Sean sold marijuana for money, so that he could have extra time to think. Right then though, leaning against the last pillar on the subway platform, he was trying to forget about the day and not think. He was trying to forget about his last marijuana delivery he made through a maze of downtown Santa spots. The customer Sean had just linked up with made Sean angrier at the world than he had been for some time, weeks at least. He would have been upset without Santas begging everywhere; they just magnified his stress.
Sean never met the customer before, but knew of him and knew of his condition. He knew his partner couldn't stand to deliver marijuana to him any longer, because of his condition. But Sean wanted to see him, like people want to see a car accident, but he wanted to see too because his condition was a sign of the times and Sean considered himself a thinker and observer. But he forgot about Santa. He forgot and nearly snapped on the first one to gleefully wish him a merry Christmas as he walked to his delivery. Instead, he just blurted out, "What the f*ck does Santa Claus possibly know about Christmas?" and then quickly moved on.
Within five minutes after meeting Private Gary it was obvious to Sean that he was the guardian angel of several before going to war and probably while at war too, the short time he was at war anyway. Sean quickly surmised Private Gary probably never disobeyed his parents or teachers as a kid and it was obvious, from his condition, he never disobeyed his martial superiors either. He had the perfect story of childhood happiness and adolescent love in the land of trees and cheese and then he joined the army. Private Gary is now a recognized hero in his home county and he had a story about it, how they gave him a key to his hometown in Wisconsin and how he didn't care. While sitting there Sean could see it half way hidden under his bed. Private Gary was impossible not to like. He was also near impossible to look at. Private Gary lost portions of both of his legs and about half of his face in an explosion in Afghanistan. Sean spent a couple hours with him, smoking blunts and listening to his story, trying to look at him and trying not to look at the key. Private Gary made Sean mad at the world, for what the mad world had taken from him.
When Sean left Private Gary his grimace grew. Walking across town from the East side to the West side Sean had to physically distance himself from the Santa Claus beggars he encountered, literally zig-zagging the street so he didn't have to directly pass by one. Each Santa Sean saw made Sean want to throw hands and drop them for their participation in cementing the postmodern war world and making people tolerant to the Private Gary situation. The ringing bells and the 'HoHoHos' transformed his scowl into an actual headache as he walked past children having conniption fits and old women counting out thirty cents to drop into the corporate kettle. Sean had to restrain himself from losing it, purposefully veering away from the redcoats so they didn't look at him and give him an excuse. He held back every urge to go into game-over mode and run up on one the obnoxious scammers with a flying drop kick to the neck and then toss his money in the street and take his bell and go battle the next one and the next just to see how many he could take out before the cops shot him.
Sean blamed Santa Claus for modern warfare, for our acceptance of institutional violence and, ultimately, for Private Gary's condition. The combination of seeing Private Gary's loss and all the Santas would surely turn the whole day into several surreal nightmares for Sean. Sean didn't like any holiday, because they were all pro war as he saw it, but he hated Christmas most of all because of the violent nature of the Santa Claus lies. And after seeing Private Gary's condition he just wanted to stop it from continuing, at least for a minute. After hanging out with Private Gary he felt he would be justified, but knew he couldn't stop Santa just by taking out a couple downtown. He couldn't get Private Gary's face back either.
"I had to get half my face blown off to realize what was going on." Private Gary said at one point, drooling as he tended to do. Sean tried not to think about it, but couldn't get Private Gary out of his head. He kept seeing him saying that. And as much as he tried, he couldn't get the ringing bells in his ears to stop either.
"Man, f*ck Santa Claus!" Sean growled a muffled grunt aloud and spit, trying to get the image out of his head as the uptown 1 arrived.
