Tonight's writing isn't going so well, and the more frustrated I become, the sleepier I get. Eyes blur and words separate into letters that squirm like ants on the page. I type the same word three times without looking, dreaming of something else entirely.
If I could capture what I'm dreaming about when I sleep-write, I'd probably give voice to the shade of Shakespeare, channel Chekov, but as it is, I shut the computer in disgust before my eyes close on their own.
I've somehow made it to the end of the block without any memory of the last five minutes. My heart is pounding and my fists are clenched, and the dog is panting from having walked so fast.
I can still see the kids that mugged me - what is it, four years ago, now? - in my head, one posting up to block my path, the other trying to sweep in from the side, and me, beating them with a bag full of tupperware, the big kid cowering back with his hands up.
But what I can't seem to do is to stop seeing them.
The two grim looking guys propping up the one bike on the crowded subway have said nothing to each other the entire ride. My stop is coming up, and I can feel my anxiety level rising, knowing I'll have to ask one or the other to move.
"I'm afraid I've boxed myself in," I say to one of them apologetically as we pull to a halt. A wide, toothy grin splits his face, completely transforming him for a moment, and he deftly switches his hips to let me slip past.
Our food has arrived, but nobody is eating until the owner of the restaurant finishes his story.
"So if you have a problem in the place that I am talking about," he says, with a gesture that indicates maybe the genitals? but he couldn't possibly mean that, "you put a little of this medicine on and bam, is gone."
"Or if you have a problem in the other place I am talking about," maybe the ass? it's really hard to tell, and my food is getting cold but I am absolutely NOT taking a bite while he's talking about this, "you put a little" (hand gesture that looks like shoving a finger up an invisible person's ass) "and is all fine."
Later, after he's gone back to the kitchen, Katie says, "I only understand maybe every fifth word, but he always tells such fascinating stories."
At the end of the block, a guy stands under a streetlight, smoking a cigarette. The dog has stopped to inspect a fire hydrant, giving me the opportunity to consider him, and he me, from half-a-block away.
My heart beats faster, but before I have a chance to work out my escape plan, he's tossed the cigarette to the sidewalk with a casual flick of his wrist and walked the other way, leaving me with the metallic whine of adrenaline singing in my ears.
I think back to New Hampshire roads, late at night, walking in darkness with no one around and feeling safer than I ever feel on a street with other people in New York.
Walking the dog on a quiet deserted street at night, the lights all out in the windows of the brownstones above, I think to myself, "No one knows exactly where I am. I am alone."
I remember, as a kid in elementary school, the thrill of discovering that, if I simply walked away from class at the right moment, I could disappear completely for awhile: no one would be looking at me, or thinking about me, or telling me what to do, or judging me. I remember the vertigo, the sickening, half-pleasurable thrill I felt, when I returned to the classroom after what I deemed to be an appropriate interval, and realized that no one had even noticed I was gone.
The kid on the subway playing rudimentary beats on buckets and wheezing tuneless nothings on a harmonica has finished his "performance" and his subsequent spiel about "just trying to earn a dollar" and how he's not "selling drugs or robbing people" (which, are those your only choices, like it's bother folks on their commute home or a life of crime?).
He's collected his pittance, and now he sits on one of his buckets, thumbing through his phone and playing a song he's found, no headphones, of course.
My heart pounds as he grins, oblivious, and I'm enraged at the unfairness of it all, thinking I need to say something, do something, but then I stop and think for a moment. Why am I so bothered by a kid playing some music quietly when, in less than five minutes, I'll never see him or hear his music again?
It's a cliche to call young teenage girls "coltish," but cliches abound for reasons, and the two girls sashaying down the sidewalk as I bring the dog in for the night, with their awkward, skittish energy, and their long, bony legs, do nothing to dispel them.
They pass my door as I'm searching for my keys, and one says into her phone, "But yo, that DJ was wack. All the el-bee's were dancing.
"All the little bitches were dancing," her friend concurs.
When I lived in Arizona, before I moved into the RV, I lived in a little spot on Euclid Avenue just down the street from the university, a two-bedroom with a small living room and a wood burning stove. I had several roommates when I lived there, most of them very good friends, and at least one or two girlfriends who lived there with me.
The train of thought that got me to thinking about this old spot, in which I lived in varying degrees of filth, despair, and happiness, involved a stout branch I keep beside the bed these days for whacking burglars and other ne'er-do-wells. It reminded me of the piece of bamboo I bought at Pier One imports that I ostensibly kept for home defense when I lived in the Euclid house, but which I mostly used when I got drunk to beat on the walls of the place in typical angry young man fashion.
