Thursday, November 15, 2018

Who Hurt You?

In the shower, I mention not being able to listen to a band I’ve been meaning to catch up on, and Katie shoots back, “Well, you had time to watch that movie you’ve seen half-a-million times.”

“I’m not mad,” I say, pouting a little, “just a little hurt.”

“Did somebody hurt you? ‘Cause it wasn’t me,” she replies, continuing to scrub her arms.

Hat Head of the Apocalypse

The downstairs of the restaurant is cold, so after spending all day outside on one of the coldest days so far this fall, we choose to sit upstairs, and let the rising heat bring us back to life.

We stand there, somewhat somnambulant, and disrobe ourselves of gloves, scarves, jackets, and finally hats, and Katie says, “You look insane,” which I’m sure I do, hat head being a reality. Her hair, too, flies in all directions, and I’m sure her face, sunburned and wild-eyed, is a reflection of mine.

“You might want to pull your hair back,” I say mildly.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Face Value

The end of a long day: weary, footsore, stumbling, a little loopy, I pick up the bag of trash from where we’ve been building the booth in preparation for selling Katie’s sculptures at the big end of year holiday market, walk up to the information kiosk, and ask, “Where are we putting trash these days?”

The bearded older gentleman with the kind face who is clearly in charge, and also clearly a little over it, looks at me mildly and replies, pointing at the ground in front of him, “Right there.”

I’m not sure I’m reading him right, so I come back, looking him right in the eye, “I’m gonna do exactly what you say.”

“I don’t play around,” he says, nodding.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Seismic Time Slip

Our roommate describes a moment of time-slippage on his ride back from Manhattan on the subway, where the people around him became like the people from pictures in the past. He says it reminds him of something I’d write one of my Four Each Days about.

“New York has this very geological kind of relation to time,” I say after thinking about it for a bit. “It’s like time is sort of layered, one era over the other, all existing together simultaneously."                                       

Naming The Ghost

“Mood,” I say as the lights unexpectedly dim in the restaurant where we’re eating dinner with Katie’s father.

“Maybe you’ve got a ghost,” Katie adds, and the waiter agrees, telling us stories of things going missing every Sunday night at the end of the shift.

“What’s his name?” Katie asks, referring to the ghost, but the waiter doesn’t know.

“Well, you wouldn’t want to be presumptuous and give him the wrong name,” I say.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Map Isn’t the Territory

“See, it’s totally useless,” I say about the map of the holiday market.

“But you can look down here,” Katie says, pointing to the legend where the shops are organized by category, “and see exactly where you need to go.”

“But how are you supposed to know where you are?”

“That’s not how you shop, so it isn’t for you."

Abiding

Her lips do this thing, kind of press together and disappear, when she’s mad at me, and right now, I’m mad too, and I’m pretty sure, though I’ve never seen it, that my lips go kinda white and disappear when I’m mad, just like hers. A fight about the wording of on this little slip of paper we’ll be giving to folks traveling outside the US with her pieces, of all things.

But when she looks back down at the computer, having had her say, I watch her, just watch her for a moment - her brassy hair pulled up in a messy knot on top of her head, the strong, willful line of her jaw, her flashing eyes, sharp and penetrating - and knowing that this woman, who brooks no nonsense from anybody, loves me now, in the middle of a squabble, and loved me before, and will love me afterwards, when we are calm and relaxed, fills my heart with deep and quiet joy.

To know that I can be mad, and she can be mad, and it’s not the end of the world, is a new thing in my experience, and I am happily amazed.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Stress

Having almost busted in on a woman who was, thankfully, only washing her hands, I know for a fact that this bathroom door doesn’t lock, and that it’s tough to hear someone inside when you knock. But since it’s the only option, and since I have to pee, this is what I’m doing, angling my back toward the door while I do my business so that, if the door does open, the perpetrator won’t get an eyeful, though it might serve them right if they did.

I finish quickly and zip up with a deep sense of relief, but still, my unease is not completely gone. I find myself washing my hands more quickly than usual, and hardly drying them at all on a paper towel as I’m walking out the door, but the corridor is empty, and I am safe.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Follow The Trail

After a long and desperate search for tortilla chips and finding none in any of the aisles where they should be, I admit defeat and resume shopping for the rest of my list, figuring I’ll stumble upon them eventually in my travels.

I’m grabbing eggs in the frigid dairy aisle when I hear a woman behind me say, “Put those back,” and turn to see a small boy with a disappointed look on his face carrying a bag of chips almost as big as he is. His cause lost, he trudges up the aisle, and, as discreetly as possible, I pursue him as he disappears around the corner.

I track him down one aisle further over, in the frozen foods section, with a slightly bigger girl I assume to be his sister, and she’s hoisting him up with both arms around his waist as he struggles to replace the chips back on the shelf far above his head.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Democracy is Hungry Work

We stand in seemingly endless lines snaking around the center of the elementary school gym, ringed with voting privacy screens and ballot scanners on the perimeter, waiting to cast our votes. The older woman in front of me motions to her husband, who is all the way back at the end of the line, to come forward in the line, but when he irritatedly waves her off she explains to me, “He teaches ethics, so he’s very careful not to cut corners and things like that.”

“Well, it was nice of you to offer to bring him up, but I appreciate that he’s got to do things his way,” I say diplomatically.

“Hell, I called him up ‘cause he’s got my cookie, and I want it,” she replies with a mischievous grin.

Shady Realtors

The internet said (on three different housing search platforms!) that there’s an apartment available for rent in our building, and we know, absolutely for sure, that there isn’t, so we gave the realtor a fake name and agreed to meet them to see what was up.

We left our apartment a few minutes early and walked up the block in the misting rain, then circled back around to find a small asian woman trying to figure out the front door to the building next door to ours.

After introducing herself and and telling us she was from the agency, she assured us that this was the correct address (not our building) and that the listing was just a typo, and after she got her key to work, she took us up to the apartment, only to have yet another problem with yet another key.

As she fumbled with the lock, a woman with a confused and slightly alarmed look on her face opened up the apartment door, and told us in no uncertain terms that she hadn’t been told anything about anyone coming by, and that the apartment was not for rent, and that no, we couldn’t come in to see it.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Judgey

“No,” I say forcefully.

“What do you mean, no?” Katie says looking from me to the avocado in question and back again, and then shoving it into my hands.

“Maybe,” I say grudgingly, then, “yeah, alright, it’s good.”

“You should apologize to me and the avocado,” she replies.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The 1%

Finally, after crawling around through the bushes and semi-wild forest undergrowth of the verge next the highway in Brooklyn for a while, I realize there’s no way I’m going to get this kitten to come to me, no matter how pitifully it cries. It’s just too scared of me, and there are too many good places to hide, so I untangle myself from the thickets with only minor injuries, jump back over the fence, and Katie and I regretfully continue on our way.

Later, we’re reminded of the wet, dirty, bedraggled kitten we caught sight of in flashes through the leaves, when our pampered, camera-ready, conditioned-to-being-fed-every-six-hours-or-so-no-matter-what cat begins to passionately cry out her distress because I am several minutes late in putting down a plate of food which has been lightly warmed in the microwave.

The cries are nearly identical.


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Positively Bullying

The Austrian couple buying shirts is a study in contrasts: he is very friendly, and making entirely too much eye contact in a way that, were I not trying to sell him a shirt, would make me a little uncomfortable, while she, in keeping with many of the central European women I have encountered in my life, seems over it, “it” being everything, everyone, and every single attempt I have made so far to make her smile.

But the transaction has finally concluded to everyone’s satisfaction, it seems, and as I bag up his purchase his wife relaxes a little and idly examines the other offerings in the booth while her husband signs the screen. He then says, “I want to give you something.”

I demur, but grinning, he insists, and hands me a pen with what I presume is his name on it and the phrase “Greet every day with enthusiasm” written underneath, saying, “Because that’s what you have to do."

Friday, November 2, 2018

Good Game

The chubby gray squirrel squats beneath a fat, gnarled tree golden with fall leaves, and busily chomps away at an acorn, blissfully unaware of the black dog about thirty yards away from him. The dog moves slowly, deliberately, unblinking in his total concentration, never taking his eyes off of the squirrel, gently lifting each paw with care on each step, cautious to avoid startling his prey.

The crowd grows, watching anxiously while the squirrel, tired of nibbling, runs around the back of the tree, which causes the dog to abandon his strategy and dash around the tree, startling the squirrel into sudden realization of his eminent danger and sending him straight up the trunk to a high branch where he is at last safe from the snapping jaws of death.

The crowd laughs in relief, like we’d been holding our breath, as the dog runs back to his people, no longer a killing machine, but just a floppy black dog playing in the park, while the squirrel sits in the crook of a branch and screams tiny, enraged screams at its retreating back.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Costume Ideas

The table at the excellently mediocre Mexican food restaurant is covered in a white plastic table cloth, but it’s by the window, and we can see down to the street where hordes of colorfully dressed children masquerade as spooks and murderers and superheroes.

Katie takes a thoughtful sip from her margarita. “I think that if you wanted to dress as the extinction of the dinosaurs, for a one person costume, you could dress as a dinosaur, and carry around a telescope, maybe wear a helmet.”

“And for two people,” I add, “one person could dress as a dinosaur and the other person could be comet, maybe with like a long tail trailing behind them.”

Entropy and Inertia

Later, after the movie, we walk out of the theater, and the Financial District towers above us in ethereal, impossibly distant light and dizzying mirrored glass. We decide without deciding to walk a different way back to the subway station, and our route takes us past the new Trade Center they’re calling the Freedom Tower.

We start walking across the intersection directly beneath its phallic banality after the crossing signal has changed from white walker to blinking red hand counting down our eminent demise, and I ask Katie if she thinks we’ll make it.

“Sure,” she says, pointing to the cars lurking almost 20 yards away on the other side of the street, noting that it would take them at least a few seconds for them to get up the speed to get to us before we managed to get out of the way.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Our Brains Work Differently

The masseuse pushes his forearms down my back with no more concern than a baker kneading dough or a stablehand currying a horse, and somehow this comforts me. I am no longer a person, not a bundle of opinions and thoughts, nor an accretion of neuroses and prejudices, so much as I have become a slab of meat lying soft and pliable on a table while a wiry asian man with a gentle smile and strong hands tenderizes me into goo.

