Hard Labor

It was 9:45 Thursday night. A beautiful night. Balmy, still, a perfect June evening. The setting was Manhattan’s Upper East Side under a starlit sky, streets quiet, Central Park asleep. Only a few cruising cabs disturbed the tranquility of such an exquisite New York evening. But sadly I was too tired to enjoy it. I had just come off working a triple. Yes, a triple. An art modeling triple. Three jobs in one day. Sounds rough? Well, it is. Tried as I did to absorb the ethereal qualities of such a lovely night, I just couldn’t.

I was standing at the corner of 86th Street and Fifth Avenue waiting for the crosstown bus to take me to the west side. I was wearing jeans, a grey T-shirt, and black summer sandals – articles of clothing that had been removed and put on, removed and put on again maybe ten separate times throughout the day. I had posed for one class each of drawing, sculpture, AND painting, in that order. The “trifecta”. As I waited for the bus, I could feel my spine pulling itself out of hours of compression. I could feel my right shin and ankle scrambling for circulation. I was zonked. Worn out. Totally spent. Ready for bed.

When I saw the M86 bus arriving, I slid my Metrocard out of my wallet. I was eager to get on board, then get on the subway, then onto the Long Island Railroad which would carry me back to Queens. Visions of my sheets and bed pillows danced through my head. A man had been waiting at the bus stop before me, so naturally I expected to get on after him. But when the bus pulled up in front of us, the man stepped back and, in a rare gesture of chivalry, allowed me to board the bus ahead of him. “Ladies first”, he said.

The rest of the encounter went pretty much like this:

Me: “Thanks! You’re sweet”.

Man: “Yeah, I’m still a gentleman. Tired and sweaty, but still a gentleman”.

Me: “It’s OK. I’m tired and sweaty too”.

Man: “Not as much as me, sweetheart”

Me: “I don’t know. I just worked 13 hours”. (dipped my Metrocard)

Man: “Me too! But at manual labor. Physical work, you know?” (dipped his Metrocard)

Me: “Oh yeah, I know. (smiling, putting Metrocard back in wallet) But I still might have you beat in the tired department”.

Man: “Come on! No way. OK, what do you do?”

I turned around to look at him, my tired eyes stared into his.

Me: “I’m an art model”

The man’s jaw dropped open. He stood there the bus aisle, mouth agape, speechless.

Me: “Yeah, that’s right. And I just worked 13 hours”.

Man: “Sweetheart . . . sweetheart . . . you GOT ME BEAT!”

Me: “Told ya'”. (winked)

Then we both took our seats on the bus. Two tired souls just trying to get home after a long day of “physical labor”. Rest well, my hardworking friend.