Watching "Mad Men" and then reading a debate on Twitter has soured my mood, and the dog has picked up on it. The fug of toxic nonsense I exude as I argue under my breath with people who aren't there or don't exist makes it almost impossible for her to find a decent place to pee, a task for which she requires all her concentration.
Venus is high in the west, and I watch it for a while as the dog noses around a tree before she's distracted by a laughing couple walking on the other side of the street. I try to still my need to be right, if for no other reason that that I want the dog to do her business so I can go home.
After a discussion on the relative merits of Claritin and what exactly allergies mean, like if maybe the sinuses at the back of my head might be the cause of the headache I've been complaining about all day, I finally try to close the discussion by promising to take two ibuprofen, and if that doesn't work to revisit the possibility of taking something stronger.
"Wait," says Katie, "you've had a headache all day, and you haven't even taken Advil?"
The stoop sales bloom in the springtime sun, all up and down the block. The guy with the crates full of old vinyl records has set up on the steps of a brownstone, and his wares are well attended by passers by.
I have no intention of buying, but still I linger, flipping through the stacks with a practiced air. The act itself is what soothes, flipping from cover to cover, one falling forward as the next is revealed: ABBA's greatest hits, Traffic, Neil Young, some checkerboard 80's graphic design atrocity, a fuzzy faux-velvet covered Bee Gee's record, Cat Stevens, Cat Stevens, Cat Stevens.
5:40 AM, and the dog has wet her bed again. Katie has already flipped on her bedside light over the pungent puddle as it flows across the floor due to the slant of the apartment, while I stumble out to the kitchen to get paper towels and the dog retreats around the corner with a chagrined expression.
After the cleanup, I kiss Katie on the forehead and prepare to start my day. When she looks up at me questioningly, half-asleep as she is, I explain, "I've only got ten minutes before my alarm goes off anyway."
The two urinals in my company bathroom are shoved into a corner and right next to one another with no dividing wall, making the usage of both at the same time a rather... intimate affair. People usually opt to use the stalls if one of the urinals is already in use rather than stand, thighs almost touching the guy next to them, with their dick in their hand.
But today, this guy, apparently unfamiliar with the local custom, slides right in next to me to use the other urinal while I'm peeing. I thought to mention how strange I found it that no one ever did that, but stopped myself, because really, what's more awkward: standing super-duper close, almost touching, to somebody while you pee, or talking about standing super-duper close to somebody while you pee?
I lay my phone back on my night stand, and press the button on the side to turn off the screen and plunge the room back into darkness. It's only 4:30 in the morning, and I don't have to be up for another hour-and-a-half, but I'm wide awake and not tired at all.
The light from the parking garage next door is bright enough to leak through our thick curtains and make them gray, and the dog's toenails click on the floor as she shifts restlessly in her sleep, while Katie breathes deep and slow next to me.
I find myself visualizing skiing down a mountain in Vermont, trying to go faster and faster in my head until I fall back asleep.
I don't know why I get so mad on the way home from work. I got a seat on the subway and everything, and yet I find myself, unprovoked, imagining people hurting Katie, or attacking the dog, and me jumping on these imaginary attackers, beating them, breaking their knees, choking them, gouging their eyes, biting them, smashing their heads against the ground.
I plug in my headphones and put on a song I know will calm me down. By the time I get upstairs to my apartment, I'm standing at the door, leaning against the wall, crying, wishing happiness to all living beings, wishing I had better control of my thoughts during the other times when I feel like I'm going to kill the next person who looks at me wrong.
"I think you're the alpha female, to the dog," I say, as the dog finishes nosing around the tree and, seeing that Katie is walking, decides to follow.
"Well, I should hope so!" Katie says, laughing.
"I mean, of course," I correct myself. "But what I mean is, I'm pretty sure she thinks it goes you," I hold my hand out, palm down, at about eyeball height, and then my other hand, a little lower, "then her, then the cat, then me."
I listen to "Toys in the Attic" by Aerosmith while doing the dishes. Katie's wandering in and out of the kitchen talking to her mom on the phone about her side hustle business, which involves making sculptures under glass using butterflies and branches and stones she finds at the park, and they're discussing a sale she's made from her website.
I decide I like the R.E.M. version better, but either way, it's only 9:30 and I'm ready to go to bed.