11/3/08

About a dollar.

Brick and slate and blue colored skyscrapers wall the streets and look down on pedestrians. Only a few people stroll around downtown Salt Lake; a man with a briefcase power-walks past a street light, ten or so construction workers laugh while they march back to a dusty construction site. Myself? I walk only to kill time before an interview. My suit coat keeps me at a comfortable temperature, its warmth balancing with the cool breeze. Cheap black sunglasses shadow the world. I smile as I pass the gravel-cement of a street lamp. Looking ahead, I notice the man’s blond beard, olive snow jacket, and greasy jeans before he even approached me.

“Hey man, you got about a dollar? Just a buck.” He looks me right in the eyes. I look into his face—young, no more than 28; a smudge of black grease on his cheek; a broad, sincere smile. Staring at him through my cheap sunglasses, my brow sinks.

I think of the ten dollar bill sitting in my wallet. Looking him in the face, my smile drops, but doesn’t disappear. “I’m sorry bud, I just gave all my change to someone else up the street. I’m out of cash—I’d totally give you a buck if I still had one.”

“Okay, thanks buddy.” He grins and holds out his fist. I tap my own fist against his and point at him with an index finger.

“Take care of yourself, guy.” I turn away from him and continue down the street. I veer into the first alley I see and find myself in a cement park squared by office buildings. Passing concrete stairways and stone planters, I think again about the ten dollar bill. A fountain to my left shoots thin streams of water into the air, and a man in a khaki shirt is hunched down taking photographs of a nearby fern. I think, Should I have given him the ten? Continuing forward and up some round stairs, I turn left again. How big of a lie did I tell? Two nicely dressed Latino men in beige suits are sitting on a bench, one resting his head on the other’s lap. Neither wore shoes. I gave the all of my change to the crazy-looking lady at Temple Square, but beard guy actually walked up to me and tried.

Moving up, I stop at a crosswalk next to a bush, a tree, and a street light. A long line of cars and pickup trucks blocks the intersection, stopped because of another light down the street. Was that a lie?

19 comments:

Matthew R. Hall, Esq. said...

PS any constructive criticism would be appreciated. No positive comments, please. It's just easier that way.

Chan said...

The rhythm of this essay (I am really proud of myself right now that I can say "the rhythm of this essay" and actually mean something by it, although I still don't know if rhythm is the right word) and the details given are very similar the those of "Roborto." I think your detail seems consciously placed so consistently that it's like a style. And (while I know you don't want any positive comments), I actually really liked the "a tree, a bush, and a street light." It's like you're in this land of clean silhouettes and primary colors, where construction workers march and skyscrapers are blue and look at you. And now I give the floor to Sis. Morgan....

Emily Goodsell said...

Sorry to go against your will, but I enjoyed this piece more than any of your other posts, so I had to let you know. There's real, honest conflict, and it pulled me in. I was standing there with you. Sometimes your writing seems arrogant to me, but this felt humble and sincere.

Sky said...

1)Cut the first sentence, so you're not personifying a skyscraper. 2) Start with the second sentence? 3)I've never seen a bunch of laughing construction workers "march back" to work. 4)Why are you smiling at a street lamp? 5) Did you really do the index finger thing? Whew. It makes you sound yuppie, yippee, or campy.6)And more importantly than your misplaced commas is are you addressing two questions in one essay? Did you feel sad because you couldn't give the guy some money? Or guilty because you feel like you lied? 7)And why compare in your mind the guy with the lady? Does the guy win out over the "crazy-looking lady" because he asked for money, and she didn't? So, is the question--who really gets Matt's money? Or what constitutes a lie? 8)Please show "crazy-looking lady," or it's a judgment we can't buy (I think I'm more often than not a "crazy-looking lady").9)You confuse me when you ask how big a lie did you tell, then end the essay with "Was that a lie?" Are you referring to the Latino men without shoes or the man taking photos of a fern?

