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 soup├žon 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.