12: June 2016 #09 - Sidney

Authored by Janelle Greco


by Janelle Greco

Sidney is a security guard at the shelter where we both work. He calls me “sis” and means it. I focus on the white orbs of his eyes; the blackness of the universe pools at their centers. Sidney could be the linebacker on a top-ranked college football team or the bouncer at a club on the Lower East Side. He was perhaps a heavyweight champion, an all-state wrestler, and the runner-up in the World’s Strongest Man Competition. His frame conjures up all types of assumptions, and so he is all of these things until a person learns he is none of these things.

He appreciates honesty and can easily spot a “phony.”
“What makes a ‘phony’?” I ask.
“Someone who’s disingenuous,” he says.

Sidney tells me he will not set foot in a gym.
“I’m starting to eat healthier though,” he says and offers me a buffalo wing, drenched and sticky and orange. We both laugh genuinely. Failure to do so would be impolite, like slurping your soup or not holding the door for someone.

Sidney takes a class on conflict resolution and talks about how others perceive him.
“There are people on the train who won’t sit next to me,” he says, “like they’re scared.”
“How do you know it’s because of you?” I ask.
“I know,” he says and points to his heart. I imagine it—a ripe tomato, a pulsating red and purple star. “People are scared of me.”
We are all mountains that cannot press ourselves flat.

He is a solid mass of earth, a marble statue; he is all of these things until you say “hello” and then he is simply and wonderfully a person who hopes that you will not be afraid to sit next to him on the train. I wonder if types of people can become extinct like the dodo bird, the wooly mammoth, or the orange toad.

Sidney—like a bright, blue glacier—smooth and floating and peaceful, dissolves quietly like we all do. We take pieces out of one another and don’t even know it. They come off like the flakes of an eggshell or hunks of ice, cracking and clunking into the water. You don’t hear the splash until you are far away, or until Sidney is in class with the universe in his eyes, pointing at his heart.