Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Evening Commute - Two (Disappearer)

She stands, back to the train door in a Lemony Snicket t-shirt and a black hoodie. I can see her from the corner of my eye, checking out my book. When she sees me notice her t-shirt, though, she quickly zips up the hoodie and shoves her headphones deep into her ears, which is when I notice the boyish features and clothes, the stubble on her upper lip, the adams apple and large knuckles, the poorly applied, then removed, nail polish (black, like the t-shirt and hoodie) the long hair covering the lightly receding hairline. 

I look back down to my book, and after the next stop, she's gone.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Evening Commute - One

"I know most people don't care about veterans," says the beggar making his way down the aisle of the train, but then his voice vanishes as the subway doors open and the noisy platform pours in.

Woman on the platform with the black, terribly high, patent leather heels is facing away as I walk by, her long blonde hair hiding her face, and when I look away, another woman further down the platform is watching me watch her, and gives me a look to let me know she thinks I might be a pervert.

A man sitting on a wooden bench is eating chicken and cabbage and rice from a thin styrofoam container, so that everyone in a ten foot radius breathes in the warm funk of take-out.

Short woman, heavy-set, short-haired with a pock-marked face and glasses, shoves her way onto the train before the passengers have gotten off, and I feel only the smallest thrill of pleasure when somebody shoulder-checks her on their way out.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dolly Zoom

We swing around the corner at 6th Avenue going south, and all of a sudden the entire day does this Sam Raimi focus thing, where the close things come closer and the far things move farther away. It's very dramatic, what with sun dappled sidewalk and the people walking holding hands and the green leaves rippling in the cool breeze that already has a hint of fall in it despite the heat.

"Is it just me," I say to Katie, "or is today particularly beautiful?"

"Yeah," she says, squeezing my hand, "it's nice."

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"We Haven't Had that Spirit Here Since 1969"

"Next stop: Franklin Avenue," the conductor says over the speaker. Everyone in the car looks up in amused confusion, since this stop, the one we're at, is Franklin.

"Stupid guy doesn't even know where we're going," the woman across the aisle says to no one in particular as she shakes her head in mock disbelief.

But for a second I wonder if he really does know, that maybe we've been transported into some kind of hell where we simply close the train doors and rattle through the noisy darkness between stations, only to emerge into the light at the same station again, unable to leave, and back into the darkness, and so on, and on, trapped between stations, for eternity.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

So Close, Yet So Far

"No," I say to the delivery guy. We're both on the phone, and I can see him facing the opposite direction about half a block away and across the street.

"I can see... no, go left, no your left, wait... just, just turn around. I'm waving at you, look!"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ice Cream Sutra

I only start listening when the two kids (siblings, to look at them, the instigator maybe nine, his minion maybe seven or so) start chanting, "Meditating, meditating, meditating, meditating...."

"Okay, that's kind of annoying," says the adult with them in an Australian accent (tattoos, a guitar in a soft case, grizzled and tanned, young enough to maybe qualify as "hot dad," with the whole salt and pepper hair thing happening).  "Let's pretend we really want ice cream!"

"Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream...," they begin to chant, the monotony undercut a bit by the giggles they keep having to suppress.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

In the Board Room

Despite my best efforts to concentrate on what everyone is saying, my eyelids insist on slamming shut every couple minutes or so, and I find whole chunks of conversation vanishing entirely.

The leader of the meeting says, "I'm always thinking about what's best for the company, so sometimes I don't know if I should make nice with these people, or tell 'em what I really think of them."

"You're pretty cynical today," one of the directors chimes in, laughing.

"I prefer to think of it as realistic," the leader's associate responds, with a terrible, wide, earnest grin.

Monday, September 22, 2014

All You Had To Do Was Ask

"Yeah, you're just going to have to go back," says the more-executive-than-me assistant. "Or at least give them a call to let them know that we left something at the space, and that you're going to come get it tomorrow."

I take a second and think it through, walking through my memories step by step, until I remember where the box she's looking for is: it's here at our office, and not there at all.