Later at home, Katie asks me what I was thinking while we got our massages, and I tell her about how my breathing slowed, how I could watch and notice as he found each injury and tension and systematically worked each one down to dumb flesh, how I could feel my body become heavier as I became more relaxed.

I started going through the Container Store in my mind to figure out where we could store stuff, and planning where we should travel for our tenth anniversary,” she replies, looking at me a bit incredulously,

Monday, October 29, 2018

No Screens Before Bed

“Jesus,” I say, pausing in my endless scroll through Twitter.

“What?” Katie says.

“He’s going to privatize the rainforests,” I say gloomily, pointing to the news from Brazil.

“We have our own guy to worry about right now,” Katie says, "and definitely not before bed."

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Music Takes Me Back

I was on Christmas break when I was 14, and my sister was home from college. I had four tapes that I listened to all the time, two of which I had stolen from her: Simple Minds - Once Upon A Time, Queen - A Night at the Opera, The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Bauhaus - Vol. 1. I made her listen to Bauhaus, which was a goth-y, very abrasive and dark band, very not what she normally listened to, with song titles like “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” “Kick in the Eye,” and a killer cover of “Ziggy Stardust” by Bowie that for a long time I considered to be the superior version.

On the way home from work today, my headphones clamped to my head to blot out the noise of New York subways, I listened to that Bauhaus album and thought about my sister and me sitting in her bedroom, listening to her stereo while the late afternoon Arizona sun streamed in through her window, and how she said, a somewhat surprised tone to her voice, that she really liked it, an how happy that made me.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Canceling Plans

After a late-afternoon nap, I stick my head back in the bedroom. I’m still a little sleepy. Katie is petting the cat with one hand while her other hand thumbs through her phone.

“Instead of going to the museum, want to just stay home and watch a horror movie?” I ask, and she sighs happily.


Friday, October 26, 2018

Afterparty

An almost-full moon shines brilliantly down on empty streets. Katie stands in the entryway of our grocery store looking at her phone while I sit on the short, narrow wall of the church across the street, watching her.

An empty cab with its “vacant” light rolls through the light at the intersection, and finally Katie looks up from her phone, sees me smiling at her, and crosses the street to where I’m sitting.

She’s pouting, but it’s my fault, really, for mentioning french fries on a school night when they roll up the sidewalks at 11:00 PM and everything is closed.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Picking Up

I stride out from between the cars, only to pull up short with a little hop as a car I didn’t see buzzes past. I watch it go, then, after checking both ways, dart across the street to the Chinese laundry.

When I come in, Judy looks up from the table where she’s stapling little yellow tags with Chinese characters onto clean clothes and gives me a smile. I hand her my ticket, and she and her husband look around for a little while, until she laughs and pulls my laundry from the bottom of a pile, saying, “I forget you have a different bag!"

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

What’s Normal?

“Did you see what happened in there in the dairy aisle?” Katie asks me as we’re walking home from the grocery store in the middle of the night with milk, cookies, and butter, for some reason.

“I saw that woman with the dreds, if that’s what you mean,” I say, referring to the older white lady whose pile of extremely matted dreds give her the look of someone who might be homeless and possibly mentally ill, but who is, apparently, neither.

“Yes, but did you see our interaction?” Katie says. “I was dancing and she said, ‘Dancing in the aisles, are we?’ and I agreed!”

Monday, October 22, 2018

She Makes a Point

When the iridescent hatchback pulls out into traffic in front of the rental truck we’re driving, I slow down, give him a mild curse for his time, and keep on our way, but Katie won’t let it go.

“I don’t know why you don’t honk,” she says, almost angrily, as we continue bumping down the potholed Brooklyn streets.

“It wouldn’t do any good,” I say half-heartedly.

“It might help the next person, so he doesn’t do it again,” she says, looking daggers out the front window as he speeds away.

Shattered

“Oh, it’ll just shatter if you try to take it with you,” the pinch-faced woman says to her friend holding one of Katie’s sculptures.

“Excuse me?” I say, picking up a piece. “Since we’ve got a ridiculous amount of bubble wrap, and since I’m pretty sure I’ve sent pieces further than wherever you live, maybe you should ask me about it before you assume things are gonna shatter?”

“I’ll take this one,” the friend says, laughing, as the pinch-faced woman beats a hasty retreat out of the booth.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Parallax

Since most of the other trains to Brooklyn are under construction or diverted for track repairs, I walk three blocks crosstown to catch the 2 home, and come down the stairs to find my train coming into the station. I’ve been at work for eleven hours, my feet are weary and my head throbs a little, but I’m otherwise quite cheerful. 

I slump down into my seat as we pull away from the station, and look out the window, my eyes sort of focused on nothing in particular. As we pick up speed, the steel pillars that hold up the roof above the platform seem to move at different speeds, the close ones whipping past the glass while the far ones flow slowly by, and for some reason this quite common phenomenon that I’ve probably seen thousands of times fascinates my dull brain into awed silence. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Another Butterfly Story

“I think Katie would appreciate this,” an acquaintance of ours tells me while she’s stopping by the booth. “My dad passed a few years ago, and at my wedding everyone was saying nice things about him, you know, 'He would have loved this,' or, 'He’s watching us right now.’”

“But when we went out on the dance floor for our first dance, there was a butterfly in the middle of the dance floor, just sitting there,” she continues, her eyes shining. "Even my husband, who is not a... spiritual person or whatever you call it, even he said that it was something."

Happens About Once a Week

“People come into the booth and talk to me about very serious stuff,” I tell the artist. He’s got fuzzy hair and and intense gaze and a great coat with a huge furry collar which he’s wearing over what look like pajama pants. “A lot of people believe that, when they see butterflies, they are being visited by their dead loved ones.”

“Okay, but can I tell you?” he begins, and proceeds to tell a very emotional and serious story about his friend who committed suicide, and how during the friend’s funeral, butterflies flew all around his head for the entire service.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Freedom and Beauty

“Mariposa... libre,” the older woman standing in the booth says, and as she waves her hands like a butterfly escaping a prison, the distress on her face tells the story.

I think I get it. “Unfortunately, everything dies,” I say as her husband translates my words into low, lyrical Spanish that seems to flow like a river, "but the only way we can preserve these beautiful, fragile moments is to protect them under glass.”

“Ah, precioso!” she says, the tension draining from her body.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Underground Cities

The two crosstown blocks from the booth to the subway seem a lot longer without a jacket, but I shove my hands into my pockets and breathe deeply, and I can feel my body remembering the coming cold like a sparring partner that one has come to almost like. I take the stairs down to the train two at a time and catch the L headed east.

I come out into the Union Square station, walking fast past the guys selling mangos and churros and candy, and the air feels warm, almost balmy. I think about caves, how these tunnels and stations terminals are really just modern caves, and how long it takes for the cold to penetrate down here underground, where we New Yorkers spend so much of our lives.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Commerce and Art

Guy in the booth with the flat-brimmed baseball cap and earbuds (which remain in for the duration of our conversation) stares blankly at the “No Photos, Please” sign beneath the butterflies for a while before saying, “Why no pictures?”

“Because it’s art,” I say.

“But what does that have to do with it,” he says, in dull confusion.

“If you love her work enough to take a piece of it home with you,” I say, “then you should buy it."

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Picking Up That Name You Dropped

The German man with the patrician mien and the dismissive attitude is rubbing me all kinds of the wrong way, but looking at one of Katie’s larger pieces, he brightens up a little, saying, “I know of an antique butterfly collection, thousands of specimens, that I’m trying to get rid of for a friend of mine. I offered it to Damien Hirst but he says he’s done with butterflies.”

“Isn’t he the one who carved up a shark?” I ask after I finish repressing the urge to roll my eyes all the way back into my skull. “Maybe he’ll go back to aquatic creatures."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Is It, Though?

The woman who came into the booth wanting to fight about dead butterflies has calmed down, decided I’m friendly, and is now waxing philosophical.

“Isn’t it amazing,” she continues, “how nature makes everything so that is serves some greater purpose, like how butterflies are made for pollinating flowers?”

“It’s possible that what you’re seeing,” I say carefully, “instead of just one overarching intelligence, is really a lot of smaller intelligences, each with their own agenda, trying to exploit weaknesses and find a niche for themselves, and all of those sort of add up to a greater agenda, right?”

“That’s exactly what I mean,” she enthuses, her eyes shining.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Dark Timeline

“And everybody on that show is best buds and they all support each other,” Katie says, referring to a TV show we watch called The Good Place, “and I follow them all on Instagram and Twitter and everything.”

“That’s the thing,” I says thoughtfully, pausing from shoveling food into my mouth for my late night after work meal. “As the timeline grows darker, the pockets of light will shine brighter.”

“Oh,” Katie says, “you’re not referring to the TV show, are you."

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Joy in Disdain

The woman who sells jewelry at the booth across the aisle from ours slides over with a conspiratorial look and says, "We see a lot of trends here, right? Well, there’s this thing where women grow their nails long and put a stone or a jewel on it, and I think it’s gross!”

“I really like people who have strong opinions on things,” I say, laughing.

“Oh yeah, I just really hate stuff,” she says, smiling.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Then He Speaks

The long-haired man with the Tibetan mandala medallion and quartz crystal in necklaces around his neck and his decidedly more squarely dressed girlfriend don’t seem stoned. They gaze at the butterflies in Katie’s pieces with no more or less starry-eyed wonder than any of the hundreds of other people who come in to our booth drawn by the metallic blues and soft, matte purples and yellows, the shimmering teals and sharp crimsons.

But they sure do smell like weed.

“The energy in this booth is very good, very different from the rest of the market,” the man says with a serious face.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Parallel Pests

Behind the counter in the booth, I see, to my horror, a mosquito. Springing into action, I slam my palms together, killing it instantly, and I grab a paper towel to wipe my hands.

