"It turns out we've got plenty of software licenses for Adobe Acrobat," my boss says, "so if you ask IT to install a copy on my machine, I won't have to send you these documents to convert all the time."
"Sure, no problem," I say. "I'll just have to find job security some other way."
"Siri, play 'The Point of Know Return' by Kansas," I say into my phone. The dog tentatively makes her way down from stair to stair like an unseen current is about to sweep her away.
At the bridge of the song ("Your father, he says he needs you/Your mother, she says she loves you") my heart swells up inside me, and I stop on the stairs, longing for the life of adventure the songs sing about, even though I know they're all lies and fantasies someone made up.
"I'm just, I could work harder, and I don't, because I'm lazy." I'm standing at the door, feeling sorry for myself, while the dog stares down the stairwell like a prisoner going to the chair. My chest is a half-inflated, wet balloon
"But why are you so focused on that?" asks dad, balding, long drooping face.
"Because I love butterflies," his daughter says, but she knows she's already lost, and now she's questioning, not whether or not she should get a butterfly for herself, but why she likes butterflies at all.
New York City near the airport has all the harsh lighting and industrial construction of a dystopian landscape, and I say as much to Katie on the cab ride home.
"It's like that around all airports, isn't it?" she replies, smiling, and I agree before I go back to staring out the window.
After the cool, dry air of the Nevada desert, New York feels like a rainforest. We climb out of the cab at our apartment and I can feel my pores widen and drink in the humidity like a thirsty man leaping into a river.
One year ago today: Strained
Two years ago today: My Family
Three years ago today: The Elusive Glasses Are Somehow My Fault
Six years ago today: 11/25/10 everyone
"Everybody was lined up to get some meat, and your mom kind of snuck around the other end and asked for the end piece," my brother-in-law says at the end of the night. The kid has been put to sleep, the dishes all washed, the leftovers gathered up and resting in their plastic beds in the fridge. "I gave it to her, and she said, 'Now everybody can have whatever they want.'"
Driving to the 24-hour grocery store to pick up some last minute items, we come out of my sister's subdivision to a completely empty four-lane street, eerily lit by the yellow sodium lamps and devoid of traffic in either direction as far as we can see.
"Are we in the middle of some kind of apocalypse?" I ask Katie, but she doesn't answer.
The population increases when we reach the store. I grab a cart and roll past a dark room just inside the entrance where a few souls are playing slots, to the brightly lit, wide-aisled food paradise where Katie waits for me.
The street lights stoop over the four lane surface roads as we speed away from the strip where we've spent the night being tourists. My niece succumbed to sleep an hour ago at the pizza place, but jet lag combined with an afternoon helping my parents unload their moving truck has rendered me almost as useless as she.
I'm watching traffic flicker past, but I keep falling asleep mid-thought, only to awaken a few minutes, later having time travelled. My sister seems unconcerned, but the whole car is asleep except for her.
"We tried to teach her how to swim across the pool to the steps, you know, in case she fell in," my sister says, referring to their short-legged corgi. "But she would just freak out and swim over to the wall where she'd scramble with her tiny little legs trying to get out."
A few feet away, the tan and white dog sniffs down by the water's edge beneath a sky full of painted-on clouds. She realizes where she is and beats a hasty retreat.
I see him from across the street: the homeless guy who works our block during the day dancing in front of the empty storefront, boogieing hypnotically to his little boom box with his eyes closed. He sways, then stamps, shakes his hips, then does a little marching-style step that reminds me of close-order, military parade work.
A worrisome thought occurs to me - I saw him late last night, too, in the bank ATM vestibule where he usually sleeps, boogieing away, and I wonder if he's been doing it all night, all day, like some kind of "Red Shoes" thing where he can't stop dancing.
As soon as I get near him, though, he stops, with a sad, dejected look, and sort of shakes his head while he turns to change the song, as if all the dancing in the world isn't gonna make up for what's in his heart and head.
The young woman next to me on the train is watching me play Candy Crush on my phone. I get a couple of good moves in, clearing the screen of little multicolored lozenges, only to have them pour in from the top of the screen again, and in a couple of moves I end up losing, again.
As I see myself through this stranger next to me's eyes, I start to feel very self-conscious - why am I playing this stupid game, and what am I doing with my life, wasting the precious time I have on earth in a banal, useless pastime that helps no one and accomplishes nothing?
Katie's dad leans back in his chair, and sips his iced tea.
"Okay, but the thing about that," I can hear my voice rising, and Katie touches my knee to let me know I'm getting too loud, but I keep talking, "the thing is that we're not the people who are going to have a problem. We're white!"
The boy sprints into the subway car and leaps up to sit between two very confused people on the bench opposite us, where he perches, swinging his legs and grinning at nothing in particular.
Behind him follows an old man with a metal cane and a kufi. He slowly makes his way to a vacant seat further down the bench from the boy and settles his bones.
The two of them sit for a moment, grinning boy and gently smiling old man, until the man leans forward and gives the boy a look, and the boy, still grinning his toothy grin, bounces up and comes down to sit next to his grandfather, where the two of them proceed to go through a shopping bag filled with bananas and pomegranates.
