Photo Journal Mondays: Zineb Benchekchou
I met Deuce on 57th street on a Sunday afternoon. I had approached him asking if I could get to know him and take some photos of him. He was very enthusiastic about it! He put one of his blankets on the ground, I got us some coffee and we started our chat.
"Before I answer your questions, let me record my message and if you know someone in the government, you should share it with them." He then talked frenetically to my phone voice-recorder for over 10 min. He didn’t like being interrupted yet, his stories didn't make sense to me.
"My name is Deuce, D-E-U-C-E. I’m 48 and I have been living on the street for 4.5 years. " "I was born in Brooklyn and raised as an only child. My parents live now in Florida; I last visited them in June 2008."
"I haven’t showered in 32 months. Since hurricane Sandy. It was in a shelter downtown. But I never went back there. They don’t treat white men well. I prefer to stay here, right in this block."
"I like this block because I am close to the Apple store. That’s where I check my emails. My parents write me sometimes. They did 4 months ago but I haven’t answered yet." What about you friends? "I have you. Write this down: Your best friend, the day before you met them, was a stranger”
"I spent all last winter here. I used my blankets and coats. And THIS is what saved my life. C is for Coleman. You should photograph it."
"I collect my blankets in the streets and that’s all I have in my suitcases. I also own a watch. An Alpha 1 timer. This is not New York time. You won’t understand. It’s a different dimension. It’s Joaning extended travel time!"
Joaning? I asked. "There is Math. Then Newtonian physics. And there is Joaning..." It was hard for me to grab the concept...
"I am a musician. I am a mathematician. I write lyrics and compose music. I miss my uitar."
"Before the street, I was a federal agent. I was a musician too."
"I used to live at my friend’s place; with my wife before she was kidnapped by the FBI. My friend was forced later to ask me to leave. That’s how I ended up here. He was then murdered in 2011."
"I lost my ID. Show me yours. Benchekchou! Benchekchou! Do you speak French? Careful with the French, you know 9/11 right? The French communist party is behind it."
"Deuce is my street name. It means 2. It’s a war strategy. Use the small card to beat them. I will send you my real name by email."
“ If you can’t stay, can you come back again?” I promise I will, but not before the weekend I said. “ Email me!” I don’t have your email address, I replied “You do...”
See you next weekend!
Once back home, I opened my notebook to go through our conversation and then I found a very touching note from Deuce along with his email address. He wrote it when I went to wash my hands at the restaurant.