The Anonymous Man

He didn’t want his name released, nor did he want his photo taken in the bodega where he works in Washington Heights, Manhattan. Forget about publishing a recording of his voice.

“I want to be anonymous,” the young man said curtly in Spanish from behind a plexiglass counter filled with sweets.

He cut short a question about life as a bodeguero.

Yo no soy bodeguero,” he said, his voice sounding annoyed. Translation: he’s not a bodeguero.

Michael Jackson’s voice filled the store as customer after customer trickled in, bringing with each the bitter cold from outside. They walked through small aisles, one of them lined by vegetables and fruits in cardboard boxes on the floor. Avocadoes, plump yucca, oranges.

He was open to talk so long as he could remain anonymous, and so long as a new customer didn’t need his attention. It was a busy morning.

The young man dressed in a hoodie and jacket said he was born in Santiago, Dominican Republic. He arrived to New York City four years ago.

“Always when you leave your country, you leave in search of something different,” he said, standing in the store’s tiny backroom. “Perhaps you’re changing your routine.”

He waved off a question about his first impression of the United States.

“Land is land and water is water,” he said. “And people are people.”

The young man was about to say something else, but a customer demanded his attention. He then disappeared around a corner, walking swiftly back to his post by the plexiglass counter.