered mumble about basketball from time to time, once addressed Ernest in front of our co-workers—
“Take care of that at home,” Raphael suggested. Everyone giggled, waving their hands in front of their faces, trying to clear the stench Ernest and White Castle.
I caught up to Ernest walking East on 29th Street later that morning. “I think this place is going under,” he said. “I had two interviews at this other place—a warehouse—they needed a fork lift operator. I thought for sure they was going to call me in, but they checked my background. Some shit that happened thirty years ago still shows up,” he informed.
“Don’t be afraid to be honest on future applications,” I suggested, “at least then you don’t get your hopes up for nothing. There are people out there that will hire you for your honesty,” I stated, but not meaning a word of it. “Things are still really bad in the job market, Ernest. Don’t believe all that shit they sell you about Wall Street, just because we have a Black president. Things were not always like this. They are either going to get better for people like you and me or the market is going to crash once and for all.”
Ernest was very silent for a few steps. He breathed heavily, as we waited for the crosswalk light to change. He said nothing, as if what I had just said was quite profound and what he had already been thinking, but moments later the light changed and Ernest burped.