Later that night, on the way home, I see, floating around by the advertisements above the seats, another mosquito, blatantly disregarding the fact that it’s October in New York, and mosquitos should be long dead by this time.

My first instinct is to send this one to hell just like I did his foul cousin, but then I imagine what I would look like, flailing about, clapping and smacking my hand into the walls of the subway car, and I content myself with glaring at him until he flies away to another part of the train.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Parellel Play

The couple coming toward me on the sidewalk stop at the unattached sink that somebody put out in front of their house, and pretend to wash their hands in the basin. They rub their palms beneath the non-existent faucet, and then flick non-existent water drops off their fingers as they walk away together laughing at their silliness.

Later, at the market, I wash my hands in the bathroom, singing the alphabet song absent-mindedly to myself. I remember the couple, and smile.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Distracting the Hunter

He’s clearly not here to shop for butterflies, this guy, and the way that he keeps invading the space of this woman that he is clearly hitting on is getting my hackles up. When he puts his hand on her shoulder again, laughing at some joke he made, I decide I’ve had enough.

“Hey man, which butterfly were you looking at again?” I say moving into his space to get his attention. “Was it this one?” I add, handing him a random piece to his total confusion.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Power of Belief

“The creative God-law of the universe... is all around you and in existence for the fulfilling of your every right desire,” I read.

A man shambles into the subway car and collapses into the seat next to me. He is clearly in the middle of a nod, and he seems to be falling over in an impossibly slow spin as he tries repeatedly to clear his sinuses by blowing his nose into his hand over and over and examining the contents in amazement.

As ropes of snot congeal between his fingers before his dulled, twitching, half-lidded eyes, I try to imagine some words I could say, some action I could take that would benefit him, something that would help to set him on a path away from this catastrophe next to me, but in the moment, I can’t think of a thing.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Swiped Out

I swipe my card through at the subway turnstile as soon as the guy in front of me goes through, but something about the way he goes through causes it to bounce back and then forward again, which uses up my swipe. I stand there, befuddled for a second - there’s no place to buy a Metrocard, and since I have a monthly, I can’t use it again for another eighteen minutes (an eternity in New York).

I sigh in annoyance, and turn to make my way up the stairs and down a block to the next entrance, where I know I can buy a single use Metrocard and get on my way, when a woman stops me.

“Hey,” she says, smiling, “I’ll swipe you in."

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Kind Of Theft

The woman selling her photography at the market has strung a chain across her booth so she can run grab some food. The chain is more symbolic than anything else, as it wouldn’t keep out anyone who was truly determined to come in, but most people stroll by without disturbing it.

One young woman, however, walks up with her friends, rifles through the rack of postcards the owner of the booth has at the front of her booth, pulls out a picture she likes, and snaps a photo of it with her phone. Expressionless, she slips the card back into the rack and walks away without a glance backward to see if anyone noticed.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Frantic

“You seem kind of frantic,” Katie says after I arrive home.

“I’m not fra.., I mean, I did close up the booth and then have to go back for my phone and my headphones, and then when I got to the subway there was this huge group just standing there that I had to sort of weave-slash-push my way through, and then this one girl waited to swipe until the person before her went through, even though you don’t really have to....”

“To be fair, it does look like those big subway turnstiles are going to eat you,” she interjects.

“Yeah, but only if you never seen them before, and then I was going down the stairs to the L and everybody was in my way and..., you know, maybe I am frantic."

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Malware

“I saw that thing you texted,” Katie tells me. “But you should know that on Facebook, Instagram, texts, whatever, I won’t open stuff that has Trump’s image on it, so I didn’t open it.”

“Cool, well, you know how they’re doing that Trump emergency broadcast thing tomorrow at 2:18 where he can send a text directly to your phone, so I sent you a calendar request telling you to turn your phone off at 2:10.”

“Oh,” she says, her voice audibly calmer, “thanks."

Monday, October 1, 2018

Temporal Anomalies

After about four hours in the booth, I looked at my watch to find I’d been here about thirty minutes. Time seems to behave... differently, here.

"⏱has🛑” I text Katie, whom I relieved when we changed shifts half-an-hour ago.

“For some reason, the booth has been sucked into a wormhole,” she replies, confirming my suspicions.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Deep Thoughts

As I’m stopped at the light on a glorious, sunny, warm early fall day, a tall, blonde woman cycles through the intersection on a chunky blue Citibike, her long, smooth, straight hair streaming behind her, dark sunglasses perched on her long, elegant, tanned face.

I think to myself, watching her, “The things that we think of as ‘cool’ are often actually ‘warm.’ They’re objects, or people, or experiences, that, far from having a chilling effect, are really someplace where we want to stay, that make us happy, that warm us.”

When the light changes and I make it to the other side of the intersection, though, I find myself mulling over this thought, and I realize it sounds like a bunch of nonsense.

An Expensive "Hobby"

Katie's butterflies have clearly induced an existential crisis in this woman, as she tries to process how her boyfriend (whom she dubbed “her butterfly”) moved away to Costa Rica, where he wrote her to tell her about all the blue butterflies he saw when he arrived, and should she buy this blue butterfly as a reminder of him, since he might not ever be coming back?

“So is this a very... expensive hobby?” her friend asks in a soft British accent, attempting to deflect from her friend’s very visible meltdown.

“It’s really more of a business?” I answer after a pause. “I mean, you know you have to pay money for these, right?” I continue, both of us laughing now.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Binocular

The guy seated at the end of the subway bench has some form of full-body Tourette’s, and he is twitching up a storm: arms flailing, then smoothing down his clothes, almost standing up, twisting his neck to look in seeming alarm at whatever is hehind him, then taking a deep breath and trying to settle himself before the whole cycle starts up again.

When we reach Dekalb Avenue, a man gets on, but I only notice him after we’ve pulled away from the station, because I hear music.

I turn to look for the source, only to find this recent arrival with his phone blasting music for the whole train to hear as he dances what looks like a tormented version of the Funky Chicken to some current pop hit, all the while grinning a massive, very satisfied looking grin.

So, to my left is the guy with Tourette’s, throwing his arms up in the air and flexing his torso and neck, trying to maintain control as best he can, and to my right is the dancing fool having the time of his life antagonizing an entire subway car with his shitty pop music as he dances like he’s receiving electroshock therapy, and all I can do is sigh and start fishing around in my bag for my headphones.

White Man With a Gun

The security guard walks on the subway platform with a sidearm, holstered, sure, but still just on his hip like it’s the Wild Wild West or something. I walk behind him, leaving a safe distance between us, and watch him carefully - he’s much shorter than me, squat and thick, but it’s clearly all muscle, like he’s sorta roided out, and he’s shaved his head, which makes it easy to see the folds on the back of his neck.

“I gotta start lifting weights or something,” I think to myself. On further reflection, though, I remember his gun, and I realize that if he decided to go off, muscles or no, there wouldn’t be a whole lot I could usefully do.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Small, International Kindness

The weary-looking, sweet man with a little bit of a spanish accent and I get to chatting while he peruses Katie’s sculptures in our booth, and when I find out he’s working with the UN delegation from Paraguay, I enthuse about my love of his countries most popular tea, yerba mate.

Upon hearing this, he confesses he doesn’t really drink the stuff, but he has some in his car that was a gift from the Paraguayan ambassador, and would I like it?

I try to tell him that I really don’t want him to go to any trouble, but he insists and dashes off into the market.

A little later, he returns with a paper bag filled with almost half a kilo of tea, and he shyly suggests that Katie and I come by the embassy, and he’ll introduce us to the ambassador, just because we have occasionally thought that if everything in the US really goes to hell, it might be nice to move there.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Farther

“Where do the butterflies come from?” the little boy with the shirt that reads HYPERSPACE asks as he stares in wonder at Katie’s sculptures. His dad grins and watches to see how I’ll react.

“Well, they come to us from far away, from countries all over the world,” I say.

“Farther than Ohio?” he says incredulously.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Leg Day

One of the guys I know who works at the market is waiting in line for the bathroom, absent-mindedly lifting his backpack like he’s working out his biceps and staring off into space. 

“Don’t skip leg day,” I say, walking up, and he laughs.

“Man, I haven’t done legs in months,” he replies.

“Yeah, well, don’t listen to me - I haven’t been in a weight room in, like, ten years."

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Getting It Right

Getting the first set of shelves out of storage and up to the truck was a disaster: wires everywhere from the lighting, the furniture pads falling off, pieces of garland trailing behind me. The second one was a little easier, though, and the one after that, too.

As I wheeled the fourth set of shelves down the long hallway of the storage facility under the buzzing fluorescent lights, I wished, fervently, that I was the type of person who got things right on the first try.

But then I realized that almost everybody has to try and fail before they get it right for most things, and that the type of person I wanted to be probably didn’t exist.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Bees Vs. Wasps

The first day of fall shines like a polished penny, and the greenmarket by the park is so thick with people that the sound of them rises up into the blue sky with a hum and buzz. We walk past the booths filled with bright reds and greens and purples and yellows of fresh vegetables and the herbal smells of basil and oregano, thyme and mint as a thousand hands sift through piles of kale and chard, each of them looking for the perfect bunch.

One vendor does brisk business in grapes, and his tub of green and purple beauties is swarming with bees so thick he has to wave them away, but the bees only zip up into the air for a few seconds to settle back on the sweet delicious treats and resume sipping.

What looks like a wasp buzzes around my head, and I instinctively lean away in alarm, but Katie looks at me dismissively and says, “There are too many bees for there to be any wasps here."

Taking Out the Trash

It’s Friday, so we gather up the recycling and the trash and bag it up to go out to the curb - empty cans of cat food and empty plastic tubs of coffee and mayonnaise rattle around in rustling blue plastic bags.

“I thought of a really good thing to write about for my four each day while I was making dinner,” I tell Katie as she ties up a white kitchen bag of trash, “but I forgot it.”

“There’s still time,” she says mildly.

“Yeah, but I’m really good at forgetting things,” I say.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Scale Model

The guy in the storage space next to ours comes back out, and, almost shyly, hands me a stack of photos, saying, “You know how I told you my dad and me used to build model trains for people? This is what we did.”

