Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Antjuan of the Pink Boots
There was no way I was buying a magazine.
His name was Antjuan, an African-American young man who told me he was 19 and had lived in a Syntaxis Youth Home. He wore a denim jacket over a long-sleeved pink shirt. His jeans matched his jacket, and the tops of his pink boots were folded down to reveal white fur. The hands on his neon green wristwatch pointed to Roman numerals.
Antjuan (spelled that way on his ID) was a good-looking kid with a fast-paced, very effeminate talking style. Considering that coupled with his outfit, I could only imagine the responses he was getting going door-to-door in the North Dallas area. He had an engaging personality, though, and I was bored, so I listened to his pitch.
He spoke in phrases like "live positively" and “investing in America’s youth," and when he asked, "So would you like to take an interest in me today?" he meant, "How many magazines do you want to buy?"
Antjuan said he wanted to go to Juliard to learn to be an actor and to dance. I barely kept myself from telling him that they would furnish him the pink boots if he got the part.
He gave me a somewhat disappointed look after I asked what was the cheapest magazine he offered. “Hey, if I buy anything from you, it’s better than if I turn you away.”
He replied without missing a beat.
“Like my grandmother used to say, ‘Oatmeal is better than no meal.’"
He asked me for advice for a rising young man looking for success. Take off the pink boots. I said something my brother once told me: "Work hard and always do a little more than what is asked of you." Now that I think back, my brother actually said something more like, "Do everything that's asked of you and a little more," but it was close enough. I'm pretty sure my father told me this, too, but at a time when I was less receptive to sage advice.
I wanted to find out a little about Antjuan, besides the fact that he smelled like women's perfume, and help curb my suspicions that his backstory was a line to sell more magazines. "So, who was your favorite person at the Youth Home? There must have been some great people working in a place like that."
"Well, sir, I had a bad time at that home, so nobody really."
That was either the truth, or a very bad dodge. I let it slide.
It was 85 degrees and sunny.
"So, where are you from?" I asked.
"It gets cold up there."
"Yes sir, why do you think I'm wearing all these warm clothes?"
Later, we saw another young man walking along our neighborhood sidewalk with a folded packet of magazine order forms similar to Antjuan's. His back was to us as he headed down the street.
"So, are you selling magazines?" I called out.
"Yes sir," he said as he turned to face me, continuing his progress by walking backward.
"Do you know Antjuan? He already found us," I said.
"Did you take an interest in him?" the young man asked, still walking backward.
Did I take an interest in a girly teenage boy who smelled like my Aunt and looked like a Vegas dancer? "Yes, we did. We got Nick JR." Hey, he doesn't watch Nick, but it will give Ben something to look forward to when he goes to the mailbox with his mommy.
As I finished strapping Ben into his car seat, the young magazine peddler smiled and asked, "How did you like his boots?"