Thursday, February 28, 2013

I Spoiled It

She is walking around sans pants, as she is wont to do, as cute as she can be, and I'm enjoying the view, the sweet, nonchalant way that she is flaunting her charms for me, thinking to myself that this, this feeling of silly fun and playful sexiness, is really what being grownup is all about, and what I'd always hoped for when I dreamed about being an adult: that we can walk around without pants and nobody can tell us otherwise. I love the cute curve of her bum (which she always insists is too flat) and her narrow hips and the way she sort of prances like a deer when she runs around without shoes.

I am almost giddy with love when she says, "Well, I need to put pants on," and I say, thinking I am still being sexy and fun, "Well, as much as I like looking at your pussy and your butt, you don't want them to get cold."

Her face freezes, then she tries to smile, but I instantly know that I have stepped over some line, my crudity making things less fun, and my heart sinks as I stammer out, "Oh, you don't really like those words, do you?"

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Being a gentleman of a certain age, one is expected to have a greater intimacy with one's body, checking for the troubling oddity in the balls that is often discussed in the men's magazines but never precisely explicated (what is it supposed to feel like if something's wrong? No one ever says). In the course of a regular exam last night, though, something seems off.

Now I sit at my desk, acutely and uncomfortably aware of the exact location and disposition of each testicle: how they rest atop one another like sleeping puppies, the nauseous alert with which they express their displeasure when then they are shoved or shifted, the relatively new thickness of my formerly thin thighs that crowds them into provoking discomfort, the tightness of my trousers. I set up a doctor's appointment, forcing myself to avoid Googling "testicular cancer," knowing that I'm probably just fine.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

You Spend a Third of Your Life In Bed

The mattresses are scattered through the showroom on the top floor of Macy's like large, heavy, sleeping animals, their boxy bodies thick and cloud-like.

The next one we try is divided in half, presumably to save space: you can lie on the "ultra-firm" side, then roll right over to the "cushion-firm" side, and all on the same mattress. Unlike the last one (a paragon of fluffy, soporific virtue that gently cradled me like a handful of Vicodin), I can feel my bones shifting in protest against this unforgiving surface that is less mattress and more objectified stubborn rage.

Apparently my distress shows on my face, and Katie, watching me, says, "Oh God, this one really isn't going to work, is it?"

Monday, February 25, 2013

Don't Look Now, But I Think We're Being Followed

Hair a rat's nest, clothes stained, bent almost double at the waist, he sways drunkenly at the end of the hallway connecting the subway to the surface. We sweep past him to pound up the stairs as he slowly fumbles at the Velcro straps of his shoes with the squint-eyed concentration of a man performing surgery while simultaneously trying to fish a stubborn piece of popcorn out of a back molar.

Given the peculiarities of air flow underground, the reek of him pursues us like an avenging ghost, thickening around us as we rise. The nauseating tang of human sweat, filth and sweet rot builds and chokes the air until we reach the surface, and it abruptly breaks, to be replaced by the fug of old coffee and exhaust, stale perfume and sewer steam.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Not that different

We're all piled into the Methodist Church's preschool, in which they've set up planks on sawhorses, and the planks are heaped with hundreds of books. The air is hot and there's a constant shuffling and reshuffling as we try to make our way around each other without touching to get a better look at the books.

I excuse myself to a bearded fellow who is perusing the history table,  and as I maneuver around him, he says, "It's okay, we're all here for the same thing."

"Well," says Katie, "at least we're not all here for meth."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Is that a good enough answer for you?

I make my way through the cold, gray, rainy day to the library by the park, and shake off the chill in the lobby.

As I make my way toward the fiction room, who should I see but my friend Jai! After we've exchanged pleasantries, I ask him how his novel is coming, and he pulls a wry face.

"That's a terrible question," I say, "like the only answer to it should be 'Fuck you is how it's coming!'"

Friday, February 22, 2013

I don't actually wear cologne

A co-worker walks by and inhales deeply, says, "Smells good around here."

"Like food?" says my cubemate, a confused expression on her face.

"No, good like a man's cologne," he replies, and they both look at me.

"It's just the natural scent I exude," I say.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

She said it would be cold

The grey and suffering evening, remembering
Cold the morning words
Too thin jacket, chest gone rigid
Once again, she was right

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Stand Clear

I get on the train to go home at the same place everyday, a place I have chosen after some thought because it is far enough down the platform that the "What time is it? Showtime!" kids who usually start at the back of the train won't reach my car before I get to my stop in Brooklyn.

I didn't use to mind these kids, with their mediocre acrobatics and shitty music, until I realized that, trains being what they were, there was no way for someone to avoid their antics once the train was in motion. They essentially had a captive audience whom they forced to listen to shitty music and watch mediocre acrobatics, after which came the inevitable shakedown for the privilege of having one's sensibilities insulted.

