Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Probably Nothing

"I suggested another place because you didn't seem to into the first one," I say. "I mean, you seem kind of pissed about the whole thing."

Katie sighs. "Let me just ask this: if I hadn't brought up what we were doing tomorrow night, what would have happened?"

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tempus Fugit

"How old was your dad when you were born?" she asks while washing her hair. I'm leaning against the back wall of the shower.

"32, I think," I say (eleven years younger than I am now).

The water from the shower head beads up in the air like tiny raindrops and sieves through my fingers faster than I can catch it.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Who Knows How She Knows?

All the dogs my family owned when I was growing up were outside dogs, with a giant, sun-hammered yard in which to do their business. It was my job to pick up the desiccated, hard little nuggets they left for me, but I hardly ever had to see the things get made.

So the strange divination that is required for a city dog to go is an entirely mysterious process to me. She noses around in various piles of leaves and near trees, around lampposts and gateposts, up and down blocks and blocks worth of sidewalks until she finds the magical spot, and even then she checks and double checks (her hindquarters all the while twitching into hunch in anticipation of what's to come), making absolutely sure she's got the precise square quarter-of-a-foot to do the deed she must do.

Spoke Too Soon

"Good job on the avocados," Katie says as we're making dinner. Four dark green alligator skinned eggs in a dark green mesh bag.

But each proves more disappointing than the last, all revealing, beneath the firm, rough, wrinkled shell, a rotting heart of brown, mealy flesh and gloating, giant stones that take up the space that isn't dead.

"Is there anything worth salvaging?" she says, knife in one hand, holding the squishy, traitorous thing out to me with the other.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Life with the Dowager Countess

After her walk, the dog climbs the stairs as quickly as her stubby little body is capable, her tiny haunches and curly tail wiggling up to the landing.

But I get the feeling she used to live on the second floor, because that's where she stops, standing expectantly, ears alert and nose pointed to the door.

But we live on the third floor, you see. Every day I walk past her and call her to follow me, and her look of exasperation and offended dignity is truly something to behold, as if, by living on the third floor, I am the one who has made the mistake.

Innocent in Dreams

In the dream, my childhood friend had just gotten a haircut, but apparently hadn't actually seen it yet. It was shaved down to the scalp on one side, and buzzed super close on the other, along with a very kicky sort of stripe-y thing, and when she asked, that's how I described it to her. This freaked her out, because she didn't want it that shaved, and blah-blah-blah, it turned into this whole drama.

Which is how I narrate the dream to Katie, whose first response when I finish is an incredulous, "Wait, you didn't lie and say it looked nice?"

I Am Known

My reflection shudders and jumps in the windows of the passing bus, and I watch impassively as I move without moving. I am standing on the corner, the library behind me, waiting to cross the street.

This is how I look to other people, I think, like a series of distorted images, different things emphasized, bigger or smaller, or not depending on where they choose to focus, none of them really me, nobody seeing "me."

A text comes in, "Do you need eggs for your cookies?"

Blues on Parade

He waddles up Union Street on the sunny side of the street, cigarette perched beneath a thin blond mustache that only serves to accent the roundness of his moony face. Old army fatigues bulge and surrender across the fields of his flesh, and a bright green bandanna like a headband under his hat seems definitely non-regulation.

He stops, flicks the gold zippo lighter once, twice, three times with no effect and a look of preordained disgust, and, as I approach, gives me a squint.

"You smoke?" he asks as I walk by, and then, when I shake my head: "Jesus Christ!"

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Teach Me To Just Shove Things in My Face

Katie pauses as she's scrubbing her face in the shower. I'm moving in and out of the hot water, letting the contrast with the cool air give me chills.

"I don't think that loaded-baked-potato popcorn is vegetarian," she says thoughtfully.

"Like, I'm pretty sure I found chunks of bacon," she continues, effectively explaining the stomach ache I felt starting earlier.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Boxing Day

Katie's off at work today, so the cat, the dog, and I have a houseful of Christmas detritus to ourselves.

The cat lays on her back, eyes half-closed, with a rumbling purr emanating from her incredibly fluffy white belly.

