I met Abdul today. He is the hot dog man outside of River Run Playground at 83rd Street in Riverside Park. I’ve bought probably $100 worth of hot dogs and ice cream bars for the boys in recent months from him, though my total might be closer to $500. Not sure. I finally decided to ask him his name. Don’t know why today as opposed to any other day. I gave his partner a hard time last weekend for selling me a “Candy Center Crunch” bar – like a chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream bar with a chocolate candy center; your basic heart attack for children – and it was frozen through and as hard as granite. I asked for my money back, and the man convinced me to take another ice cream choice – this one soft as gypsum rather than somewhere between feldspar and quartz as was the other.
Abdul asked if I was American, and where I was born.
“Here in New York. And where were you born?”
“Bangladesh. Been here. 18 years. Have babies…one baby, college. Downtown Manhattan. Two more babies. 77th Street. Computer school.”
He grinned as he usually does when he sees us coming, but this time his grin was wider when he described them. I noticed the details in the rough yellow and brown stains between his teeth in the bottom row, which always showed more than the top row.
But I looked into the eyes of a father for the first time, not the co-conspirator who sold my son a rock for $2.