Every morning, a few minutes after nine, a woman comes dashing down Exchange Place and skids around the corner, and dashes down the street. She's usually dressed in sneakers, but on her late mornings, she's wearing her heels, and I watch her to see if she remembers to jump over the grate. I have visions of her forgetting, and twisting her ankle until it is ugly with puffiness.
Every afternoon, at ten after two, Linda Baldwin emerges from her office building, and walks over to my cart and buys a quarter pound of fruit or vegetables. Lately it has been cherries. She will stop, and talk for a few minutes, before she neatly turns around and walks efficiently back to her office.
Lately, there's been a guy who sits with his coffee outside of Starbucks and watches me as my day winds down and he finishes his drink. The first day, his fixed stare was disturbing, but I have gotten used to it, now. I don't think he actually is seeing me. No one should look that disturbed when I sell a banana.
I arrive before seven, and I leave between three and four. I make a decent living, and any day on the streets of New York is better than television or a day spent in a mill. In the mornings, the traders on the market grab their last smokes and a coffee from Ramon. Some of them will gather around me, fingering the fruit and talking loudly about how much they ran that morning.
Some barely talk to me, ordering out of the side of their mouths as they chatter. Some are polite, but barely register my existance other than to stare down into my outstretched hand and count the change I am giving them. There are also those who do talk do talk to me - Herman, who works down the street and passes me as he gets off the subway, asks after my son, and RosEllen is crazy about the Mets, and Li always asks when the zucchini will be in, and sometimes, Nicky will stop by and swear off women. (That never lasts.)
I bought a new cart last year, and business hasn't been much different. It's easier to pack up and go home, but the people are the same. The security guard at the department store still jealously guards his store from the downtown alliance safety patrollers. Last week, he angrily told the downtown alliance security patroller to go somewhere else to "be a rent-a-cop," and I just shook my head. Down here in the Financial District, everyone has their heads screwed on a bit too tight.
I like this corner. It's not so windy as up by the World Trade Center, and there's a lot of different people. I get tourists, and executives, and secretaries and techies, and shopworkers, and I see a lot. I even sold Julia Roberts an orange once.
This Vignette was inspired by the fruit vendor who spent the summer and fall on the corner of Broad and Beaver.