Everything would have been fine if a woman never planted seeds in Mesopotamia.
Last Thursday a fish became a man.
Last Thursday sixteen million men arrived on Ellis Island.
Last Thursday a pair of white counterfeit Yeezys.
were found wedged underneath the tracks of the 7 Train.
He could feel the vibrations from the air that surrounded him seemingly beat with the meter of his heart as the train erupted from the tunnel. Basic human instinct was the only force that kept his feet behind the yellow line. But he knew his thoughts were absurd. He knew his mind was clouded by a nonsensical desire, a symptom of some complicated cognitive intricacy that clashed with his innate human instinct to survive. A chemical imbalance in the ecosystem of the human mind, a dysfunction that many people maintain. And so, he carried on.
A small man in a black parka with a tactical belt hugging his waist approached him from behind.
He swiftly turned around.
“It’s Baingana,” he responded.
“Can I call you Brian, or at least something normal?” he chuckled.
“You can do whatever you want,” he snapped.
“If you would just follow me,” he said politely as to not offend him any further. “Lance has been waiting for your arrival for quite some time now.”
Baingana followed him into a walkway that was closed off from pedestrians. The railing, the only form of separation between him and the subway, sped by. The subway carried along with it a blanket of air that pulsed with every passing train cart, a gigantic exhale from the lungs of the metal monstrosity that was the 7 Train. He felt a strand of his hair become stuck in the gob of saliva that rested in the corner of his mouth.
He followed the small man behind police tape into a quarantined area behind the pedestrian walkway. The man lifted the police tape at head height so that he could walk through.
Below the city where young men wore the faces of old dogs- a side effect of their laborious, menial jobs. Below Manhattan’s trophy wives walking in their Prada pumps. And their husbands who scurry like rats across marble floors of their Wall Street skyscraper in their patent leather business shoes toward their next love affair. Below all that is visible to the average man pursuing the American dream, lived the world of the small man and Lance and Bain all walking into their latest crime scene.
It was a crime scene like any other, a naked blueprint of humanity’s most grotesque desire. The desire to love and then kill. After all, all crimes in one way or another are crimes of passion. Cameras flashed preserving the moment of the atrocity forever. A snapshot to document the deadly sin of a faceless man. A sin only god would ever know of, for Bain knew this act of the devil would get pushed to the back of the stack of the hundreds of other murder cases the New York justice system would never take on. And so he prays on.
Bain moved steadily towards the train tracks, ignoring the crime scene as he had become accustomed to the grotesque sites of murder and carnage. He reached his left hand into his right pocket and searched for his cigarette case. With a sharp snap, the case opened onto the palm of his hand.
“Baingana,” said Lance, standing not far behind him.
“Lance,” he responded nonchalantly.
A long silence followed, neither feeling the obligation to speak. It was a rare kind of silence with a mutual agreement between each party to remain voiceless. The morbid overtones of their usual conversations were a normality having witnessed immense human anguish to the point where they became immune to any sympathy or social norms. They were both aware of this intricacy, but never cared to give it a second thought as time did not allow it in the chaotic nature of their jobs.
The silence was broken by Lance with 8 cold words that streamed out of his thin lips:
“We called the cleaning crew, it’s over now.”
“I just arrived,” responded Bain.
“It’s an incident like any other, no more to see here, the case is closed,” said Lance.
“We haven’t even scouted the area.”
“Well, maybe you haven’t, but the crew did a rather fine job before you arrived— late, may I point out.”
Lance squeezed Bain’s arm and walked away swinging his trench coat over his shoulder. Bain found sanctuary sitting on the edge of the platform, his legs dangling freely into the industrial swamp of the subway tracks. He’d gotten through half a pack of cigarettes when he spotted a pair of white sneakers wedged underneath the metal rails. Its blinding whiteness juxtaposed against the musky soot of the tracks. He observed them for a while, dissecting every detail of the ordinary white shoes with his eyes.
Perhaps it was the same force that had tempted him to cross the yellow line earlier that persuaded him to do it, or perhaps it was just a spur of the moment reckless decision that convinced him to run across the tracks. Regardless of the reason, he did so grabbing the pair of sneakers out from under the railway. He dug his nails into the cracks of the floor tiles to anchor his torso to the platform and launched his feet up from the tracks and rolled across the yellow line.
He held each sneaker in his hands and observed them once more conducting an even closer examination. They were blindingly white yet stained grey across the laces by the residue of soot from the train. On the soles of the feet, the logo Adidas was printed in crisp black lines, followed by a minimalistic print reading Yeezy.
Maybe these shoes had gone undetected by the police officers who were scouting the scene, Maybe they were stolen and the perpetrator had attempted to get rid of the evidence by throwing them into the train tracks, maybe they became dislodged from a shopping bag belonging to some rich Manhattanite. Regardless, they were now in Bain’s sweaty palms.
