Thursday, October 18, 2018

Freedom and Beauty

“Mariposa... libre,” the older woman standing in the booth says, and as she waves her hands like a butterfly escaping a prison, the distress on her face tells the story.

I think I get it. “Unfortunately, everything dies,” I say as her husband translates my words into low, lyrical Spanish that seems to flow like a river, "but the only way we can preserve these beautiful, fragile moments is to protect them under glass.”

“Ah, precioso!” she says, the tension draining from her body.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Underground Cities

The two crosstown blocks from the booth to the subway seem a lot longer without a jacket, but I shove my hands into my pockets and breathe deeply, and I can feel my body remembering the coming cold like a sparring partner that one has come to almost like. I take the stairs down to the train two at a time and catch the L headed east.

I come out into the Union Square station, walking fast past the guys selling mangos and churros and candy, and the air feels warm, almost balmy. I think about caves, how these tunnels and stations terminals are really just modern caves, and how long it takes for the cold to penetrate down here underground, where we New Yorkers spend so much of our lives.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Commerce and Art

Guy in the booth with the flat-brimmed baseball cap and earbuds (which remain in for the duration of our conversation) stares blankly at the “No Photos, Please” sign beneath the butterflies for a while before saying, “Why no pictures?”

“Because it’s art,” I say.

“But what does that have to do with it,” he says, in dull confusion.

“If you love her work enough to take a piece of it home with you,” I say, “then you should buy it."

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Picking Up That Name You Dropped

The German man with the patrician mien and the dismissive attitude is rubbing me all kinds of the wrong way, but looking at one of Katie’s larger pieces, he brightens up a little, saying, “I know of an antique butterfly collection, thousands of specimens, that I’m trying to get rid of for a friend of mine. I offered it to Damien Hirst but he says he’s done with butterflies.”

“Isn’t he the one who carved up a shark?” I ask after I finish repressing the urge to roll my eyes all the way back into my skull. “Maybe he’ll go back to aquatic creatures."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Is It, Though?

The woman who came into the booth wanting to fight about dead butterflies has calmed down, decided I’m friendly, and is now waxing philosophical.

“Isn’t it amazing,” she continues, “how nature makes everything so that is serves some greater purpose, like how butterflies are made for pollinating flowers?”

“It’s possible that what you’re seeing,” I say carefully, “instead of just one overarching intelligence, is really a lot of smaller intelligences, each with their own agenda, trying to exploit weaknesses and find a niche for themselves, and all of those sort of add up to a greater agenda, right?”

“That’s exactly what I mean,” she enthuses, her eyes shining.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Dark Timeline

“And everybody on that show is best buds and they all support each other,” Katie says, referring to a TV show we watch called The Good Place, “and I follow them all on Instagram and Twitter and everything.”

“That’s the thing,” I says thoughtfully, pausing from shoveling food into my mouth for my late night after work meal. “As the timeline grows darker, the pockets of light will shine brighter.”

“Oh,” Katie says, “you’re not referring to the TV show, are you."

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Joy in Disdain

The woman who sells jewelry at the booth across the aisle from ours slides over with a conspiratorial look and says, "We see a lot of trends here, right? Well, there’s this thing where women grow their nails long and put a stone or a jewel on it, and I think it’s gross!”

“I really like people who have strong opinions on things,” I say, laughing.

“Oh yeah, I just really hate stuff,” she says, smiling.