One year ago today: Deja Vu
Two years ago today: Fooling No One
Three years ago today: I want a perfect body, I want a perfect soul
Five years ago today: 11/13/11 I know how you feel, kid
I'm fishing around in my pocket for a dollar for the guy sitting on a milk crate in front of the grocery store while he regales me.
"Those guys who look like," he gestures at my face, "they try to get me, and they drink that, that, you know - Jack Daniels, and their faces get all red. And they got me a like, a long island iced tea."
She stands on the brow of the hill with a compact, tightly muscled pit bull mix at her feet. He stares up at her with the devotion that only dogs and the deeply religious bestow until she squeezes the ball in her hand, making it squeak, which sends him sprinting down the hill, shushing through the fallen leaves.
He wasn't supposed to go until she threw it, though, so she calls him and he skulks back up the hill to her, as ashamed as a disobedient dog can be.
Nearby, a small pekingese tries to sneak away from her owners to go play with the ball and pit bull, but they call her back and she stops, hesitates, and gazes back at her longed-for ball, as if she can't decide whether to obey or not.
Two for one on the dog posts, today. One year ago today: Dog
A quiet, depressive pall hangs over the office, and one woman leans on my desk with a look of defeat.
I let her vent for a while about how she can't believe what's happened until finally she leans in conspiratorially and says, "I mean, I don't think a woman should be president. Women, we're too emotional."
We leave the rally on the west side of Manhattan as the numbers for Clinton look increasingly bleak, and catch a cab home. The woman driving is listening to election results in Spanish on the radio, and I know enough to catch every fifth word or so as we drive over the dark river towards the lights of Brooklyn.
She must have heard us talking about our disappointment in our candidate's defeat, because she changes the station to election coverage in english. Something about the gesture touches me, and makes me even sadder than I was before - once again, someone accommodating the white folks, helping us along.
One year ago today: Schrodinger's Lottery Ticket
Three years ago today: I got nothing
Five years ago today: 11/8/11 Sick holiday
Six years ago today: 11-8-10 my mini spooner
"And then you're going to turn your phone face down for the next twelve hours, right?" Katie says. "Otherwise you're going to be up all night just like me, at two, and four-fifteen, and right before your alarm goes off...."
One year ago today: What Else?
Two years ago today: When I Wore a Younger Man's Clothes
Three years ago today: It Only Takes a Spark
Five years ago today: 11/7/11 Instigator
"People want to be politically pure these days," I say to Katie during our discussion about suffragists, "and it's exhausting."
"People want other people to be pure," Katie corrects me. "And when they're not pure, they want to be forgiven."
"Which is why I'm over people these days," she adds over her shoulder as she heads to the kitchen to make coffee.
One year ago today: A Kind of Integrity
Two years ago today: Backtrack
Three years ago today: Making My Own Drama
"I was looking at that one, too," I say to the other person flipping through the box of books left on the sidewalk as she picks up a book of cartoons and essays called Hyperbole-and-a-Half. "Especially since she doesn't post on her blog anymore, really."
"It's about her depression, right?" she replies in a low, affectless voice.
The doge comes off the stoop stairs a little too hot and eats it entirely, sprawling onto her back and struggling for a few moments waving her paws in the air like an upside down turtle before righting herself.
"Oh, sweetheart," I say, jumping down to her rescue several seconds too late, but nevertheless receiving a couple of desultory licks for my trouble. "Are you okay?"
The gentleman in the threadbare flatcap and the scuffed boots (is he homeless? just a working man?) saunters over curiously and says, in what sounds like an english accent, "Quite a spill she took."
Finally finished with load-in for the flea, we drive the van back home beneath a graying sky. The wind has picked up, grabbing handfuls of leaves off the trees that bower over the brownstone lined avenue and scattering them through the air where they spin and fall, flutter and spin.
"It makes the air three-D," I say as we drive through the descending foliage.
Something about this, both the denial of a piece of art from an artist that I love and whose voice is a big part of me, and the simultaneous optimism (there will be a civilization in a hundred years) and realistic doom (you will certainly not be there to see it), got to me more than I expected.
"I'm really upset," I said to Katie through the shower curtain as she washed the day off of her, before taking the doge downstairs for her evening walk.
But halfway down, I was suddenly so struck by the desire to make something beautiful, anything worthy to live on past the annihilating wave of time, struck by the shortness of my life, your life, any life at all, that I found myself sitting on the stairs, crying angry, embarrassing tears, while the dog panted patiently behind me, unsure why we were stopped, but sure I had a good reason, even if she didn't know it.
The older lady picking up her laundry is supervising the asian woman putting the freshly washed and dried clothes into the bag, correcting her technique, making sure they're stacked exactly right.
"Just a minute," the asian woman says to me with an apologetic smile, and the woman, noticing me standing there for the first time, gives me an icy stare and then turns back to overseeing her clothes.
"No problem," I say, and even though an impatient howl is sitting just below my sternum, I compose my features and try not to freak out as the two of them negotiate several arcane niceties of folding before the asian woman goes to get the older woman's folding cart.
Slowly, without turning around or further acknowledging my presence, the older woman backs up until she's standing directly in front of me, creating a line of two, as if to make sure there's no confusion as to who was here first.