Today, however, they piled onto my car, waiting until the doors were already closed to begin their spiel ("What time is it? Showtime? In full effect! Live and direct!") whereupon I looked up from my book, muttered, "Ah hell no," and walked between the cars while the train was in motion, law be damned. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Too Soon

Katie's feeling better, so she's been in the kitchen almost all day, and wiped herself out cooking various treats and our lunches for next week. Even the half-hour back rub I gave while we piled through the shows we DVR'd over the weekend didn't help; she pushed herself a little too hard, too soon.

Now, we're ready to go to sleep, and she lies on the bed, heating pad and Advil at the ready. We watch Adventure Time and try to warm up our toes and forget that tomorrow begins the work week.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Be Willing to be Boring

What with the yerba mate I drank, the Icee I drank at the movies ("white cherry," which I'm pretty sure is not a real thing, in the sense that there is no corresponding cherry grown in the world that is absent all pigmentation), and the jasmine tea I drank at dinner, I believe I had more caffeine (and all the concomitant xanthines) yesterday than I've had in ages.

At the birthday party of our downstairs neighbor Ellen last night, I was feeling like I was really "on," a conversational dynamo, listening appropriately, winging zingers out into the fray with aplomb, making jokes and laughing at other's wit. I felt good, enjoying the company of people and being enjoyed in return.

This morning, I have a little bit of a headache, and my skin is dried out and scaly, and I can't seem to drink enough water.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Maybe that's it.

I sit on a stool at the long table at Starbucks, waiting for Katie to get back from using the restroom. We ducked in here out of the bitterly cold and clear day after discovering we had an hour to kill before our movie starts.

The woman across from me, middle-aged, blonde(-ish), has left her notebook open in front of her, and I read (voyeur that I am) upside-down, "Dear Lord, what am I doing wrong, why can I find no clarity in this situation." The note trails off, and I look up for some glimpse of the inner turmoil reflected there, but she is placidly scrolling through her phone, with no indication in her expression of anything other than a mild, unthinking boredom.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sufficiently Advanced Technology is Indistinguishable

Two men stand on the corner, interrupting their dog walk (the dog waits patiently at their feet), while one of them squints down at the brick of glass in his hand, upon which the face of a woman appears. In the manner of many older people using the technology, she has the camera pointed too high (perhaps in deference to her bifocals? I'm not sure), so all that's visible on his screen is the top half of her head, from her nose up, and the wall above and behind her.

"Do you have Wi-Fi?" he shouts at the small hand-held screen, while his friend watches in amusement. She beams her visage through the ether, commanding almost immeasurable technology verging on wizardry, to ask him to go to the store to get milk.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Screaming Goats and the Wheel of Karma

At the end of the day, we lie in bed, stroking the glass screens of the supercomputers that seemingly everyone carries around in their pockets these days.

Katie loads up a short video her co-worker suggested she watch. The video shows a series of goats awakening to the horror of discovering that the misdeeds of their past lives have doomed them to life as goats.

We laugh until we are crying, then go back to the beginning and watch it again.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Drink the Undrinkable Drink

The lounge we slip into next door to the Hotel Chelsea is dark and tacky, with art brut murals adorning the walls in broad-stroked caricatures of the Spanish countryside. A faux Spanish tile roof overhangs the bottles behind the bar and the surly, prematurely balding bartenders idling there. The drinks menu insists that the establishment is renowned for its margaritas, and who are we to argue?

The drinks plunked perfunctorily before us bear only the faintest resemblance to margaritas, or indeed, anything meant to be consumed by humans, and though I finish mine with a grimace, Katie is unable to do so, leaving it behind, perhaps to be offered as libation to the dozen or so Don Quixote statues that stand blind guard over the Dulcinea Room, the badly breaded calamari, the terrible cocktails, us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Revolving Door

All of us, wrapped in scarves and heavy coats, harried and hurried, find our collective way down into the bowels of the church where they are distributing the ashes.

The Franciscan friars, two old men in black cassocks standing before the altar with dour, pinched faces, relentlessly press ash onto the foreheads of the faithful. They don't even bother to make a cross, sufficing with a thumb-print smudge resembling a mid-sized roach.

Katie and I find an open pew and sit quietly for a moment, before clambering the stairs past stained-glass frozen fables, out into the cold morning air.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The solution

Standing, swaying on the subway home, I'm surprised by the lately rare blossom of depression, right in my solar plexus, something like pain.

As soon as I get home, as quickly as I can, I change clothes, feed the cat (who meows plaintively, demanding attention and food), and get my yoga mat down on the ground. 

I lay on my back on it and, as soon as the bell announcing the beginning of the session rings, feel the knot of anxiety and sorrow begin to unravel itself. I breathe deeply and move through the postures, grateful and growing happier with every breath, as the cat stalks around my few square feet of peace.

Monday, February 11, 2013

In New York City, we are not overly solicitous of one another's pain

She stands about three steps up from the bottom of the stairs to the subway platform, clutching the railing. The crushing flow of commuters briefly balks, then diverts its rush around her into the trains that carry them away.

Her eyes are closed, as if she is asleep, but the dream she dreams is not a pleasant one. Wrinkles furrow her brow into Shar Pei rolls, and she stays standing there, stock statue still, as another train rockets in, sucks up its cargo, and shrieks back into the darkness.