Last winter I had a fevered dream: glass cases hung beneath every stop sign on route 60, and in each case a severed right hand, palm out, the hands of offenders hung in space as a warning to those who eyed the line. Prostitute hands with long bright nails, homeless hands packed with the refuse and grit of the streets, delinquent hands, scarred from broken bottles. When I woke I knew that Pinky had to be among those severed right hands.
Pinky, as we called him, stood at six feet tall, a rail thin black man in a blue floral dress, never without a hand mirror, who would walk the length of route 60 while waving and blowing kisses at the drivers, laughing hysterically as suburban housewives gaped impotently from the heights of their SUV's. Pinky's proud shadow pierced the orange haze of the setting sun across the beige stucco fractal of franchises and prefab houses.
I once heard a cop and an irate young man discuss Pinky in a coffee shop.
"Can't you arrest him for being a distraction or somethin'?" The young man asked in a thick southern accent.
"Nope, he's not breaking any laws."
"Do you suppose that's a spiritual or an emotional problem that he's got?"
"Maybe a little o' both" the cop replied while staring into his coffee
I wanted to suggest neither, and I will regret to the day I die not doing so. I'll always regret not walking right up to those two to point out that Pinky was the happiest looking person in this town.
The atavism of this place caught up with Pinky eventually. My mother found his obituary during her grim morning survey of the daily paper. A sullen, younger man stared back from between the newsprint, his hair a natural shade of black, cut close. Dead, she didn't know how, although she said later that she had heard rumors that he had been beaten to death.
So this piece is my personal ode to Pinky, a floating memorial to a man who may or may not be dead, for unknown reasons. My only hope is that I do better than a faded high school photo in my description, that my eulogy reads more honestly than the formal newsprint obituary.