Friday, February 16, 2007

Another Life


Alfredo is putting his papers away by the time I arrive. He's finished his four or so hour stint as a newspaper man, in picking them up in Manhattan and selling them here under the LIE. By the time I see him, he is almost out of papers.

When I ask him how the work is, he nods, smiles, $200 a week. He used to work another post, but he likes it better in Blissville. "More tips," he says.

I try to calculate how much he must walk because in the time we talk he hasn't stopped walking. He must walk for three hours without a break. Ten miles at least, I think.

He is readying to return to his apartment in Jackson Heights. He'll rest and play with his small daughter, his treasure. Then, later in the afternoon, he'll head out again, to his second job as a bartender at a catering service. The next morning he'll wake at 4:30 to start another day.

Alfredo wasn't always a newspaperman. He didn't always live here.

Alfredo is from Bogotá. He studied business administration at Colombia's most prestigious university, earned an MBA, and landed a job at one of the state banks. He managed something inside the bank, but I missed what. I just understood that he loved his job.

Then the bank closed. The state gave no one any warning or notice. One day Alfredo had a job, the next day he didn't.

The next six months he sought work in every corner of the city. The economy was falling and many other banks closed, too. He sold his car and moved to a smaller apartment. Finally, at the suggestion of his mother who lived in New York, he came north. That was six years ago.

When Alfredo goes home, the paper he takes is The New York Times. "It has many long words. But I try. Good for practicing for my English."

With English, perhaps someone will recognize his degree. And then he'll be able to return to the profession he loves.

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