The dog lays a few feet away, nose nestled between her front paws, snoring with long, sonorous tones.

I sit on the couch beside the cat, surfing the internet and listening to my belly grumble at the memory of too much candy, and count my blessings until I run out of things to count them on.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Smart Dog

The dog's forward momentum has slowed from a trot down to almost nothing as she pauses at the base of every post of this scaffolding to sniff.

After going over each in agonizing detail, she stands stock still looking over her shoulder with an expression that's difficult to read.

I'm trying to temper my impatience, repeating to myself that there's much to be learned from the pace of a dog, that I should really pay more attention to my surroundings, and so on, until it suddenly dawns on me.

"Do you want to go home?" I ask, and immediately she turns around and starts to sprint back the way we came.

An Antidote for Smells & Bells

The incense thickens the air of the church to the consistency of the fog that hangs over Brooklyn on this unseasonably warm Christmas Eve. I have no idea how the choir is managing to keep from coughing up a lung in the middle of the Vaughn Williams.

I escape through a side door to keep from making a spectacle of myself and have my coughing fit out in the wet night air of a quiet courtyard. 

A priest steps out from the sacristy while choir continues to sing and approaches me with a look of concern,  saying, "Can I get you some water?"

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

12 Legs Toward Dreamland

Two sets of eyes watch me expectantly as I come into the bedroom. Katie's got her head down in her phone and doesn't look up. The cat watches from the bed, sort of over her shoulder as she lounges taking up as much space as possible at the foot, while the dog sits on her blanket on the floor with her head cocked in the traditional "His Master's Voice" pose.

I climb into bed, and all the mammals settle down for sleep, as Katie says, "Family bedtime!"

Monday, December 22, 2014

I Hate Admitting I Don't Know

Even if I don't think anything particularly interesting happened today, I still have to write something.

The guy yelling at the old man on the train ("Hugging up on me and everything, who even does that!?") seems a little negative, and I'm tired of train stories. The new dog running is sort of interesting, even though I could only go half a block before my lungs gave out and I lapsed into a painful coughing fit under the yellowish street lamp by the empty playground.

Katie and I also argued a little, about nothing, mostly because my brain wouldn't work right and I didn't understand her question, so I wouldn't simply respond by saying, "I don't know."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

It Didn't Help

"I'm sick," I say. The choking heaviness in my chest is offset not at all by the wine I drank earlier.

"I know! You're so cute when you're sick."

Everybody Needs to Learn Manners

I only catch the tail end of the interaction, but it seemed to involve a young, stocky, frizz-haired woman shouldering though a line of people on the sidewalk.

"That is very rude!" exclaims an older woman.

"Go back to the Midwest!" the stocky woman, already halfway down the block, yells without looking back.

"I'm not from the Midwest, I'm from Holland, you fucking bitch!" the older woman lobs at her retreating back.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Habits of Houseguests

"What makes a sound like that in our house?" Katie asks.

"Is it the dog?" I say, stupidly.

"I'm gonna go check."

But in a minute: "She's drinking her water, and the bowl squeaks on the floor," Katie says, getting back into bed.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I'm PRETTY Sure He's Joking

I wasn't paying attention, and I didn't save any of the upper management people who were in meetings cake from the birthday celebration. I am a bad person, and they are not going to let me forget it - especially the Executive Vice President.

As he's leaving, he leans over my desk, a half-smile on his face, and says in his quiet voice, "Have you ever seen the license plates for Quebec? They say je me souviens - I remember what you did."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Emotional Head-up Display

"I think I might be my own Tomato-meter," I say.

"What the hell are you talking about, you ridiculous man?" Katie reasonably asks.

"Well, just, when I see a movie, I feel like I've got an 'emotions' bar, like the top of the screen on a video game, and for a really good movie, it's in the red, overflowing. But it fluctuates, and for a scene that's maybe only okay, it goes up to, like, sixty-one percent."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Proverbs 25:21-22

The guy delivering our food walks up just as I am putting my key in the front door to go upstairs. I know it's him, because we've gotten food from them a couple of times and he's been the guy every time, and I've had to speak to him (and complain to his employer) once or twice because, instead of calling up to be let in, he's just left stuff on our doorstep.