Seriously, Matt, some great detail--I see images-- but does it support what you are trying to say, and isn't the real truth here lying somewhere around the chaotic nervousness one feels before ANY interview? Yet, you never go there. I mean I don't think giving an able-bodied man a ten dollar bill was ever an option, was it? Then, what? Why portray detail that skates around the real center? What's the point? What's really going on here?

Sky said...

But, I do agree with EmPo: this piece has a persona who is much more likeable than your other pieces.

Crystal said...

I'm with Sis. Morgan in that I wasn't entirely sure what concerned you - lying to the guy, whether it was a big lie, lying in general, guilt, etc. And I kind of wanted to know why you felt you had only two alternatives - lie, or give him the ten bucks.

And I tried to not say anything nice, but I also liked this post better than your others. Your style seems a lot cleaner and more Matt-like, and less what-you-think-Matt-should-sound-like.

Sky said...

Ha. Crystal, go to bed.

Matt, why would you forbid anyone to say anything nice? Isn't this a real low blow downer?

Crystal said...

You first.

Sky said...

Hey, I'm in bed, eyes closed, snoring my head off, Girl.

Crystal said...

So that means your laptop is closed, and I'm imagining this whole conversation, right?

iBo said...

haha 10 comments and more than half of it is the two of you fighting about going to bed.

Ok Matt, I'm not a fan of the first sentence either. But I could see the image of you beginning that kind of moral quandry that lying to a hobo would create (or if you decide its not a lie then "smudging the truth" to a hobo). I won't add any more to the whole "what is the real question" thing that everyone is saying.

END COMMUNICATION.

Julie M said...

Now that is bright and early I hope that we can start communication up again.
Take this comment for what it is worth, but usually I know right off the bat that it is you posting Matt. This time, I had no idea who this was.
PS: To all you insomniacs out there, try NyQuill. Well, I suppose you better contract a cold first, but I've found it to be most effective the last few nights.

Emily Goodsell said...

I agree with Julie on both her comment on Matt's post AND the NyQuill. But I don't really think you need an actual cold in order to take it. Just sniff or something to make it SEEM like you have a cold. Then you're good to take it...every night, if needed, Sis. Morgan and Crystal.

Crystal said...

Ditto with Julie - if you hadn't left a PS, I would've had a hard time figuring out who posted this blog.

I do have one other question - why is the bearded guy a hobo? He only asked for a buck. I asked someone for some change once when I was stranded and needed to use a payphone.

Also, I've decided that everyone (or just me) should refuse to go to bed until Sis. Morgan does. That way, the guilt that she's turning everyone else into insomniacs will make her go to bed at a decent hour.

Chan said...

Yeah, like Ghandi in reverse. He wouldn't eat until everyone else quit fighting, but here everyone else won't go to sleep until Sis. Morgan quits staying up. However, if we take this reverse parallel to its eventual conclusion, all of us will be shot and killed and Sis. Morgan will live. I pass.

Sky said...

Ha ha ha ah ha. Chan makes me fall on the floor laughing. And Nyquill?(sp?) Oh No. Jim was addicted to Nyquill; then we read its contents and figured out why? It's around 60% alcohol. Julie and Emily, I know it's rough out there, but I'll start to find suitable rehabs immediately. (But not to worry. I have great experience in this area.)

I agree with all of you about Matt's voice (since he's bravely thrown this paper into a lion's arena for us to dissect), though I don't like his shifting (not shifty)focus because I feel cheated as I try to follow his reasoning.
In this paper, Matt finally gets rid of his preachy, teachy tone, and I feel like I'm listening to someone I would like to engage in a conversation. This is a major change. Now, if he can just come out from behind his masks and say what he has to say, we will be surprised and glad.

Julie M said...

Oh Chan, you make me laugh.
Just get me the number for the rehab. Sis. Morgan. I'll go willingly if it means I can escape from Parent teacher conferences.

Sky said...

Ahhh, Yikes. They need a special rehab just to help you recover from those special night. You have my complete sympathy.

Natorade said...

If my bottle says only 10% does that mean that I have to drink 6 times as much than the rest of you to get into rehab? And if so, Can I borrow 20$ (not for rehab, for some chinese food and then three bottles of Nyquil... in that order)