The photos are poorly lit, and sometimes out of focus, but full of little details: the deep blue rivers and ponds dotting a miniature landscape criss-crossed with rail road tracks on gravel grades, the water towers and oil wells, the little people walking past the smoke shop, the tattoo parlor on the corner.

Something about the pictures seems to evoke a different time, a different world, where railroads tied the country together, and grown men built shrines to the places the trains used to go.

Jaywalking

I wait, standing between two parked cars in front of my building, to cross the street to San Toy Laundry, where we’ve been dropping off our clothes since I moved in here nine years ago. I’m smack in the middle of the block, and the light at the intersection to my left has just turned red, while the intersection to my right is still green, but empty of cars. So I set out.

There’s a car coming, about half a block further on from the intersection to my right, and even though I know I have plenty of time, I hurry a little, imagining for some reason that the driver, seeing me out of the crosswalk and clearly breaking the law, might speed up out of some misguided outrage at a scofflaw like me, or just out of spite.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Anniversary

We walk to the subway for our anniversary dinner after the rain lets up, and the whole world has been scrubbed clean and sparkling by the deluge. Sun comes out from behind clouds and paints the old brownstones in honey and butterscotch, while a plane flies through a patch of sky as clear as glass.

The remnants of the storm are off east of us, a high, heavy bank of clouds, and I remember the day I asked Katie to marry me, and a storm that came through that day, too.

“There’s probably a rainbow,” I say to Katie, pointing to the clouds, remembering the rainbow we saw that day, years ago.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Prophylactic Measures

On TV, a field of black, two pictures of... is it the surface of an alien world? or just a soap bubble. Then, hands come in and grab the pictures and smoothly pivot them, crossing them and gliding them through this primordial, fertile darkness, until we see that the frames of the pictures are actually, phones: specifically the newest iPhones, shining like jewels, like crowns, like stars in the firmament.

“See, this is why I have to mute the commercials,” I turn to Katie where she’s skimming through her phone on the other end of the couch. “I’m weak minded.”

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Couldn’t Have Said It Better

“So I rinse off all the soap suds in the pan, turn it over, and there’s soap suds on the bottom too, of course, but after I rinse off the bottom, I turn it over and there’s soap back in the pan,” I tell Katie.

“You know what’s happening, right?” Katie says, patiently, gently. “When you rinse the bottom of the pan, the soap runs to the edge, and if you don’t wait a second and just quickly turn it over, it runs back down the sides into the pan.”

“You know, there is a way to say that without me feeling completely stupid,” I say, laughing.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

An Audience of One

“Well maybe I’ll just get this puke green shirt instead,” the guy says, after a preceding ten minutes of talking shit about everything in the booth. 

“You know, I noticed that the jokes you tell seem to be aimed at an audience of one,” I say finally. “But I guess if you can only make one person laugh....”

He doesn’t seem to notice, and continues to talk shit, but the girl he’s with makes eye contact with me, and the smile that she’s been forcing grows a touch more genuine, just for a second.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Family Business

“You don’t buy eggs in the morning anymore,” the woman behind the counter at the deli says with a pout as I put my purchases up: loaf of bread, bag of Cheetos, Amy’s frozen pizza, and an apple.

“Well, I don’t have a day job, anymore,” I reply as I put my card into the chip reader. “I work for my wife, so I eat my eggs at home."

“You work for your wife,” she repeats, flat, not a question, exactly, but a general query to the universe, like, what is that like?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Warm Reception

“Scott Williams,” I tell the receptionist at the clinic when she asks me for Katie’s emergency contact, and she notes that my last name isn’t the same as Katie’s.

“I forgot my ring today,” Katie says sadly, holding up her left hand.

“It’s okay, you’re still married,” I say.

“You guys are cute,” the receptionist says, shaking her head.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Last Call

The bartender at the wine bar has gathered the glasses, wiped down the counter, passed out the checks - it’s last call.

But here she comes, breezing in through the door with her straightened hair streaming behind her and a triumphant look on her face. The bartender, after explaining to her that they’re closing, and being reassured that she only wants “one glass,” reluctantly sets one glass of white up in front of her and leaves her to it.

She sips it slowly as beads of condensation drip down the bowl, and swipes through her phone with an expression that’s both intensely focused, and distracted.

Not Helping

The man standing by the stairs leading out of the subway station is talking to everyone who got off my train, but I can’t hear what he’s saying because I’ve got my headphones on with the music way too loud. A couple of people and I run interference for each other, blocking his line of sight as our paths cross and re-cross in a confusing enough pattern that he doesn’t know who to talk to, until we’re past him without engaging, up on to the streets and away.

But as I begin my walk home, my conscience begins to nag at me: I have change in my pocket, and a swipe on my MetroCard, and I can help, even if it’s just a little bit.

With a sigh, I head back to the subway station, but when I get to the bottom of the stairs, I suddenly recognize him from an encounter a few years back where he tried to scam me into buying him a fifty dollar MetroCard, and I turn around and march right back upstairs with a clear conscience and my change back in my pockets.

Monday, September 10, 2018

I Just Look Like I Belong

As soon as I go back out to the waiting room of the clinic, though, I realize I’ve made a mistake leaving Katie alone to get her wisdom tooth extracted.

Ask the doctor if I can come back in, I text her.

Just knock on the door, she texts back.

And here’s the definition of privilege: I knock on the locked door to go back into the busy clinic area, they don’t know who I am, and this random person opens the door, starts to question me, and I just walk right by them, knowing where I’m going, and they let me.

Tailgating

When we get to a narrow section of the sidewalk, I slow down so that Katie and I are walking in single file, and she looks over her shoulder at me curiously.

“I wanted to give the person behind us a chance to pass,” I say, indicating a woman who’s been shadowing us for almost the entire walk from the subway. People walking too close behind me still make me nervous.

“I think we’ve given her plenty of opportunities,” Katie says, after the woman once again fails to pass.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

A Need For Perspective

“You think Biden could win, though?” I ask Katie, my head in her lap as I lie on the couch, weary from a long at work.

“He needs to get Liberman for VP,” she says, scrolling through her phone.

“Aw, man, Liberman’s the worst,” I reply, whining.

She tilts my face up to look at her, leans in real close, and, without breaking eye contact, says, “Scott, I need you to have some fucking perspective about this."

Friday, September 7, 2018

Nonverbal

After a night of work, I arrive tired at my door just as one of those kids with a clip-board who accosts people on the street for donations to their non-existent baseball or basketball team walks by. I’ve had some run-ins with those kids before, and I’ve been sort of nervous around teenagers since I was one, so my heart-rate goes up a little.

I’m carrying my satchel, but for some reason I pat my pockets for my keys as he passes me on my way up the stairs, even though I know they’re latched on a leather thong in the main pocket of the bag.

I think it was an unconscious action trying to signal to the kid, “Yep, just going inside this building here where somebody is expecting me and so it’s probably not a great idea to try to hit me up for money right this second."

Are Those The Same?

“So, it basically has me working three long days, and closing the rest of the time, but I’m basically doing that right now,” I explain to Katie about the new schedule I’m suggesting for our booth. “I’ve really just got two skills I can offer - I like to sell stuff, and my endurance is good.”

She thinks about this for a second. “Yeah, you’re really good with inertia,” she elaborates.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Political Stuff

Katie’s suffering with a sore tooth, and after I get off the phone with her dentist to schedule a visit tomorrow, I turn on the tv to try and distract her from the pain.

The late night talk shows are about to start, and I turn back to the internet to see if there are any homemade remedies we can use.

Katie mumbles from the other side of the bed, “No political stuff.”

I think about it a minute, turn on YouTube instead, and cue up “Bondi Rescue.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Not Exactly Tartare

He gives me a look as he walks by, but I’m looking at Twitter or something so I almost miss it. I see him when I look up, though, walking by the booth taking a huge bite out of something deep red and squishy with a look of savage glee.

Across the aisle from me, the woman who sells paintings of quirky animals has a look of abject shock, and the even the guy who sells beard products looks a little taken aback.

“Did you see him eating that raw steak?” she says, horrified.


Monday, September 3, 2018

They Work For You

“It’s just,” I say after we finish watching the comedy special, “I wouldn’t want to hang out with him, but he’s so good at what he does that I just know I could never be a comedian.”

“What he’s doing comes from a very dark place,” Katie says over her shoulder as she prepares dinner for the two of us.

“Sure, but he seems like he’s figuring it out so that it works for him,” I reply. “Gotta harness your demons and make them pay rent.”

We Thought It Was Funny

“If you want a real New York experience, down the alley there’s a dead rat that fell from the roadway of the bridge,” my boss says to the milling crowds that seem to be wandering aimlessly through the booth without buying anything. “It’s completely smashed,” he adds.

At least half the people within a 10-foot radius of him start at his words, and simply walk out of the booth, and we both laugh for the rest of the day at this very Andy Kaufman-esque moment.

Later, when I mention how I’m always looking for the human moments when I write about my day, referring back to this story, he says thoughtfully, “I’m not sure that one would translate.” 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Not Dying

Scratchy throat, runny nose, watery eyes, run down, with a just a soupçon of despair: I sit in my chair at the booth where I’m helping out this weekend and try to muster up the energy to sell shirts.

The woman I’m working for comes by to help restock, and we chat for a little bit, until she coughs a small, dry cough. “There is some kind of allergen or something in the air, because it is getting me today,” she says, wrinkling her nose.

“Oh, I just thought I was dying,” I say, relieved.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Cold Banishing

A night of sad and violent dreams is partially dispersed by an early morning walk to the park with Katie. We sit on the green grass beneath a gray sky and watch scrums of puppies cavort in the breeze while we chat about puppies and grass and breezes, and how wonderfully they interact.

But the anxiety and shame that I’ve brought back to the waking world from my nighttime excursion into the unconscious is still living in my solar plexus, like a cold, wet rag being wound tighter and tighter, and so after we arrive home I take a very cold shower.

The shock of the freezing water hitting my skin obliterates all thought, all emotion, all tension, in a blast of adrenaline, and I can feel the sadness fading, like someone turning down the volume, until only I am left with the cold against my skin, blood pounding in my ears, and I smile.