When I present it to her, she still seems to act as if I somehow had been hiding it from her all along, even though I just found out she was even looking for it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Burden of Our Early Work

He presses play on the famous rockstar's very early demo and watches me expectantly. Having made a few demos myself in the eighties, the sound is familiar: the tinny guitar tones, the compression and distortion, the not-quite-there rhymes and melodies.

My internal wince of recognition must have crept into my expression, because he says, "You're one of the only people to ever hear this. I mean, when I first heard it, I cried."

"I'm sorry I'm not reacting appropriately," I say.

Starting Over

"Dude, Jim and Kaylin date, and they go to different high schools," he says, dribbling the basketball as the four of them cross the street. They're all tall and good looking and wearing long shorts.

"I don't know," the saddest looking of the quartet, says, shaking his head, "I was thinking I was gonna start over when I got to high school."

"God, listen, I'm trying to help you here!" the first guy says, slapping the ball in frustration.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Drawing Attention

"Oooh, I like your bow tie," the cashier says after taking my order.

The thing about wearing something unusual, be it more colorful than the normal palate, or a notable item, say a bow tie, or a pocket square, or a nice hat, is that it calls to attention the nature of clothing. We're all wearing a costume, in some way, though that costume may be near enough to everyone else's to not draw attention.

"I have a date tonight," I reply, "with my wife."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cab Thoughts

New York loves gloss and the grandeur of pop music that resonates in the space that opens up when you've emptied yourself in the pursuit of some lofty goal and find that emptiness is all you've achieved.

Lights go by the window of your cab home, the reaches of the unimaginably wealthy high above you in their eyries, attending their fabulous parties, coke so pure it doesn't even burn. All the songs on the radio sing of giving in: "I can't resist it no more," the digitized voices of desire wail, and you will long for the release of failure.

You will never have what you need, because when you get it, you will need another thing, further on, and you will sit in the cab after the show, and rejoice in the hollow ache of your desire, and so (somehow, hopefully) transcend it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Aliquet Fuge

The cat sits by her dish, eyes wide and waifish, while I open the fridge to get her can of food. The bananas on the top shelf remind me.

"The bananas are in the fridge," I say to Katie as I close the door, "because time flies like an arrow."

"I appreciate," she says slowly, "your restraint."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Night of Random Encounters

After dinner with Katie's father, we coincidentally run into an old salesman friend of his in the hotel bar lobby, a real Bill Brasky kind of guy.

"I knew this guy," he says, an arm around Katie's father, "when I was, what, twenty-six? Practically grew up with him."

On the way home, I see my friend Kevin, whom I've known since high school, waiting on the Q Train platform at Union Square.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Signs of Age

Charmaine snips away at my hair, combing, gathering, clipping the unruly ends. I can see, in the mirror, the coarse, shorter, curly white hairs on my head sticking out at odd angles from the wet mass of the sleeker dark ones. Another sign of age.

"You can buy a house," Charmaine continues, still cutting, "if you're willing to move out of the neighborhood."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Teddy's "Rescue"

The dog that we thought was abandoned in front of the Food Co-op was only temporarily forgotten, and he has a family after all, and a name: "Teddy."

"We've got a newborn, and we're both operating on, like, zero sleep, so...," Teddy's owner says as he picks him up from our apartment where he spent the afternoon. The man's wearing a polo shirt that's got Freddy Kruger's green and red stripes, and the bags under his eyes reinforce his words.

"Well, my birthday's already passed, but on my next birthday," the little boy with Teddy's owner says, "on my next birthday, can you please come and I'll share my cupcakes with you?"

Friday, September 12, 2014

It Was Totally Different

"I think I experienced your four-a-day," Katie says, standing in the kitchen. She is rinsing out a small plastic spray-bottle, overfilling it under the tap until the soapy water in it runs clear.

"I came out of the liquor store," she begins, "and there was this woman in front of me."

