Riding the G train, the cross-Brooklyn local, on a Saturday afternoon . . .
A big guy was sitting by the door with a little kid. The kid was maybe five or six, of indeterminate sex, except for a set of pink rubber boots. Probably a girl. The guy had a big head and thick, almost coke-bottle glasses with thick rims. He looked almost exactly like a friend of mine, a painter who lives off the G in Williamsburg, except that his neck and wrists and even his hands were covered in tattoos, fiery metalhead tattoos, with letters tattooed across the knuckles of each hand, which at first I thought read GODS W111. Yet he looked far too mild-mannered to be a hardcore metalhead and from the way he sat with the little girl he appeared to be her father.
Tehy had a book, a trade paperback with a black cover and big yellow letters on the front. The little girl spelled out the title: “O, W, O . . .”
“That’s an ‘I’,” the guy corrected her a little sternly. Then: “Do you want to read it?”
“No!” The little girl giggled. “Its boring!”
“Boring! Maybe if I read it to you . . . ”
“Okay!” The little girl wriggled close to him, starting in the middle of the book, and reading over her shoulder so she could see the page. He read in a soft, flat voice and I could barely hear him over the clattering of the train. “The theoretical . . . backlash of the administrative mindset . . . multiplicity of identities . . . ”
From what little I heard it sounded like a combination of Derrida, a political pamphlet, and an office memo. He read slowly, deliberately, turning the page while the little girl squirmed in her seat, laughing at first then looking confused then laughing again and I couldn’t tell if the guy was being ironic and this was a recurring game with them, or if he was serious and she was laughing at him because he did that kind of thing all the time . . .
When I got off the train, I realized his knuckles read ‘God’s Will’. When I got home I googled the phrase, wondering if it was a band. But no band came out and I wondered if he hadn’t been some sort of Christian metalhead, like those Christian hardcore kids I’d read about somewhere, out thrashing for Jesus . . .
Christ-core band Norma Jean