Teaching Stories

I lay out my mat to do yoga, but before I start, I have to get Katie’s standing desk, where she’s been making new pieces, out of the way.

In doing so, I knock over a small can of paint which spills glittering gold in a smooth, undulating pool across the carpet and wood floor.

Katie and I spend the next twenty or so minutes cleaning up the mess while my heart sinks at the waste of the very expensive paint, and I have trouble getting my mind to focus when I finally do settle in to my yoga session.

A yoga practice interrupted by the wasting of costly gold paint, subsequent cleanup and inability to let it go - it sounds like a teaching story told by a guru of some sort to inspire wisdom and understanding, but I’ll be damned if I know what it means.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Who’s Better?

“Daisy!” the woman surrounded by dogs in the middle of the park meadow brays, and the absolutely filthy poodle-mix that came up to greet us turns attentively. “Come here!”

“She is absolutely my favorite thing in the mornings,” another woman says as she walks by us with her dog.

“Oh yeah, she’s great!” I enthuse, and it’s at least twenty minutes before I realize that she was talking about the lady with the loud voice, and not the filthy but friendly dog.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Bad Earbuds

“Oh, you were here earlier,” the cashier at the drugstore says when I step back up the counter.

“Yeah, I got about halfway down the block to go home when I realized I had to return these because they’re terrible,” I say, giving her the shitty earbuds and the receipt from when we bought them a few weeks ago.

“Well, that’s really the only kind of earbuds we have,” she says, pointing behind her to the top shelf to the array of different colored earbuds, all from the same brand.

“Yeah, I’ll just take the cash.:

People Will Help

It’s hard to tell if the old lady on the ground is hurt, since she’s sitting up and talking, but she clearly fell, judging by the semi-circle of concerned people gathered around her (one of them on the phone with the ambulance), the way her glasses sit slightly askew on her face, and the angle of her cane laying on the sidewalk.

“Just not adding to the chaos,” Katie says to me after we assess the situation, decide that these nice people have things under control, and continue on our way to the grocery store.

“We are not doing like those Kitty Genovese people,” I add jokingly.

“You know that was debunked, right?” she replies, almost angry.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

“Which Are YOU Here To Do?"

“You can’t block the alley - people pass through it all the time,” the older woman says as she easily walks right past the table at the entrance to the alleyway behind the booth where I’m working today.

Dan, my boss, looks at me, incredulous, and then calls after her, “I’ve been doing the flea for eight years and no one’s had a problem yet.”

“Well, I live here,” she shoots back over her shoulder.

He watches after her for a moment, then says to me, shaking his head, “The people I know who go through that alley are either there to do drugs or take a shit.”

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Self-esteem Issues

“I screwed up our date night,” she says, clearly a little buzzed, “so I’m going to buy him a shirt, like a present.”

After a long, very convoluted process, she finally picks one, and as I wrap it up for her, she pulls up a picture of him on her phone.

When I comment that he’s a pretty good looking dude, she says, “Yeah, he’s cute, and he got stuck with me.”

“He’s doing fine, and you’re doing fine,” I say, fixing her with my most serious look.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Stoked

“I mean, I try to stay positive, but I’ve been knocked back a few times,” he says as he absent-mindedly leafs through the shirts I’m selling. “Growing up in foster care will knock you back, for sure.”

“But you seem like the king of being positive,” he says, trying, it seems, to take the focus off himself.

“Yeah, well, I’m pretty stoked most of the time,” I say, cringing a little at myself as I say it, then realizing, cringe or no, that it’s true.

Alt-theology

This is literally the first time I’ve been outside today, I think as I walk down Seventh Avenue. The sun is out, it’s late afternoon, and a cool breeze stirs the air and brings the smell of flowers to me from the stalls outside the grocery store where they sell bunches of carnations and bundles of small roses that will likely die in a day or two once you get them home.

I think about the journal entry I scribbled down right before I left the house to get groceries for dinner. It seemed really important at the time, but now all I can remember writing is, “God is the name we give to the things we think we lack."

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

What It’s Like Behind Your Eyes

“What do you want for dessert?” I ask. We’re sitting on the couch after working all day - her making more sculptures, me cleaning up the house and prepping her work for sale.

She closes her eyes, to think about her answer, the fading light through the eastern windows falling across her face, and I imagine what it’s like behind her closed eyelids: the darkness, the images of various sweet treats that form and dissolve as she decides.

She opens her eyes again, the hazel and blue looking right into my face, and I smile.

Hugs

“And I really dedicated myself to her, to this place,” my friend at my part-time job says, sighing, “but now..., I just really need a break, physically and emotionally.”

“Can I give you a hug?” I say gently.

We hug, and I really concentrate to make sure I’m there, trying to give her a good hug, and she startles for a second, then relaxes.

When she steps back, she shakes her head and says, “Well, that was quite a jolt."

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

One Hand Not In My Pocket

The two delivery guys on their electric bikes are taking up the whole bike lane in front of me while they chat, and Katie is pedaling further and further away.

I don’t begrudge them their powered bicycles, since having to keep up with delivery orders on a regular bike seems like it might be unsustainable, physically.

But I don’t like being this far away from Katie when we’re riding together, so I dip out of the bike lane and into the car lane to pass these guys, and to their credit, they don’t speed up as I pass.

A car coming behind us honks at my intrusion into his lane, and I lift up my hand and flash the guy a peace sign before pulling back into my lane, to thank him for not running me down.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

From My Hand

The only dry spot at the flea market is a narrow alley where I sit on the ground to have lunch, so I’m not particularly surprised when three bedraggled little sparrows fly into the alley and land near me to rest.

Two of them notice me, and immediately fly off, but one sits for a while watching me, so I tear off a small piece of the tortilla I’m eating and hold it out.

The bird cocks its head, chirps concernedly, fixes me with a beady little eye, as if trying to gauge my intentions, but I just sit there without moving, and let the tortilla do the talking.

Finally, after a couple minutes of this, the bird hops over, takes the little bit of tortilla from between my fingers, and hops a few inches away to tear it to pieces and eat it.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Thought About It

“I should really write today, too,” I think while I’m setting up to play guitar.

But that’s putting it too strongly, when what I really did was imagine the feel of the pen in my hand (it’s got two flat sides where my fingers fit to hold it), and the way the notebook lays a lopsided from the mementos I’ve stuffed into the back-cover pocket (maps of the bike paths where we stayed in Hilton Head, a program from a museum we visited in Miami Beach). I thought about the ink, blue on the off-white, lined paper, and the way it flowed like the pen was an extension of my hand.

I didn’t end up writing in my notebook today, though.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Locked Out of Their Air-BNB?

The night is heavy and humid, but a cool breeze blows from the park, so we decide to take a walk down a residential block.

The glow of streetlights are split by the leaves into obscure shade and harsh patches of light, so it’s a little hard to see, but up about half-a-block away, a man drags a suitcase out onto the sidewalk and then repeatedly, furiously kicks at it. He then stops and stands there, his hand up to his forehead.

By the time we get to him, he’s scrolling through his phone, standing next to the bag that was the object of his rage, while a woman (wife? girlfriend?) sits next to another bag on a small wall, not looking at him.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Good Idea For A Bad Mood

After my bad mood has worn off, and I’m mostly returned to sanity, Katie and I sit in the kitchen, exhausted by my fit. We’re figuring out dinner, when I notice the flowers that our roommate has purchased for the house arcing out of the vase on the kitchen table in a spray of purple and white.

“He bought flowers,” I tell Katie, stating the obvious, since both of us have been home all day.

“Yeah, and there’s some in the living room, too,” she says, while I smile at his kindness.


Alternative Theologies

Every time I come to Rockefeller Plaza (today it was for a temp gig), it catches me off guard: the statue of Atlas, hoisting the heavens (complete with astrological symbols) on his shoulders, directly across the street from St. Patrick’s cathedral. 

A little bit further away, just below where they put the huge tree every Christmas, they’ve got that enormous statue of Prometheus clad entirely in gold. It doesn’t get more pagan than that.

It’s like the Rockefellers were deliberately trolling the church, saying, “Look, we’re about the kind of gods that get us paid."

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Storytime

“So the guy that I dropped the piece off with today was like, six inches taller than me,” I say to Katie while she grabs her dinner. “And he had two bands tattooed right here,” indicating my bicep. “Good looking guy, very polite, gave me the money, got his piece and took off.”

“Well, I have no fun stories to tell today, because you know exactly where I was all day - in my studio,” Katie says with a sigh, then she rubs her temples.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Kid Dreams

The kids in the documentary I’m watching (“The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years”) are only a little older than I was when the movie came out, 16 or 17 years old. The concerts, the interviews, the awkward, constant obsession with sex, all take me back to being that age and my teenage dreams of rock stardom.

Somewhere in Tucson, in the archives of a community cable station, there’s an interview with a dreadlocked, tie-dyed-t-shirt-wearing version of me and a guitarist friend of mine, where we play music, and I end up insisting to the host that my parents disapproved of my music; and I thank whatever God there might be watching over me that most of my most awkward moments occurred before the internet.

I turn off the TV and all the lights in the front of the house, walk back to where Katie is getting ready for bed, and say plaintively, “I don’t want to watch the rock-and-rollers anymore."

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Wash Whites Separartely

I get about halfway down the block with my laundry before I realize I feel a little uncomfortable wearing the t-shirt I’m wearing today. It’s laundry day, after all, so it’s pretty old, and it shows a smiling Barak Obama standing in front of the White House with the words “Under New Management” emblazoned beneath, and somehow, even in Park Slope, I feel like I could be baiting some idiot Trump supporter into some kind of verbal assault. We all know that a picture of Barry is to a Trump supporter as blood in the water is to a shark: it drives them crazy.

I adjust the weight of the large sack of clothes on my shoulders so that it doesn’t crank my neck out of joint, and stand up a little taller as I walk past an older white guy who looks like he might be the type to vote Trump and start fights on the street, but he doesn’t even look at me, and I arrive at the laundromat without incident.

