“Number 32” by Tony Gloeggler

Tony Gloeggler


Today I am taking the A Train
away from Duke Ellington’s
Harlem and into East New York,
Brooklyn. This beautiful tall blonde
and I are the only two caucasians
in the crowded car. With each stop,
we move closer, pulled
together by some unnamed force.
We both know not to look
at anyone too long and even
when I make eye contact
with her, I pause for less
than a second before rushing
to read advertisements for laser
surgery. I am not scared,
not worried, just incredibly aware
of how white, like a bleached
sheet drying on a line, I feel.
I want to lean, whisper
in a cool, irresistible way
for her to come to my place
so we can hurry up and start
making some more of us,
when this young, buffed,
light skin, black man, struts
onto the train wearing
a Buffalo Bills number 32
Simpson jersey, and I want
to know what it means
to him and everyone else.
Is it sweep right, OJ gliding
behind Reggie McKenzie,
piling up 2000 yards? OJ
hurtling suitcases in crowded
airports for Hertz, guest
starring on the Love Boat?

This guy in the jersey must
remember that slow motion
car chase interrupting the Knick
playoff game? OJ’s murdered
white ex-wife and the white guy
who drove her home? Johnny
Cocharan? Me, I was working
at the group home, the only
white person on the payroll
with people I still call friends
when the not guilty verdict
was announced. I watched
Jean fall to her knees, thank
Jesus as her arms reached
for the ceiling. Annette twiriled
in a circle clapping so hard
that sparks of sweat shot out.
The two men shook hands.
I wasn’t quite sure why,
but I realized it was a time
when we couldn’t say anything
to each other. I walked outside,
sat on the stoop and waited
for yellow buses to bring
our boys home from school.
Back on the subway, that guy
is talking to the woman, jotting
numbers on a scrap of paper
and she’s smiling, touching
her pretty blonde hair while folding
the paper in her jacket pocket.
Maybe she will call him tomorrow.
They can go for drinks or dinner
or dancing. Maybe they will fall
in love, spend their honeymoon
searching for the real killers.

from Rattle #23, Spring 2005

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