The uptown 1 slowed to a halt. 'Bling blong.' The doors opened. Sean remained leaning against the pillar, unmoved, grimacing, but looking into the train from out his peripheral. He seemed not to register it, until the last second, when he suddenly hopped onboard. Sean was the last person to get on the last car of the uptown 1, stepping in just as the doors sounded 'blong bling' and closed. His hands remained in his jacket as the train began to move. He examined the car to make sure no one had used it as a bathroom or vomitory recently and sat down on what seemed like a clean seat in an empty car. He tried to think about other things besides poor Private Gary.
Sean practically always rode in the last car. For one, no one could follow him when he got off the train and two because it's always the least crowded car. More importantly though along with being the least crowded, it's the car with the most crazy riders and correspondingly the most opportunity for Sean's favorite activity; human observation. The last car always has the lowest occupancy and correspondingly the highest rate of abnormal occupants. Crackheads and junkies think the last car is a club or a hideout depending on the person and depending on the drug. One might encounter Puerto Rican ninjas with stated diplomatic immunity, lost Uzbekistani lion tamers, beggars with elaborate life stories, scammers with written mission statements--some on wheels, teens on drinking sprees or any number of inebriated, crusty scraps off the melting pot in the last car.
The last car always had the most graffiti too, even if a lot of the tags were just etchings carved into the graffiti-proof cars. And although Sean had stopped tagging years ago, he was still drawn to it. He liked seeing who was getting up and who was getting crossed out by whom and he liked to see who was still bombing. Observing graffiti was like keeping tabs on basketball season, but it was more than that, it was like keeping tabs on the pulse of the city. Graffiti told Sean who was going where and who was saying what.
For Sean graffiti was the only remaining real art form left. To him graffiti, from tags to caricature pieces to murals, was the purest and most unadulterated contemporary art in existence; anything else, anything in any showroom downtown was mostly corporate flushings made to steer people to think certain ways. Graffiti is pure unadulterated contemporary expression. Sean had theorized long ago what he termed the art-certainty principle, which he elaborated from the inverse of physics' Uncertainty Principle, in which the more you know about the position of particle the less you know its momentum and vice-versa. Sean figured, the more popular and more promoted art was, the shittier it was, making graffiti the best and practically the only appreciable art form in the city for it was practically always prohibited.
When no one else dared to be there, the last car also occasionally provided Sean a chance moment of solitude as the train roared between stops, and solitude in Manhattan can be a rare commodity. More importantly than all of that though, Sean figured riding in the last car might answer a question he was determined to answer, a question one could only have growing up in Manhattan. Sean was determined to answer what was to him a longstanding Manhattan conundrum. Sean believed the answer could help him more profoundly understand the world, but elsewhere in the world the question itself might be interpreted as irrelevant, akin to asking, 'which came first the chicken or the egg?' or 'why did the chicken cross the road?'
Sean wondered if few people frequented the last car because there were a lot of crazies there or if the crazies frequented the last car because few people were there. He pondered if people are crazy before coming to the last, or after. The answer was as of yet undetermined, he figured he was no more crazy, but either way, maybe that was in itself crazy.
'Do people start off crazy before they start riding the last car or go crazy from riding the last car?'
Sean asked this because he knew very well that the craziest New Yorker of all and possibly the craziest person ever for that matter used to habitually ride the last car. J. Robert Oppenheimer was the craziest Manhattanite. He led the Manhattan Project to create and deploy the first nuclear experimentation detonations --on people. There's not much crazier than that. And Oppenheimer started out riding the last car in Manhattan. And who knows what he did with his chance solitary moments. Sean knew Oppenheimer was a closet freak and imagined he probably bugged out by himself whenever he happened to be in the last car alone, doing things that back then would have seemed hysterical, but today might not be worthy of a viral video. Sean wondered if Oppenheimer alone could have started the New York City tradition of fewer people riding the last car and more crazies gravitating to the last car. Oppenheimer was that crazy. JRO went from riding the last car to building the biggest, most murderous bombs ever. Oppenheimer was crazier than the loudest, most fecal smeared, cracked-out last-car dweller since.