 "Oh and she...," I interrupt, and then immediately stop myself, because I'm thinking of something that happened to me, and I need to listen to what she's saying here, in this moment, which might be totally different.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Not a Good Fit

"Well, if you really wanted me to direct it, then it would have to be my way," I say to the woman who usually just orders me around at my job. She's asking me to help direct a choir of my co-workers (which I used to do at another job) at the last minute before a company event next Thursday.

"I would have them do one song, not parts of three different ones," I continue, "and everybody would at least be holding a lyric sheet, and there would be NO solos."

"Don't forget the rap at the end," she says, smiling as if this is the best idea she's ever heard.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Slipped My Mind

"Ship without a rudder's like a ship without a rudder's like a ship without a rudder...," I sing, clicking away at the spreadsheet I'm creating. 

"Really, dude? With the singing?" my co-worker finally begs, looking over.

I hunch slightly in my chair, chastised.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

They Ran Out of "I Voted" Stickers

The school gym echoes emptily as I sign my name beneath the facsimile of my signature in the voter registration book and take my ballot from the woman staffing the table. Not a single other name on my page is similarly undersigned.

"Not a lot of action today, huh?" I ask.

"Oh, we had a lot earlier, I heard," she replies.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Blue Flavored

She fishes in the bowl for a piece of the salt-water taffy I brought back from the beach.

"What flavor do you think blue is?" she asks, unwrapping the paper encasing it.

"It's blue flavored," I say as she pops it in her mouth and walks away without responding.

"Blue flavored!" I call after her.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

To My Shame

"What did you do to my husband?" Katie asks her brother.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, he was acting weird all night, and he didn't want to get a Salty Dog t-shirt with the rest of us," she says. "And then I found out that he had shots with you at the Mellow Mushroom, and you know he can't handle stuff like that, so when you asked him to hang out he just panicked!"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

9/5/14 - Sand in my Shoes

Alligator sighting in a water hazard by a golf course as we ride our bikes to the beach, his sullen eyes just above the surface of the water watching nothing and everything.

The wet, rainy morning (drenched pine needles releasing resinous scent into the air, bubbles forming on the lagoon behind our house from the enormous drops) gave way to blue sky, a final gift from the island. We swam and played in the surf, trying to soak in as much sun and memories as possible to get us through the coming New York City winter.

We rode our bikes home through a tunnel formed by the branches of live oaks draped with spanish moss, summer further behind us with every push of the pedals.

9/4/14 - There and Back

Early morning low tide, the sand wide, on the shore a couple of beachcombers, dog walkers, bike riders, nobody in the water but me. I pull my goggles on, push my head beneath the water, and start to swim with the powerful current towards the spit of land about three hundred yards down the beach.

Visibility is nil, and my imagination conjures nightmares from what I can't see while my heart rate rises, mind chanting with each stroke - I am afraid, I am afraid, I am afraid.

When I get back to my clothes they are covered in ants.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Packs Come in All Sizes

The dog, concentrating, joyous, grabs the ball floating on the water and swims furiously back towards shore with it in her mouth, her brown head poking out of the swells. 

Katie, watching with me on the beach, tells me the story she saw on TV about the dog that worked on the dolphin-watching boat that had its own pod of dolphins it would swim with.

"Dogs love packs," I say, as the dog bounds through the shore break to her master, wet fur bedraggled, grinning around a mouthful of ball, tail wagging, as happy as she's ever/always been.

"Even it's only a pack of two," Katie agrees.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Day's Work

First real day of vacation, all the other sinners back at work and I sit here on the sand and listen to the crashing waves rush-shush and thumble. I feel like I'm playing hooky, getting away with something, putting off the price to pay for when they take a moment from the day-to-day to deal with a minor functionary like me who's been derelict in the duties he never wanted to do in the first place.

Katie's toes are covered in sand. She wiggles them idly, then pulls them out of the sun.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Waving Not Drowning

Waves of heat alternate with a cool ocean breeze. Katie bobs on the surf, the crash of the waves somehow making her seem even further away.

She looks so very small and lonely, just her head visible above the breakers, a huge grey-green sea behind her, endless blue sky above. She lifts a pale arm from the water and waves to me, and I wave back from the shore to make sure she sees me.