Where have all the payphones gone?
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With Charles in Raleigh and now handy customer about at quitting time I decided to walk home. Takes about an hour. Too far along to want to go back a sharp pain hit one of my feet. Too guilty of all the rides Iíve gotten off him I decide to not call Yance, Iíll call for a taxi.
I havenít used a payphone since they cost a dime. But I know where many of them are. Or where they used to be. Theyíve been uprooted. No surprise, payphones tend to cause poor people to congregate. Most markedly junkies wanting to cut a deal. I thought about putting a payphone in the bookshopís parking lot. The panhandling winos and junkies who congregated about a nearby Eckerdís dissuaded me.
First payphone I find has been rendered unusable, you canít shove coins in. I keep on wincing and trudging. None at the Fast Fare, the ones at Burger King are gone. I figure Iíll go over to Northgate Mall. The traffic lights change but the orange palm never changes, not even a flicker: DONíT WALK. In my confused searching about I find a button hidden behind a bush. Well, damn, I have to push that button if I want to get across one of Durhamís busiest streets.
Not much later the little green man flashes up. The orange palm returns before Iím across. Iím tall, have a long stride. Reminds me of the elderly woman I saw panic on another street because when it appeared before she made it to the white dashed line.
Inside a Harris-Teeter I call ‘Durhamís Best Cab’. While Iím waiting a woman asks for a cigarette. Quickly given. Shortly sheís back asking for 80¢: she tells me she needs money for bread and soda. The precision of the request lets me know sheís probably looking for a can of Colt 45. I apologize having given my change to the payphone. A half-minute later I give her a dollar bill. Iíd had one of my literal-minded responses. I didnít have the change. If she needs malt liquor to get through her day why shouldnít I help? Long ago in Atlanta there was a dyke wino I always felt it an honor to help towards her dayís comfort. It is shabby and ugly. But thereís no reason to condemn someone whose only dignity and pleasure is in alcohol to a sober Hell.
My cab came and soon I was back at the shanty. The phone was ringing and it was my beloved Charles. We had a good long talk, sometimes serious, other times tender. Heís hungry to be home. Maybe more than Iím to have him here. Not that my days will be complete without him. But the kind man heís staying with cooked him a steak when Iídíve been at work.
Wish I could think of something warm and sweet for he homecoming.