From his expression, I can tell he wants me to say something, start something, but I'm here, and he's here, and it worked out perfectly, so I decide to just take the high road and flash him a big smile as I take the box, saying, "Oh, hey, that's for me!"

The disappointment and confusion on his face when he leaves is hilarious as I call out after him, "Thanks a lot!"

Monday, December 15, 2014

Who Knows?

He jumps to his feet from a dead sleep into a panic just as the doors are about to close, and pushes his way off the train, asking as he moves, "Is this Canal Street?"

At least I think that's what he is saying:  headphones are shoved deep in my ears, and I'm just reading his lips, but I look him in the eyes, and say, "Canal," with a firm, and hopefully reassuring, nod.

As the doors shut and the train pulls away from the station, I glance toward the doors and notice he's gotten back on the train. When I meet his gaze with raised eyebrow, he smiles in embarrassment, and shrugs, looking away.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

There's Something About That Name

The sun goes down earlier and earlier as the solstice approaches. The upper stories of the Brooklyn brownstones are painted in sunset gold, but down on the streets, everything goes to cold stone grey, no matter how hard the storefronts put up a brave face with lights in windows and tinsel on trees.

I walk past yet another church (I haven't been in ages), and think about all that stuff about Jesus being the reason for the season (so they say), and even though I haven't prayed in a long time, I send up a small beam of love to the idea of the highest possible version of a human being that I know of.

And instantly, the world changes, and whatever God may be within me remembers Itself, and I see the world, the street, the fading light, the people hurrying past, all of us together, as part of an indivisible whole, and my heart fills up my chest, and beats once, twice, hard.


I remember standing in the bathroom, naked, waiting for the shower to warm up. I remember looking at myself in the mirror, hair going in all directions, glasses, examining the bumps on my neck where I shaved the wrong direction.

I remember thinking, something about the way I think about things, the way Katie thinks about things, how they're totally different, and achieve different results, and thinking, "Yeah, that's what I should write my Four Each Day about."

But I can't remember what I thought I should write about, or how we were different, or why I thought it was important, or anything like that, at all.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


The cat likes it when I sit in the couch with her late at night, in the dark, petting her.

It reminds me of my mother, of late conversations we'd have, talking into the small hours. We'd talk about things, deep conversation about our feelings and thoughts.

Now I sit on a couch and ruffle a cat's fur, while every once in a while, a car drives by.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

My Neurosis Is Seasonally Predictable

"I just...," I'm panicking, I know, and I can't seem to stop it. "I don't know what to get them, and I feel like it proves that I'm not paying attention, and that I don't know them, and they don't know me."

Katie is doing her best not to appear exasperated, but I can tell she's almost done. "But Scott," she says, calmly, "you need to know that you say exactly this each year at Christmas-time, using the exact same words."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I'll Be Fine Tomorrow

It is a general rule of my emotional metabolism that, when I have had too much to drink (as I did, I believe, Monday night at Katie's office party), the following day is fine. I may have a bit of a headache, but nothing major - I can deal.

But the day after the day after: oof, it's bad.

I spent the day trying to work, but I was unable to focus on anything for any length of time before waves of hopeless dread and paranoia washed over me, leaving me cringing in my ergonomically correct office chair, wondering why I was alive at all when clearly no one likes me and I'm a waste of time, and what am I even doing here to begin with, really, like, really, why?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Morning Luck

"That's the third B train that's come," the blonde woman standing nearby on the platform says to me as the subway rumbles into the station. It takes my brain a second to adjust to the notion that a stranger is addressing me in complete sentences (and the mild hangover from last night's party isn't helping) but I feel the gears engage quickly enough that someone not paying too close attention might not notice the momentary gap.

"Yeah, I think it's luck, sometimes," I say. "Sometimes there's no Q for forever, and other times, it's like you come down the stairs and boom: 'Your chariot awaits.'"

Somebody to Talk to At The Office Party

I've staked out a spot by the fried chicken station to people watch (since I won't be eating any chicken). The guy with the impressive beard is there, too, and we get to talking.

