Author has written 4 stories for Gravitation, and Hetalia - Axis Powers.
You really want to know about me? I suck at writing but I am not discouraged by that fact. I am 37 years old.
I traveled up and down the east coast with my husband selling ladies’ clothing at Street fairs and flea markets. In the fifteen years we did this I occasionally found myself sleeping in our van, or set up on some burning hot boardwalk watching dolphins in the waves, freezing in the snow at Christmas time, and driving for hours on the turnpike until the lines in the road bled together into one. We often found ourselves lost, lost for hours, lost in the Bronx. My husband and I made a very comfortable living in the flea markets, but I pride myself on the people I’ve met.
One of my favorites was a place called Cowtown. It’s a dirty little flea market in south New Jersey held every Saturday and Tuesday. It's in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by cornfields and cows that are slowly being munched up by Wal-Marts and housing developments. Cowtown and places like it have been getting slowly squeezed out of existence little by little, but I don’t think we will ever completely lose them, at least I hope not.
The sellers come from everywhere each one bringing something different to the fleamarket. They make cowtown an interesting mix of nationalities, idiosyncrasies, complaints, arguments, humor, and stories.
I don’t work down there anymore and it’s over two hours away so I don’t visit often, but I miss it. I miss watching the steam come out of the cow’s noses on the chilly frostbitten mornings in the delicate sunlight of a fresh new day. I miss watching the food stands prepare for the day with piles of onions and sausage steaming on their grills and the clank of metal poles as vendors set up a forest of pipes and battered old tarps. I have always marveled at how a mini city rises around two rotten cow barns for just a day, by evening everything scatters back to the wind leaving hardly a trace behind.
But it is the people I miss the most. There are those who would look down on people such as these who make their existence selling junk on the fringe of society. They do themselves a disservice by shrugging these people off.
I made many friends over the years, each person I got to know unfolded a whole new world for me.The stoner on the run from the law, the luggage vendors from Italy, hippies living in their van, the transvestite selling scarves, Greenie the fish man who sings soul music on the weekends, the army surplus sales girl who used to be stationed in Japan, I could go on forever. And I could write stories about all of them, but one man in particular stands out right now.
I only know him as Sam, Sam the sock man. He looks a bit like a messy Einstein, but he speaks like a male Dr Ruth Westheimer. Wild white tufts of hair sticking in every direction frame a face that sports more than its fair share of weathering and age.
If you are female he will come off as a total pervert. He is, but that’s only part of who he is. He will pester you about the meaning of life. His mantra being, “All you need is good sex and good socks.” He will tell you in a thick Slavic accent.
Under those lewd jokes told tongue and cheek with a half smile, there’s another part of Sam. If you hang around him long enough you will realize that the jokes are not meant to be taken seriously. Once he realizes he hasn’t scared you off they become a lot less frequent. Actually, they are a way to weed out people he doesn’t want near him. If you can’t take the humor you won’t last long. That’s his test, if you pass you will soon discover why he prefers to keep most people at arms distance.
Eventually your eye will catch the tattoo on his arm; or maybe he just stops hiding it from you. It’s nothing special just faded black numbers peeking out from the gray hairs on his arm. If you don’t know what they are you wouldn’t give them a second thought, but I knew what they were instantly. He will notice when you know. He always does, something flickers behind his gray eyes when he sees that look of recognition and shock.
I didn’t press him about it the first few times I met him. I was afraid to ask about such a thing. You see, I knew those numbers were given to people interred in the death camps in Germany during WWII. Throughout our conversations about socks and sex he would catch me looking at that tattoo. It was a while before I worked up the courage to ask about it.
When I did he gave a heavy sigh and told me he had been waiting for me to get to that topic. He said he knew it was only a matter of time. I saw the look in his faded gray eyes change when he started his story. The horrifying tale unfurled like the wafting smoke from his forgotten cigarette. He told me how he lost everything in hell on earth. He told me how he watched people dying, and the ashes from their bodies floated on the breezes from the crematorium ovens. Part of you will die when you hear the story, but it’s a part that needs to die. To see the world for what it really is, is to let go of the frail notions that don’t actually exist. To embrace every detail of life and death with out adding your own spin on it, is the only way to begin to understand the world we live in.
You can see it in his eyes when he tells you there is no god and you will believe him. The icy gray eyes show the sharp edges of pain worn smooth by the years, but those edges still cut. They carve deep wounds in him in the dark of night when his defenses are low. His wife will whisper in your ear about how he sometimes wakes up screaming.
I can do no justice for the details of his story. I hear he left for Florida a year ago. His children were supposed to be recording his history, but I don’t know what became of that. If he is still alive he will be down in Florida selling socks for money and handing out sexual advice for free.