Morning Thunderstorm

It isn’t so much raining sideways as it is raining sort of omnidirectionally, a wild torrent of uniformly dense, congealed humidity that is radiating fast in all directions from a central point that is everywhere at once. The trees seem to be vibrating with rain, the wind seems to be coming straight down, and the entire world is soaked beneath a darkened sky in which the sun might never shine again.

And just like that, it’s over, the heavy clouds have abated somewhat, and Katie sits in the window looking out on a flooded Seventh Avenue, trying to entice an only marginally interested cat to come up and sit next to her.

Finally she opens the window, and the cat immediately jumps up beside her, and the two of them commune over the soggy ruins of Brooklyn while I lay on the floor, huffing in the fresh, ozone heavy air.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Don’t Flinch

Some faces it’s easier to see contorted in hate than relaxed in love, but that may be a failure of imagination on my part. They’re smiling right now, standing in the door of the train, but their energy is all teenage boy: aggressive, impatient, like they’re about to explode just from being alive.

He feints a punch toward his friend, demonstrating the form, his fists look like stones, or knots at the ends of branches, solid and heavy and dense. His friend laughs, doesn’t flinch.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Making the Best Of It

But when we get off our bikes at the movie theater, the MoviePass app suddenly can’t remember what we were talking about before we left. “Oh, there aren’t any movies you can go to at this theater!” it now says. “Weird, huh?”

Katie sighs as we go back to our bikes, and says, “Want to go get ice cream?"

Homebodies

Katie and I sit on the couch, phones in hand, reading descriptions to each other of the symptoms of mercury poisoning and the current and past uses of mercury in industry. The couch is covered in a purple slip cover that is thin and soft and somewhat shapeless, but very easy to sit on, while to the right of the couch, stacked up the wall, are boxes and boxes of glass containers to be used for our business, and next to that, a couple of guitars. The coffee table, which a few years ago Katie decoupaged with pages from an old dictionary, holds a couple of remotes, some candles, salt and pepper shakers, a couple of mugs that recently held scoops of homemade vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate syrup, and a silicon “gourd” filled with matĂ© and bomibilla next to a thermos.

We sit for a while, chatting about music, and mercury, and nitrates, and botulism, until we get sleepy, and it’s time to take a shower and go to bed.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Scurry

The sky quickly grows alarmingly dark and full of thunder, and the three of us run downstairs to sit on the stoop and watch the storm come in.

Our landlord comes out of the appliance store that he runs on the first floor to load a dishwasher onto his hand truck, and, seeing us perched on the front stairs grinning like idiots, he shakes his head.

“Just don’t hold hands,” he says, half-joking, and we laugh, as though the idea of lightning striking us here, in Brooklyn, in 2018, were even something that could possibly happen.

There’s a sudden flash of light that turns the entire world into a negative, washed-out version of itself, followed almost immediately by a crack of thunder that seems to fill the universe, and we scurry back upstairs to the safety of our apartment.

Guitar Face

I press play, and Katie listens respectfully to the song I’ve been working on all night. It’s been a while since I’ve sung, so I’m a little nervous about the vocals.

Then it gets to the modulation, the drums kick in, and I’m starting to get really into and apparently it’s showing in my expression.

“Oh my God, what is happening with your face right now?” Katie asks worriedly.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Vintage

“That’s someone’s family,” the woman says to her friends as she shuffles through old portraitss at the market where I’m working.

“Well, I mean, really, we’re all somebody’s family,” I say, sidling up next to them.

“That’s true,” she says thoughtfully, holding one of the pictures up, “but this really looks like somebody in my family.”

I look at the picture, and it does sort of resemble one of my grandmothers, and I shrug and agree.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Mindfulness

Katie gets up from where she’s doing her morning work unfolding butterflies and opens the window to a rainy morning. The cat, who up to now has been sleeping next to me on the floor while I do yoga, gets up and trots over to the window, her nose twitching.

“Yeah, you don’t usually get new smells when it’s super hot outside, do you?” Katie says, but the cat ignores her, jumps up on the perch we got her, and lays down staring out the window. I watch her side rise and fall with each breath, and then close my eyes and lie back on my mat to concentrate on my breathing.

Moms and Sons

The woman sitting across from me on the train and her teenage son make quite a pair. She is beautiful, well put together, in a colorful, flowery, sleeveless blouse that shows off her tattoos (the symbol for the astrological sign Cancer on her shoulder and a rose on her hand), and high heels, while her son, in contrast, is stereotypically nerdy: tall, skinny, glasses, in clothes that don’t fit, and a slightly dreamy, slightly ashamed expression, like he’s a bit embarrassed to be existing so loudly. 

I find myself thinking about how kids grow up, how the geeky kid who we thought didn’t have a clue or a future can grow up to be beautiful and successful, and how its possible the mom in this odd couple across from me feels a certain sympathy for her son, because he might be the way she was when she was young.

When I look back, he’s fallen asleep on her shoulder, and she pats his head tenderly.


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Some More

“So what’s your favorite part of the s’more?” I ask as I slowly turn my marshmallow over the gas burner on our stove.

Katie looks at me with the most pitying look I’ve ever seen, then, realizing I’m serious, her face grows stern.

“No such thing,” she says firmly.

“Ah, it’s all one thing,” I say, and she gives look that can only be described as “No doy."

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Better? Or Worse?

When Katie picks her up, the cat instantly goes from a soft, affectionate ball of fur (albeit a starving one who will tell you all about it at the soonest opportunity) to a stiff-legged, humiliated victim of horrendous abuse. From the prison of Katie’s embrace she turns to stare at me balefully.

“Well, at least she’s not actively trying to die,” I say, referring to our first cat, Honey, who liked to hold her breath in rage when people picked her up for snuggles, presumably in order to end her own life and escape the hellscape of existence.

“It’s..., uh..., true,” Katie says, as the cat meows mournfully and twists around until she’s cradled like a baby in Katie’s arms.

Heroism Without the Attitude

The very nice flight attendant who upgraded Katie and me to an exit row is now asking her standard question in a slightly bored tone: “Are you ready, willing, and able to assist in the event of an emergency?”

But when the older lady across the aisle from us doesn’t answer exactly in the affirmative (“I suppose so,” she says in an irritated tone), the flight attendant perks up, and not in happy way.

They go back and forth for a few seconds until the woman finally gives an answer that satisfies our attendant, and then she prepares to go back to the script while the woman mutters under her breath.

“Good,” the attendant says, straightening back up,  “and I can do without the comments."

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Thwarted

When I get within five feet of the squirrel in the middle of the backyard, and he still hasn’t moved, I resort to drastic measures, but even throwing my empty ginger ale can in his direction doesn’t seem to faze him. He starts a little in irritation as it lands in the grass near him, and then proceeds to scamper at a leisurely pace between the trees and under the fence to the neighbor’s yard where he turns back to me as if to ask, “Satisfied, you meanie?”

“Did you come out here just to save that squirrel’s life, Scott?” he says, standing on the back porch with an air rifle in his hands and an exasperated smile on his face.

“What do you think?” I reply with a grin.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Decorative Sasquatch

In an effort to get out of the house, we take a walk on the bike path meandering behind and between the yards of the large suburban homes in Katie’s old neighborhood, with fences and trees guarding immaculate lawns surrounding us on both sides.

Just off the path, we see a tiny, thin vine that seems to be growing out of nothing, attached to nothing, but upon more close examination we notice the almost invisible corkscrew tendrils that anchor it to the dead pine needles littering the ground, and underneath each little leaf, a miniature yellow flower growing.

We continue our walk down the path until we reach a dead end, but as we come around a corner, someone has placed a small statue of a Bigfoot in the traditional pose (walking with a sort of loping gait, hunched a little, looking over his shoulder like he expects somebody to ask him to help him move a couch and he wants to be out of there before it gets awkward). Both of us have been watching Planet of the Apes movies, and so we both jump and yelp a little when we first see it, like we think it might start demanding equal rights.

Pose and Reality

We pose by the water while Katie’s dad takes a photo. I tilt my chin, try to remember to stand up straight, to look into the lens, to smile so it doesn’t look like I’m grimacing. Loud music blares from a speaker where two people sit resting who will, in a moment, be dancing to entertain the throngs of tourists crowding the docks.

We walk back toward the car and pass a child crouching in a fountain as torrents of water firehose onto him, and as we pass, he closes his eyes, moves deeper into the cascade, and seems to disappear almost completely.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Denial

I’m floating in the surf, my head and shoulders just above the surface, my brain waves smoothing out in rhythm with the rollers, when Katie’s brother catches my attention from a few yards away. “They’re coming to get us out,” he says, pointing behind us to the beach.

Katie and her dad are on the shore, the sky behind them piled high with thick, heavy, black clouds, grumbling with thunder.

I turn away, back to the ocean, staring with longing at the tide just starting to come in.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Disturbance in the Force

“Scott,” says Katie, poking her head around the open sliding glass door, “stop reading the internet and come out here."

I dutifully step out into the darkness of a humid South Carolina night, and am greeted by a cacophony of voices: frogs, hundreds of them from the sound of it, all of them ribbiting and creaking and chirping in a metallic, croaking polyrhythm across the lagoon out behind our beach house.

Suddenly, after we listen to them for a few minutes, all of the voices cut off, and Katie and I look at each other curiously. Then, a hiss rises from the lagoon, and we hear a gentle drumming on the patio roof as it begins to rain.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Riding the Waves

There’s a sensation right before the wave comes: like I’m going to be pulled up the glassy green face of it and shot into the sky with the foam.

I push off the bottom and kick like mad, one arm in front to steer, one arm by my side, and I can feel the wave pick me and amplify my momentum. There’s a sound, too, rushing water, surging blood in my ears, and the feeling of flying, of being carried by a force so much bigger than me, lifted by a hand that could accidentally crush me without even knowing that I’m there.

When I’m done, I look back, forty yards or so back to where I started, to see Katie and her brother laughing in the surf, and I stand up in the shallows and start walking back to do it all over again.

Close Enough

‘Pressure Drop’ plays over the resort sound system as I sneak into the restroom during my afternoon on the beach, and I pee and sing along quietly, continuing to do so afterwards as I wash my hands until a man steps up next to me.

