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


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.


“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


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


“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


“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.