I feel like I'm on pretty solid ground, conversationally, when I mention his enormous, chunky ring, and he pulls it off, asking me to put out my hand.

I extend it as if he'll be putting it on me, but, "No, palm up," he says, and drops it: it weighs a ton.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Magic Beans

My ability to come home with an empty wallet and no real recollection of what I spent my money on has led to cash being called "magic beans" in our house - as in: "Did you trade the cow for magic beans today, Scott?"

So as part of my birthday gift, Katie created a set of twelve envelopes with small amounts of cash in them to be opened, one per month, over the course of the year. I am to spend these "magic beans" on one of my favorite things to purchase when I have money, that is, books.

Today's search for books on which to spend my magic beans came up empty, but I did manage to find a box full that somebody was just throwing away (if you can imagine someone actually just discarding books!) out of which I picked a few to bring home.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Lost Pen

I get this thought, not a great one, but I try and write down any of them that come by, like a fisherman waiting for a tug on the line, knowing most of the fish are undersized, on the off chance that the next one pays off.

It sort of drips into my mind a little at a time, the thought does, based on this "girl" (really a woman) I see walking by, something like, "Men call women 'girls' because in their heads, no matter how old they get, they never stopped being 'boys.'"

But when I reach for my pen, there's none to be found: not where I usually keep it, nor fallen into my bag, or anywhere. Frustration chokes my throat, like I can't speak, and my teeth clench around the silent words, phrases backing up into my stomach to make me sick with things unsaid.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cooking Together

She mashes up the garlic, like the recipe says, and scrapes it into the pan where it begins to sizzle in the oil and release this lovely savor into the air.

But there's a whole bunch of garlic on the cutting board, and she's really taking her time about smashing it up, like she's not even smashing it, she's just being really thorough about scraping off the already mashed garlic into the pan, but I don't want the garlic to burn while she finishes smashing the rest (when will she smash the rest?) so I turn off the heat and give her a look, which she returns.

"Well," I finally say, because I don't want to make her feel stupid (though she is clearly being weird, and why hasn't she smashed the rest of the garlic?), "we should probably put the garlic in all at the same time...," hoping she'll get the hint.

Her eyes flash as she wordlessly points to the part in the recipe where I find that, oh! only one clove of garlic gets smashed, and the rest are reserved for the sauce, and maybe I should read the damn directions all the way through first before I say something foolish.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Matthew 25:40

The tunnel between the two subways lines is hospital tile white, fluorescent lights giving everything a hard edge. About midway down, a beggar sits with his back against the wall, his bare, cracked feet on cold stone floor, pants rolled up past his ankles, dark brown skin gone gray with dirt.

I hurry past, headphones deep in my ears.

And just as I pass he lifts his hat beseechingly, his mouth moving with words I will never hear, the music in my head swells, and Michael Bublé sings "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Lights, Please?"

Curves filled with white representing snow, capped by a rectangle of red hatched with black lines, representing a brick wall, lay beneath a swath of blue, representing a midwestern sky from almost 50 years ago. Behind the rectangle stand two squat, misshapen humanoids who speak strangely adult truths with the voices of children, underscored by a lilting, melancholy piano. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is on TV, and I feel all of the noise in my head go quiet as I stare at the wide screen, high-definition version of the same show I've been watching since I was a child.

I am staring through a window into a world that seems impossibly distant and remote, and yet, by watching it, this world, which I live in, becomes the strange place, and that one, with its herky movements and continuity errors and unblinking, absolutely unreconstructed embrace of Christian mythology, becomes the real world, seeping into this side of the screen like a benign virus, reminding me of how I really want to feel at Christmas.

Monday, December 1, 2014


The sun has gone down to dark, and the rain falls only as a wet in the air and flying spangles in the passing headlights. It's been a hard day, I'm tired and a little numb, but I don't feel bad, not the way I would have a few years ago when I was sunk deep in depression.

A brown pit-bull mix, tongue lolling from his enormous, grinning, toothy mouth, drags his owner up the street, and a smile crosses my face.

But the smile only goes part-way in, a needle of happiness penetrating a thick carapace of unfeeling, and I wonder at what cost my moods have evened out.