I stood up and scratched my chin, imagining the luscious black beard that would soon adorn it, placed my manuscript on the park bench, and walked back toward Fifth Avenue. Reaching the sidewalk, I turned to give my book one final look. This was, after all, the only copy. Three years of work. But if I didn’t leave it there for someone to find, even if they didn’t read it, even if it just ended up in the garbage, I knew I couldn’t feel like I had created anything. This way, at least it would fill a landfill somewhere, which was a little more politically involving than a trunk or my desk drawer.
My imposter stood in front of the manuscript, holding his own bulky manuscript in his arm. He placed it on the bench beside mine. Even from this distance, I could tell they were almost exactly the same size. He picked mine up and tucked it under his arm. He bent his knees a little bit, as if testing its heft. Maybe he thought they were different bonds or something. I started back toward the bench, toward my imposter. He spotted me, clutched the manuscript tightly to his chest, and ran off into the park. I continued toward the bench.
Sitting down once again I lifted his manuscript onto my lap. It was filled with blank pages. Just a ream of paper. A true imposter would at least have tried to write something. But maybe not. Maybe a true imposter was only a shell of the real thing. Something filled with nothingness. Empty. Of course now that manuscript was as much his as it was mine. The only difference was in my head. I knew I wrote it but he could easily say he wrote it. Of course, since he was my imposter, he would also say he was me. Maybe in the end it was all just a wash out.
I couldn’t sit there contemplating all day. I had a beard to grow. And quick.
I passed the greasy man selling sandwiches again and he said, “Hey! Hey, buddy!”
I approached his smoking, heavily scented kiosk.
“You wanna try a hallucinogenic sandwich?”
“I just had a sandwich.”
“You don’t have to be hungry to like this one.”
“Sure. I guess. Is it legal?”
“Hell, I don’t know. Sure. All natural ingredients. On the house this time.” He motioned to his cart. “You fix it up the way you want it.”
“Thanks,” I said. I wasn’t hungry at all but the temptation was too great. While I had never been truly impoverished, I had been hungry enough to know one should never pass up free food.
The only thing on the cart I recognized was the bread. The rest of the little stainless steel bins were filled with exotic-looking vegetables. While I went about making my sandwich the vendor crouched down and started playing with my shoes.
“Hey!” I said, startled.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m also a cobbler. These shoes is all worn out.”
“Whatever. Is that free too?”
“Sure. I just can’t stand to see someone in ratty shoes.”
I assembled a moderately sized sandwich, figuring I would probably be hungry on the bus.
The vendor/cobbler stood up. “Got you all fixed up there.”
I looked down at my once tattered canvas shoes and saw they were now brand new-looking, with no signs of patches, glue or off-colored thread.
“Wow. You do good work.”
“Been doin it for years,” he said with a nod.
“Please. Let me pay you.”
“No need. I have everything I need right here.” He motioned to the cart.
“Are you sure?”
“Okay then. Have a great day.”
I turned and left for the bus station. I didn’t have a lot of money left and I had heard about a cheap and highly disreputable bus company near Battery Park.