He lodged the Yeezys under his armpit and walked behind the police tape onto where pedestrians roamed the station. As the 7 Train hurled toward the platform the blanket of air it carried was steaming and musky. With the inviting ding of the subway doors folding violently open, Bain entered the train.
Nice shoes always made him nervous, especially carrying them around the city. It brought back memories of his childhood and the neighborhood boys who treated shoes like status and social currency. To them, every man was a pair of shoes and every pair of shoes belonged to them.
The shoes made his head cloudy. These shoes were not his, they were too exclusive, too highly sought after for his fingers to be clamped around it. He caressed the side of the shoe with his fingertips. He felt every detail of the shoe between his fingernail and the flesh underneath, reading the shoes like braille. Subconsciously his head lowered to his lap where the Yeezys rested in his palms. They smelled like an industrial factory with its chemically, musky undertones.
The presence of the Yeezys in his lap was suffocating. He did not know why. It was the similar same cognitive intricacy that had seduced him to jump in front of the train- But there was a noticeable absence of any force that forbade him from staring directly into the soles of the shoes as though they were his own soul. But there was nothing.
Ding. His state of hypnosis was interrupted as an announcement of the train entering Grand Central Station erupted from the speakers on the ceiling of the train followed by a tsunami of businessmen swarmed the train. Patent leather shoes, Brooks Brothers navy blue suit shirts with salmon pocket hankies peeking out from breast pockets blurred the sight of the train. Each man seemingly copied and pasted off one factory sample model. Their iPhones gorilla glued to their cheeks as if they needed to be surgically removed by the same plastic surgeon who made their wives.
Two men sat across from him. One man made eye contact with Bain, but locked eyes longer than him as he had directed his eyes away quickly after making contact, allowing the man to exert his dominance. The man locked eyes with his Yeezys. As Bain noticed this he looked back at the man intimidatingly. He turned to the man next to him and whispered.
“Where do you think he got those?” the man whispered all too loudly.
The man responded by lifting his hands and making a pattern in the air with the tips of his fingers.
“Boy’s got sticky fingers,” he chuckled.
They snickered away oblivious of Bain who sat across from them, barely in his seat. He felt the tips of his ears go hot, hot enough to make him sweat. He knew to remain silent, to not initiate or engage. He told himself that it takes more of a man to not fight back than to submit to the torment of worthless men. He looked back at the shoes in his palms, they had almost a calming aura to them. The longer he stared at them the more he felt safe from society’s criticism – some form of security in isolation. Perhaps this was the way the boys that lived in his neighborhood felt when he was a child. Or maybe they just liked shoes.
The number of men dwindled once they got to the outskirts of the city, heading toward Queens. Arriving on Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue more men that looked like him stepped onto the train. Eyes cast downward, many were wearing the faces of old dogs, sweating from the heat from the hustle and bustle of the city. These faces were never projected onto the mega screens of Times Square as they’d lapped up the romance of the American dream from the underside of rusted goblets. These men had the soot from the train rubbed onto the bags under their eyes in an attempt to reduce the glare from the supersized American screens they hung on the side of. The skyscrapers which they’ve never seen the inside of. They moved swiftly as to not leave a footprint of their existence anywhere they stepped, for their feet did not belong on American soil. Or so that was what the men projected on the mega screens they’d built whispered in their ears. On their way home from work these men— none of them with sneakers like Bain’s, none of them questioning his morality or motives—were never seen again. This reminded him of the origins of his Yeezys, of the crime scene. Of the faceless men that many had assumed they belonged to these “American” men, who broke their spines so that men more “American” than them could project their faces onto the screens in Times Square.
It was almost midnight. Bain walked alone through the concrete tunnel he always had walked to get home. Concrete walls were consumed by graffiti, and humid unbreathable air filled the tunnel. But Bain could breathe fine. Halfway through the tunnel, he stopped in his tracks. The force that had stopped him from jumping in front of the train awakened again for the very last time. But he knew his thoughts were absurd. He knew his mind was clouded by a nonsensical desire. But he didn’t carry on. He let out a barbaric yelp into the unknown. He could feel the vibrations from the air that surrounded him seemingly beat with the meter of his heartbeat that erupted from his vocal chords. He screamed for the small man, he screamed for Lance, for Manhattan’s trophy wives walking in their nude Prada pumps, and their husbands who in their patent leather business shoes walk toward their next love affair, for all the faceless men, for men of patent leather shoes with Brooks Brothers navy blue suit shirts with salmon pocket hankies. For the young men who wore the faces of old dogs and for himself.
The moment he stepped out of the tunnel, cool air washed over and distilled his pores. Turning back slowly recognizing the familiar tunnel that he had always known but was utterly foreign to him at that very moment. For at that very moment he detected a light at the mouth of the tunnel. A light that changed the entire fragile ecosystem of the concrete jungle, waiting for him in the light of the tunnel. A pair of white Yeezys.
A man simply cannot coexist with another man who has not walked in the same shoes as he.