Monday, February 18, 2019

Against Manspreading

There’s a large group of women on the train sitting across the aisle from each other, at least a dozen of them, laughing and talking loudly when I get on. I spot a seat next to them, right by the door, barely big enough for me to fit in, and I smile apologetically as I slide into it.

They ignore me and continue their multiple conversations, raucously laughing and talking over each other. I try to make myself as inconspicuous as possible, and am suddenly very conscious of how much space I take up, carefully keeping my knees close together so as not to encroach on anyone by accident.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be

The old black Ford at the stoplight carries the rumbling throb of its engine around it like a bass halo to match its glossy paint job. The circular red tail lights with protuberant knobs the same color, the sleek curves and angular lines of its body, the fins, the white leather interior, all scream a heightened, fifties vision of the future that doesn’t really exist anymore. I shake my head in wonder as it rolls by.

But when I walk through its wake as it roars off into the night, all I breathe is the smell, the chemical taste, of gasoline and exhaust, and it’s been so long since I’ve inhaled anything like it that I have no question as to the source of the odor.


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Reasons

A guy in shabby, dirty clothes lies across the bench in the subway, flat on his back with his eyes closed. He doesn’t smell that I can make out, as people in shabby clothes sleeping on subways sometimes do, but other riders seem to be avoiding that end of the car anyway, perhaps just on general principle (a man willing to violate the norms of the transit system so flagrantly (vagrantly?) might be capable of anything).

We pull into the station at Hoyt-Schermerhorn, which is distinguished both for its very fun-to-say name and by its unusual color scheme, in which the color brown predominates, and on the doors opening, the sleeping man stirs from his slumber, nimbly bounces to his feet and bops out the door, walking down the platform at an unhurried but determined pace.

So, of course, there are reasons, and Mr. Sleeps-on-the-Subway may have an active and rich personal and social life, but still I find myself asking: “Where, exactly, did that guy have to be?"

Icing Her Out

“I guess I’m not girly enough to like butterflies,” her friend says as she buys a beautiful specimen.

“You know who really likes butterflies that I was surprised about, is little boys,” I say while ringing up her friend.

“Yeah, they probably want to pull their wings off,” she replies with a vicious grin.

I stop what I’m doing and fix her with my iciest gaze, saying, “I haven’t found that to be the case at all."

Friday, February 15, 2019

Forgiving

“More boxes, eh?” John says, as he wanders through the ruins of our living room with his morning coffee. A shipment of glass came in earlier this week, and while we have plans to reorganize the house into something livable in March, our current market schedule makes those plans impossible to implement right now, which leaves us surrounded by stacks of large cardboard boxes as tall as Katie.

“Yeah, sorry we wrecked the place,” I say apologetically.

“It’s okay, I mean, it is your house,” he says with a shrug.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

To See What Other People Like

She’s buying a gift for her husband, who likes butterflies. She does not like butterflies, not in a nasty way, but in a freaked-out kind of way, which means that every minute in our booth is a tiny slice of torture for her.

But still she perseveres, going through each shelf, looking closely at the pieces, examining the butterflies and moths, considering the merits and drawbacks of each type of glass.

Finally, kneeling next to a shelf, she looks up at me with a genuine sad confusion, and asks, “What exactly do people like about these?"

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Puddles

I liked these winter boots that Katie got me so much that, after the first pair wore out, I got another, identical pair. They’re thick-soled and have a woven insert made of some synthetic material that makes them impervious to cold down to (supposedly) negative forty degrees, which is a ridiculous temperature in any case.

My favorite thing to do in these boots is stride through the deep, slushy puddles that accumulate near the corners of the sidewalks without breaking stride, because it makes me feel like a badass.

But when I stepped in one today, the puddle splashed, and a guy attempting to walk around it got some on his shoes, and I felt a little bad, but I figured the best thing to do would be to keep walking, and try to do better next time.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Breaking the Law

Night - the sign on the opened gate to the darkened field behind the playground reads: “No Dogs On The Field.”

I hear laughing, and a sound like the jingling of keys. On the field are two people and two dogs, standing in the dark.

On no perceptible signal, both dogs simultaneously begin tearing in circles around the two humans, who are now doubling over with laughter, until the dogs suddenly stop, and in a spasm of ecstasy suddenly begin chasing each other up and down the length of the field, which only causes their humans to laugh harder.

Transform, But Not TOO Much

“I had something really transformative happen, so I wanted to buy a butterfly,” she says.

“You know, an interesting thing about butterflies,” I say, "is that when they transform from their caterpillar stage in the chrysalis into the butterfly, they dissolve completely. So there’s no structures left over from the caterpillar in the butterfly at all - the change is so complete.”

“A lot of people want transformation, but they don’t want to change anything that they are,” I finish as she smiles a sort of bewildered smile.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

My Phone Needs a Therapist

My phone has been exhibiting signs of some sort of personality disorder lately.

