Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Can't Afford Free

Photo credit: Fred Guenther

As I sat in the corner two-seater of the Q train, under the refreshing air conditioner blast, two men boarded the train at DeKalb Ave. I went back to my reading until one of the men  began to fill the car with the sounds of his accordion. Girl you look so sharp every time you pass in dem pum pum shorts It was an unconscious distraction as I sang along to the familiar melody in my head.

My phone rang indicating I had a text message. I joined many of the other straphangers in checking our phones while we had service above ground. Halfway across the bridge, I decided to put away my book; I was getting off at the next stop.

The accordion player finished his set and the man accompanying him began to solicit donations at the far end of the car. He held his fedora upside-down in front of him as he asked for dollars, dimes, nickels or pennies. As he made his way toward my end of the car, I noticed his t-shirt--a bright black shirt and covering nearly the entire front of his shirt were the giant, bold, neon green words: Free Hugs.

He sat next to me, perching himself on the edge of the seat, his hat empty. The train descended the final fifth of the bridge into the tunnel, I left my seat and stood facing the door next to him. I considered embracing him as payment for his friend's entertainment but reconsidered. Even in that heat, I couldn't afford a free hug.

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