“You know who this is?” he says in a Caribbean accent, pointing up at the overhead speaker.

Of course I blank on the band the moment somebody asks me, but I punt, saying, “I know it’s from ‘The Harder They Come.’”

He considers this, then shrugs and nods, like, sure, that’ll do.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Only The Brave Deserve The Fair

We exit the main highway and drive down a tree-shaded road. Katie is checking her phone in the back while Audrey cheerfully continues to chatter away, periodically taking both hands off the wheel to gesture emphatically about a point she is making, and I watch the road in front of us, taking in the gorgeous green of oak and pine surrounding us on all sides.

Suddenly, for no reason, my vision seems to somehow expand, and where I normally see in a narrow slice in front of me, I now see wide-screen, as if the world has opened up, like in The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy’s story goes from black and white into full-blown, saturated color.

My stomach drops away, like I’m not so much moving through the world as falling into it, hurtling into a space that is so rich and deep that I will be swallowed up, so I pull back my consciousness, startled, and the world obligingly retreats into its usual narrow band, normal, ordinary, and I wonder what I have lost.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Cranky at Dinner

Katie pokes her head in the door. “You’re not napping?” she exclaims in faux outrage.

I sheepishly take off my headphones, and over the tinny sound of bass, high hat, and snare rattling from the cans, start to explain, but she brushes me aside.

“If I put you down for a nap and you don’t nap, you might get cranky at dinner!” she says, as if she is pretending to be stern.

Team Sports

“Wasn’t that the dorm where all the football players lived?” Audrey asks as she drives down the road. All of the roads in North Carolina are surrounded by a riot of green - trees, grass verges, shrubs - and the air is wet with humidity.

“On game days, they’d take your IDs and if you were still in there after 11 PM they’d come and find you and throw you, I guess so you didn’t like deplete their testosterone or something,” she continues.

Katie scoffs, “Buncha sexual predators in there."

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Boarding

“I’ve always hated the term ‘pre-boarding,’” Katie says, grimacing as the platinum flyers, the gold level status passengers, the medallion level customers, the whatevers all begin to board the plane before us.

“It’s just a scam to get people to believe that they’re special, to pay for the privilege of being ahead of you,” I reply.

“So if you have ‘Zone 1’ on your ticket, it’s actually, like, the third group to get on,” she says, pointing bitterly at the spots in front of the ticket taker’s desk where each group can line up for ‘Zone 1’ and so-on.

“‘Zone 4’ is actually just the bar next to the gate,” I say, and Katie laughs.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Different Styles

After she double checks the address on the letter she’s sending and then reopens the door on the mailbox to see if it actually went down, Katie notices me smirking.

When she asks me about it, I explain, “Just, you and I do things totally differently.”

“You can’t get it back!” she says defensively. “It’s a federal offense!"

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

When You Have Enough Money to Not Own Anything

“Do these people have anything in their houses?” Katie asks as we walk down another side street. The air is calm and cool, and an almost half-moon hangs in the dusk. 

“It’s like they’re trying to figure out that balance between minimalism and having a really huge house,” I reply. “Minimalism is a privilege."

Storm’s Coming

“Well,” I think to myself, sitting in the kitchen after Katie has left, “I should jump on my bike and head over to the mall to buy those shoes.”

boom goes the sky, in a low-key, grumbly sort of way, and I look out the window to see that the horizon is blanketed in dark, angry looking clouds.

Within minutes, the world has gone three shades darker and more foreboding, and, as the wind begins to throw its weight around and whip the trees back and forth, I text Katie, “Yeah, I think I’m staying home."

Monday, July 16, 2018

Gone for the Summer

The boredom of a Monday night forces us outside, only to find oppressively quiet streets and thick, wet air that slow breezes only stir around to no relief.

“Want to walk toward the park?” I ask Katie. “It might be cooler.”

She thinks it over, maybe mulling the effort required to walk uphill, and finally agrees, so we walk up a side street under lights hazed by halos of moisture past silent homes, and peer in windows at empty kitchens and front halls; nobody home.

Multi Talented

“We should be a band!” my co-worker exclaims. The World Cup final is over, and elated or despondent fans are exiting the bars and examining the items we have for sale.

“You play a lot of instruments,” he continues, “and I can MC, and you,” he says to another of our co-workers, “what do you do?”

“I’m the one who tells you about yourself,” she says sardonically.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Uninspired

This beat, which I’ve been working on for the last hour, changing the drum sounds, changing the accents, this beat... sucks. It’s too slow, or too spare, or just not very exciting, I’m not sure.

I take the headphones off (it continues playing, tinny and faint around my neck) and sigh deeply, and put my hands over my eyes. I can feel the lack of inspiration like a bandana wrapped tight around my head, and, with another sigh, hit stop, unplug the keyboard and USB interface, and begin wrapping up the cables.


Wait Lifting

The third box, the biggest one, is by far the heaviest yet, and I can feel the small of my back protesting faintly until I adjust to lift correctly using my legs.  The contents shift slightly, and I hear the mildly distressing clink and rustle of pulverized glass sifting across the inside of the cardboard.

I haul the box out the front of the store, and as I stomp into the late afternoon, I can hear my landlord behind me. “You don’t have to remember to go to the gym today,” he calls to my retreating back, and I give a grudging, somewhat forced laugh.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lillies Need Sunshine

The cold air of the grocery store chases me out into the mild late afternoon sunshine, and I breathe in the fragrant air. “Did you want to take the long way home?” I ask Katie. 

She looks around hesitantly for a second, then nods. We walk down the hill away from the one church, and toward the other, and the sun turns the bricks all creamy, and the lilies they planted in the churchyard look like they’re just about to open.

SOS

“Stay out here,” I say to Katie before heading back (for the second time) in to the aisle of tools at the local big-box hardware store. “I’ll come get you.”

Like before, there’s nobody in there to help me, and the aisles seem organized in some non-arbitrary but impenetrable fashion that costs me several minutes of wandering before I find what we’re looking for, and then a couple more minutes to dig my way back out.

“I was going to shoot up a flare,” I say when I find her standing next to the bored looking cashier, “but I don’t think they would have approved."

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Contradictions

“This is the knife that almost sliced my finger off right before our wedding,” I say as I use it to slice strawberries for dessert. Katie examines it.

“It’s still pretty dull,” she pronounces.

“It is,” I say, “but the problem is that it’s dull enough to slip, and sharp enough to nearly slice my finger off."

Monday, July 9, 2018

Finished

“He bought a brownstone, just a few blocks from where your parents stayed at that Air Bnb,” Katie says as we walk down Sixth Avenue in Brooklyn. Trees shade the sidewalk and a light breeze keeps us cool on this hot day.

“They paid, like, six million for it and still did a gut renovation on the thing,” she adds incredulously.

“If I pay six million dollars for something, that shit better be finished,” I say

Side Effects

Both Dan and I smell it at the same time: the unmistakeable, piney, pungent odor of weed drifting over the booth in this outdoor market. 

I peek my head around the corner to the alley where we suspect the smell is coming from, and as I do, a guy just sort of standing back there by himself looks up at me, like he’s been waiting for me to show. We lock eyes for a long second before I turn around and go back to the booth.

“Yeah, that guy’s high, totally paranoid,” I say to Dan when I return.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

For Display Only

“Hey,” I say to one of the other vendors who I know has been trained at the booth where I’m working today. “Did they ever teach you how to fold these scarves?”

“No, sorry,” she says, shrugging.

“‘Cause they’re double sided and I want to display both sides, but I’m pretty sure I’m gonna fuck it up,” I say as I walk away.

True Love

“I gotta get ready to go to work,” I say to Katie as I stand up from the couch. She stays where she is.

I’m already halfway down the hall when I hear her stand up too. “Fine, I’ve paused ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ because I love you,” she yell after me.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Allegedly

Katie turns the screen of her phone to me and swipes through another half-dozen photos of our recently deceased puppy. They’re in no particular order, so we watch her transition from relatively young and ridiculously photogenic, to older, slightly crooked, and ridiculously photogenic, and back again.

I’m still feeling a little sad and nostalgic when Katie takes back her phone, then turns it around again, to show me a picture of myself from two years ago: bald, somewhat sickly, thin and pale, clutching Katie’s teddy bear, about to go under the knife for surgery to remove a tumor the size of large grapefruit from my thigh.

“That’s weird,” I say, unable to completely convey how long ago that seems, how far away, as if it happened, not to someone else, but not at all, a rumor I might have heard, scarcely to be believed.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Attitude

“Do not take a cab,” says the woman a few seats behind us on the train home from New Jersey. We’ve spent the Fourth of July celebrating the birthday of our dear friend, but a day out in the continuing heat wave has depleted us, leaving us with very little patience for entitled college students on their cellphones.

“You’ll get caught in firework traffic, and, just, Jesus are you crazy?” she continues, full-voiced.

“I hate her voice, but I like her attitude,” I tell Katie, who sighs, but nods.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Heat Death of the Universe (NYC Edition)

“Do not go outside,” John, our roommate, intones dramatically as he flings open the front door and leaves it to slam to behind him. “It is so hot!”

“Pretty bad, huh?” I say mildly from the kitchen down the hall.

“We’re all going to die,” he says with finality.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Avocado Lottery

The avocados on the bottom shelf are rock hard, the ones on top squishy and disgusting. I touch a few of each to try and find the magic medium and snatch my hand back in horror and repulsion, which draws the attention of another shopper.

“I think there might be one... yes, here you go,” he says, pulling it out and offering it to me.

I take it, and then promptly try and give it back to him, but he demurs, and I put it in my bag with a sort of grateful incredulity, like someone found a winning lottery ticket and just... handed it to me.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Those We Love

The heat is clearly getting to everyone, even if the train is air-conditioned, and people are just sort of barely tolerating one another in such close proximity, so I’m not exactly surprised when a woman makes a loud, startled, angry noise, and I look up from where I’m standing to see a pleasant, soft-eyed dog wearing a muzzle dance away behind his owner from a seated woman giving him the evil eye for having gotten just a little too close.