When I was composing a text to Katie about some ordinary thing, I typed, “It doesn’t,” and the predictive text suggested, for the next word, “matter.” As if nothing mattered - clearly depressive.

And when she sent me a text complaining about cold toes while she was working, I replied with, “I don’t like you having c...,” upon which my phone, seeing the “c,” suggested “conversations” which seems a little possessive and maybe a trifle stalkerish?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Play It Cool

“I took my son to a Jasper Johns exhibit, because I wanted him to get a photo with Johns, but he didn’t show up,” the artist says sadly as he looks around at Katie’s work. “There was this other famous artist there, but I decided just to leave him alone.”

“Yeah, I see John Turturro in Park Slope all the time, but, you know, we’re New Yorkers, so we’ve got to play it off like it’s no big deal,” I reply.

“Oh, not me - I’m too much of a small town guy, so I totally freak out,” he says.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Working for Ourselves

“You knew what this was!” Katie calls down the hall after me as I go to retrieve her water bottle from where she left it in her studio.

I feel along the wall just inside the door to the tiny room where she makes most of her work, and flip on the light. I then crab-walk sideways around the jutting out branches, step over glass and cardboard and styrofoam to where her water-bottle is perched amid butterflies and congealed piles of glue, grab it and get out, shutting off the light as I go.

Her studio smells like sawdust, and I inhale happily, then close the door behind me.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Necessity of Beauty

“So what do you like about butterflies?” I ask the woman who has described her extensive butterfly tattoos while she examines Katie’s sculptures.

“Transformation,” she says simply, after giving it some thought. “And just, they’re so beautiful.”

“You know,” I say, warming up to the topic, "I don’t think people give enough credit to that, like they think that if something is beautiful, it can’t be important, or serious, or necessary."

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Clumsy

“It hasn’t been happening for six months,” I say irritably, picking up the pencils that I just knocked off my bedside table.

“I just want you to know,” Katie says in an infuriatingly reasonable tone, “so that when your legs give out or you pass out and you go to the doctor, and they ask, ‘How long has this been going on?’ you can say, ‘Oh, hey, this is what Katie was talking about when she said I was dropping things a lot lately.’”

Later, in the kitchen, the cat is peacefully gorging herself on a small plate of Friskies Turkey and Cheese Dinner when I open the freezer, pull out the ice cube tray and dump fresh ice cubes into the bucket.

Even though I don’t drop any, she still sprints from the room.

Eating (It In) Crow

The cold of the past few days has abated somewhat, but I’m still dealing with the repercussions. My hands are rough and scaly, cracking and bleeding in a few places, while the rest of my skin toughens into sandpaper.

It’s not too bad, really, except when I try to do the yoga pose I’ve been working on most recently, which is called crow, and which involves balancing the knees on top of the arms while the hands prop the whole thing up.  My skin is so paper dry that I can’t get my knees up onto my upper arms to balance, since they just slip off and send me sprawling on my face.

Monday, February 4, 2019

I’m a Hugger

“When I get my apartment cleaned, and get all new stuff, new furniture, then I can get one of these beautiful pieces,” she says, her eyes glittering as she takes in all of Katie’s sculptures.

I don’t tell her I’ve heard this before, so many times, from people who deny themselves beauty, deny themselves the things they want in this life because they don’t think they deserve them, because their lives are a mess, and who never get their lives together because they don’t really believe they deserve that, either.

Instead, I look at her, and as gently as I can, say, “I wish for you that life that you just envisioned for yourself.”

Her eyes still glitter, but now with tears, as she says, “Can I hug you?"

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Evil Eye

I’m almost at the bottom of the stairs when the older woman starts up the same side of the stairs, but when she sees me she moves over to the other side, and fixes me with a quick glare.

I only have a second to think, “God, it’s almost like she cursed me,” before I feel my foot slip out from under me. I don’t even try to catch myself, it happens so fast, as my shoulder hits the railing, and then I fall straight on my ass, letting out a bitter “Ha!” as I do.

She doesn’t break stride, she doesn’t ask if I’m okay, she doesn’t even look at me as she steps around my prone form and continues on her way up the stairs.

Asking the Real Questions

“I’m cutting things out. Therapeutically,” she says, proceeding to do exactly that with a piece of yellow cloth printed with the outlines of glittering gold flowers.

Before I can ask if it’s working, she looks at me seriously and says, “I’ve been meaning to ask you...,” then trails off.

I wait patiently, and my patience is rewarded when she continues, “Are there... any shows... you and Katie are watching?"

Friday, February 1, 2019

Friend Found

I think the guy at the counter that lines the window looking out on 7th Avenue believed he was going to have more room before I slid in next to him to watch the street outside while I waited for Katie to join me. All his buddies and co-workers, bunches of folks in khakis and polo shirts, all showed up and stand around holding their beers awkwardly behind me.

I looked down at my phone to see where Katie’s little dot appeared on the “Find My Friends” app, and she seemed pretty close. When I looked up, she was directly in front of me pressing her palms on the window with a look of manic glee on her face.