Down on Newbury Street

Down on Newbury Street

Then one day, there was him.

He wore sunglasses, but not like the businessmen, more like a blind man, and he stared down at the pavement. He slightly rocked back and forth in a cheap, generic, lawn chair with a sly smirk on his face. Pale wrinkles faded into his cheeks and forehead, and into wavy brown hair that flowed back down over the frame of the glasses. I noticed he would sit there and mumble to the people as they walked by, most would ignore him, but some would slow and look at him. The most distinctive thing about him was the box he held in his lap. Small and square, about big enough to fit a volleyball, the outside was flat and black, and occaisionally he would open it and look at it, nod slightly and close it again.

All during my lunch, he sat there and did not budge, not to go to the bathroom or get anything to drink. I ate a croissant sandwich and sipped on an iced tea while he looked in his box. Eventually, he noticed me watching him, slowly raising his head and saying, “Want to take a look, kid?” I was slightly taken aback by the breaking of his silence, and shook my head with a mouth full of crusty bread and american cheese. He stared at me for a moment, and then looked back to the pavement.

The next day, he was still there, just smiling at his box on the corner. I found myself again staring at him, wondering what exactly he was doing, who he was. Suddenly, my concentration was broken.

“Excuse me sir, is something wrong?” the waiter asked.

“Huh? Oh, I was just…nothing…no, just thinking,” I responded.

“…Is it that damn hobo on the corner?”

“Him? No, I was simply wondering what he was up to…he’s been there two days in a row.”

“Three if you count Sunday…son of a bitch, he’s starting to disturb some of our customers…I’m going to go have a word with the manager about it,” he resolved before turning back into the café. I sipped again on my iced tea, and turned my attention back to the man. Within a couple of minutes, the manager of the Café Dartmouth was strutting out onto the sidewalk and towards the man in his lawn chair. I couldn’t exactly hear what they were saying, but the manager was clearly getting upset when the man offered him a view into the box that sat on his lap. At first apprehensive, the manager leaned back, and the man in the chair closed the box. Now curious, he leaned back in, nose up and eyes down. The man shook his head, refusing to open it again. The manager pressed further. The man sat motionless, until the manager reached for the box, when he quickly moved it out of his grasp on the other side. The man, still staring straight at the pavement, muttered something to relax the manager, then rotated the box towards his face and slowly opened the top.

The manager’s face dropped as he slowly stepped backward. His gaze was frozen on the box, then to the man’s face, then back in the box. The man had a chilling smile, revealing a set of unkempt teeth, as he nodded his head slowly. The manager’s lip started to quiver, and then he quickly raised his apron up and dabbed at his eyes. He took a few deep breaths, but could no longer contain himself as he broke out into hysterics and turned and started jogging, then running away, past the café, down around the corner and out of sight. My head whipped back around to the man, who’s eyes were now solely upon me. He closed the lid of the box, and motioned it towards me, offering another look. I shook my head quickly, grabbed the remainder of my iced tea and spring jacket, and turned to leave.

I decided not to return to Café Dartmouth for a couple days in hopes the man would be gone. I returned on the following Monday, but he was still there, still wearing the same clothes, same sunglasses, same box. I sat down, this time only with a newspaper and half-heartedly began to scroll through it, keeping an eye on him at the same time. Eventually, a young couple walked by, hitting the button on the pole next to the man to cross the street. The young woman was cute, short brown hair and fair skin with a simple purse slung over her shoulder. Looking over the man in his chair, she figured he was homeless and tossed a few quarters towards his box. The man violently snapped his hand across the top of the box, sweeping the quarters off into the bushes by the café.

“Oh my,” the girl gasped, “I’m sorry, I was just trying to help.” The man gave a bit of a small snarl, forever glaring straight down.

“Hey pal, relax,” her boyfriend said, pivoting his shoulders back squared to the man. “She just assumed your thing was for collecting money, you prick.” The man just shook his head. “Oh yeah? Then what’s it for?”


“I’ll slap that shit right out of your lap,” he said swinging at it. The man pulled the box away, stretching his arms out the other side of the chair.

“What the fuck is there you homeless reject?”

The man raised his eyebrow.

“Well? What is it?”

He turned the box towards the girlfriend, first cracking the lid then pulling it off quickly. She looked over the top and her eyes widened. Her hands quickly flew to her face, cupping her nose and mouth. She let out a small whelp, turning and squeezing herself into her lover’s chest and started to sob. The man turned the box then towards the boyfriend, who stepped back, holding his girl.

“You just fucked with the wrong guy,” he said, ripping the box away. The man in the chair lowered his arms to his side peacefully. The boyfriend stared into the box, his face quickly contorting. He looked as if a poorly cooked lunch had just bitten him in the stomach. His eyes thinned as he swallowed hard. Grabbing his girlfriend tighter, he turned and quickly started off across the street, weakly chirping back “I’m sorry.”

After that, I avoided the café, and that part of Newbury Street in general all the way until Friday. Finally, my curiosity pryed away at my fear, and I decided to stop in “for a coffee” around 12:30 on an overcast afternoon. As I went and sat down at one of the many open tables, I noticed the number of people walking by the café was reduced to nearly nothing. Nothing, except the man with the box. In fact, no one walked by at all for a good five minutes until a police officer, in full blue and shades came walking across Newbury Street with a stone jaw frozen in purpose. He approached the man and pointed at him, making a motion to leave. The man did not budge, only tipped the lid off of his box, but still keeping it angled away from the officer. The officer’s lip arched up in anger and withdrew his handcuffs, when the man offered the box to him. The officer stopped, pulled off his shades and peered at the man in the chair, then sharply dropped his chin to look into the box. His face stayed stoic, but his aviator shades dropped from his hand, clicking on the ground. I could see a large breath of air escape out his nose, and his body became rigid. Then he weakly nodded and walked away.

The man turned to me. Again, he beckoned to me, offering a view into his box of mysterious dread. I couldn’t take it anymore. Something was drawing me in, what could possibly be in there? What in this world is so terrible that it could shatter the psyche of everyone who beholds it while fitting in a small box. It must be Hell, travel sized. The man smiled again, ushering me closer. I got up from my table and paced over in a trance-like state. His finger that was pulling me closer soon became a hand, moving more rapidly. My hands meanwhile were trembling with the fear, the anticipation. I swung my legs over the fence going around the café’s patio and approached the man. He extended the box towards me, never looking me in the face. I arched upwards and peeked over the top, only able to see the top of whatever rested on the bottom. I cowered away for a moment and looked at the stranger, who nodded back. I then stood tall again, bit my lip and swung my head forward like a reversed pendulum and gazed in.

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