“Some people don’t like dogs,” Katie says with a shrug.

“Sure,” I say, “but touch my dog and I’ll end your fucking life.”

“Touch my dog and I’ll end your fucking life,” Katie says, nodding.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

It’s All In The Attitude

“I’m not really sure I can pull this off,” the dad says, dubiously eyeing the colorful, differently patterned cuffs and collar on the very fashionable shirt I’m selling at a friend’s booth.

“Well, it’s like how some people say they aren’t ‘hat people?’” I tell him. "Well, you know how you become a ‘hat person?’ You put on a hat."

Emotional

After our meal celebrating my birthday, Katie and I sit close together, holding hands, talking quietly, making jokes, the way we usually do. Two other couples sit a few seats away, chatting pleasantly.

As we go over the bridge, though, the guy wearing the hoodie who’s been curled up in the corner seat suddenly sits up with a stricken look on his face. “Too many emotions!” he whines desperately, then fumbles a cigarette out of his pocket and lights it while the rest of the car stares in mild horror.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Saved by Serifs

Shootings, racist DHS employees, Supreme Court disasters, and an upcoming birthday all join forces to turn the volume WAY up on the noise in my head, until finally Katie has had enough.

“Will it help to try to count the number of cats JT has? They’re all named after fonts,” Katie asks.

We end up debating the relative merits of serifed versus sans serif fonts for over an hour, and how Times New Roman might be one of the more perfect fonts ever made, and, frankly, it really does help.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Memory Loss

“Yeah, he lived with us for a while, and he was a DJ, I think? and he had all his records in this, like, plastic tub that just weighed a ton that we had to carry upstairs. I don’t really know what happened to him...,” I finish, and my voice sort of trails off.

All of these people, more each year, who I know or more like knew, people I don’t speak to anymore, or who don’t speak to me, or who just sort of drifted off, all of these stories that I had with them that don’t have endings, just unravelings.

Memories are not something we carry solely in ourselves, but in the stories between us, and when the other participants are gone, a piece of our own story goes with them.

Wasted Effort

The tall couple that squeezed by us down the row during previews smelled really good - clean and citrusy.

After the movie Katie stands up out of the row and moves behind me, and I stand so they can get out while they gather their trash and bags and get ready to go.

Instead of coming out the way they came in, though, the couple ignore us and make their way out the other end of the row, which is probably smart, but still feels kind of like we’ve been slighted.

I make eye contact, smile, and say, “Okay,” as they go, but the woman only looks confused.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Back to our Regularly Scheduled Program

The SUV to the airport pulls up across the street, and we hustle my mother and father through traffic while the driver folds up my mother’s walker and tosses the luggage in the back. She clambers up into the back seat, and my hand on her back feels huge next to the light, bird-like bones of her back.

“We had such a good time,” she says, after giving me a kiss, and my father, from the other side of the seat, reaches over her back to bump fists before I shut the door.

I back away from the vehicle with an apologetic wave to the truck that’s been idling behind us while we say our goodbyes, and the driver of the truck shrugs while the SUV pulls away, headed toward the airport, and traffic slowly resumes its usual pace, a constantly flowing river of steel that washes away all traces my family was ever even here.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mom Is Independent

After helping my mother to stand up from the bench outside the Botanical Gardens, the stranger says, “If my mama was here and knew that I didn’t help, I woulda got a smack.” He mimes whacking his own wrist.

I nod in agreement as my mother and father make their way to the curb where the car will soon be waiting. “Kinda the same, except my mom would prefer I not help her,” I say, laughing.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Midsummer Lights

The wine sloshing around in my veins as I walk home from my parents’ Air B’n’B makes me pleasantly sleepy, even though there’s still a tint of light left in the sky. We stroll up the hill to our block, passing beneath trees and looking in windows as we pass the houses, and I’m thinking about my upcoming birthday.

Ahead in the dim, twilight shade, a single, tiny green light hovers and flits for a moment and disappears. “Firefly,” I say to Katie, pointing to the space where it was a moment ago, but it’s already gone.

Philosophy

The SUV from North Carolina in front of us is riding the brakes all the way down the West Side Highway, and our driver keeps trying to pass, only to find himself back behind him again when the flow of traffic changes.

“My last business was in cosmetics,” he says after trying to pass again, “but I made a purchase for thirty thousand dollars and the buyer ran off with my money.”

From the back seat I can see him shrug as he continues, “The bank said there was no way to trace him, and I wasn’t even the first person to report him, but everything happens for a reason, so what can you do?”

“Very philosophical,” my mother says thoughtfully.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Young Married Couples

“I was 190 pounds when we first married, a real horse,” my father says. “Resting heart rate around fifty, so when we’d go to to sleep, my breathing would be about the same as my heart rate, so it’d be really slow.”

“When your mom would try to match my breathing, she’d have to wake me up because she was suffocating,” he continues.

“I nearly died!” she exclaims.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What We Think Is Funny

The video our friend sends us of the car burning in the back of the box truck outside our subway station is spectacular - flames leaping high, ashes swirling, the whole thing - and he advises us that the station is full of smoke, maybe to take another way home.

But when we get back to the station from our movie, everything seems to be under control, except somebody has put one of those tiny conical air fresheners you sometimes see in gas station bathrooms at the top of the stairs.

Out on the street, though, the smoldering remains sits sullen in a puddle of sooty water, and the air reeks of smoke and burnt chemicals, causing me to remark, “I can feel myself getting cancer just standing here and breathing.”

“Again!” says Katie cheerfully.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

One Hundred Twenty-Five Steps

I sit up from where I’m writing. “Jesus, I don’t think I left the house today,” I say.

“That’s always a fun realization,” Katie says, slipping a t-shirt over her head as she readies for bed. “Probably only clocked about a hundred and twenty-five steps, too, but, to be fair, we were only up for around twelve hours,” she adds as she heads into the kitchen to make tomorrow’s coffee.

Called On Account Of

The Brooklyn Cyclones are ahead by five runs, which is rare enough that we're all avoiding remarking on it. Superstition.

"I believe they can win," says Pete as he finishes his margarita.

"Well, now you've done it," I say, and it starts to rain.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Charmed, I’m Sure

“Your partner is lovely,” I tell my co-worker Pat after she gives me the bottled water that her partner bought me.

“Yeah, I’m glad you met her,” Pat says with a smile. “Last time we met, you were talking so much about your wife I was like, ‘Yo, I’m not hitting on you, I’m a big ol’ dyke.’”

“Oh, no, I talk about her all the time, and to be fair,” I add, “you might still be hitting on me, because I am damn charming."

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Sleepy Time

I lay down for a nap. The bed is soft, and I am very tired after getting up at five in the morning to work a shift for a friend of mine.

I know that if I lay still for long enough, my body will relax, and sure enough it does, but all that means is that I’m able to feel the adrenaline that has been keeping me upright still shoving its way through my veins. The heavy pounding of my heart shakes my entire body, but the sensation is almost delicious, because I know that very soon I’ll be completely unconscious, and very shortly whatever “I” was will have disappeared in the long, slow labyrinth of my body and sleep.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Night Music

The Philharmonic plays light selections of classical music while we sit on the grass in the park and eat until we have to stop because to eat any more would be injurious. Afterwards there are fireworks, greens and purples and reds and golds sparkling in the sky over our heads, and I try to conjure up the feelings fireworks gave me as a child, the wonder and awe, but for some reason I keep thinking of Weimar Germany, and so many families for whom the upcoming Fourth of July festivities celebrating freedom will just be empty words.

We walk home beside the park afterwards, all the plants exhaling slow, green air for us to inhale, and families and couples peel off down particular side streets according to their privilege. We turn off a bit further along, mostly just following the crossing lights, and see cranes above the buildings, paused in their work remaking the face of Brooklyn, their long necks and heads lowered like enormous, heavy animals, slumbering in the twilight of the glow of the city that burns the thin clouds orange and gray.

Beacon

Riding our bikes back home from the movie theater around midnight, we pass quietly through mostly empty Brooklyn streets, between rows of houses glowing sleepily with warm nighttime light or shuttered and dreaming.

Katie’s taillight blinks red like the lights on the wings of a high, silent airplane as we glide through the cool night air. She passes beneath the shadow of a tree, and I have this vertiginous sensation, a foreground/background shift, snapping the whole street into focus.

The tall trees thick with foliage blocking out the elegant, alien swan-necks of the streetlights; the silent, slumbering houses, and just a few yards ahead, the beacon of my love’s taillight, steady as a pulse, pulling me through the night, guiding me home.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Gentrification

The desolate Brooklyn streets are flanked by warehouses and industrial decay, painted up in gaudy hues with spraypaint murals. We sit on the wood fence and eat pizza while white, college-looking kids drift in and out of the bar next door.

A woman strides by, headphones firmly in her ears. “That’s the first black person I’ve seen in almost an hour,” I say to Katie, and she nods and takes another bite.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

His Face

In the storage space where we keep everything for the family business, at the end of a long hallway, this guy is standing. He squints at me with his mouth open, like he can’t quite believe what he’s seeing, and then starts down the hall toward me wheeling a dolly heavy with boxes.

My heart quickens a little as I realize we’re going to have to pass one another between the seemingly endless rows of identical storage lockers, and I turn up my music like a shield against the world.

He brushes by me without making eye contact, or even acknowledging me at all, while maintaining the same expression, and I realize that may just be his face.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Power Up

“Okay, so, in Super Mario, the raccoon suit? is the best power-up to get,” Katie leans over and murmurs to me as we ride the subway into Manhattan.

“Sure, it like makes you invincible or something,” I reply.

“Yes, but having said that, I would not get the raccoon suit tattooed on my calf,” she says, pointing out the massive, really depressed looking guy in the shorts about to get off the train at the next stop who, sure enough, has the raccoon suit Mario tattooed on his thick calf.

I watch this guy for a bit, his hunched shoulders and dejected expression, and I wish he had been born about five hundred years ago, where, instead of seeming to feel uncomfortable in his own skin, his impressive bulk would have made him the most feared and terrifying of the king’s marauders, allowing him to crack skulls and pillage all over the countryside like the true bad ass he is.