Sunday, March 24, 2019

House of Sickness

Katie and I are both at different stages of a cold we’ve been fighting, and last night was particularly bad with coughing and being unable to sleep.

“Once my coughing did stop, though,” I say, choosing my words carefully, “I had trouble getting to sleep because there was... snoring.”

“Fair, fair,” Katie says, “but I was awakened a lot by your coughing, so.”

Later she adds, “You have this amazing talent for not coughing, for holding back from coughing, for a really long time, and then turning over and coughing into the back of my head."

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Talkers

“Let’s cross to the other side,” I say to Katie as we’re walking down the street. “There’s some ‘talkers' at the corner.”

And so we cross in the middle of the block, to the shady side of the street, to avoid the two kids in matching green outfits standing at the corner with clipboards, waiting to accost strangers in a shameless attempt to guilt the various monied walkers of Park Slope into donating to some relatively wary cause or other.

While we stand at the corner in a crowd waiting to cross the intersection to continue on our way unmolested, I wonder to myself what a traffic analyst would make of these two kids changing the pedestrian flow for blocks in either direction, as people like us crossed the streets to avoid talking to them.

We’re Not The Only Ones She Knows

“Look who it is,” I say to Katie, and sure enough, coming up the sidewalk is our neighbor friend whom we haven’t seen in ages.

“Man, I’m seeing all the people I know on on block,” she replies in a friendly way, and we settle in to chat for a minute. We exchange pleasantries, offer her a few compliments on her new look, but then she stops us.

“Actually, I really am seeing everyone I know on this block, and I kind of have to go meet him,” she says apologetically, indicating over our shoulders a fellow waving about half-a-block down.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Depends How Hard You Scrub

“I have a question,” I say to Katie over the hiss of the shower while I wash my hands at the sink.

“Am I being scolded?” she says sadly.

“No, it’s a legitimate question: Does it ever hurt your hands to wash the dishes?”

“Do you mean, like, ache, or actually hurt?” she replies.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

He Never Has a Second Cup At Home

The restaurant didn’t get my order - not their fault, okay, but still a bit inconvenient when I walk seven blocks to pick it up and they haven’t started it yet.

But I don’t lose my cool, tell them I’ll wait while they take care of it, and I guess my attitude rubs off, because after everybody calms down, they offer me a cool beverage while I wait, and I accept it gratefully, but warn them, “Nothing with caffeine, please.”

They’re not sure which of their drinks has caffeine, but one of the guys behind the counter shrugs and jokes, “Hey, I’m willing to experiment.”

“Oh, you’re willing to experiment on this guy here, sure, but are you willing to give me your phone number so I can give you constructive feedback on your experiment when I’m up at three in the morning?” I joke back.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Gratitude

I stand under the hot water in the shower, letting it run down my face and body, while Katie brushes her teeth at the sink. On her phone, a podcast is playing, reciting its usual litany of murder and betrayal.

Earlier, I watched a movie about drug lords and soldiers murdering each other in a country of poverty and despair.

The house is empty except for us and the cat, the doors are locked, we are well fed and relatively secure, and up above an almost-full moon shines serene in a quiet sky, but it’s not like that everywhere, and the calm order of my life seems, sometimes, like a miracle.

Not The Cat’s Birthday

We come back from dinner stuffed just shy of the point of injury, and let ourselves in to the apartment to the vehement protestations of our cat. She can tell time somewhat, and she can count up to three, so she knows the count is off and it is well past her deadline for dinner.

Katie sits on the couch while I go fetch her birthday presents from the bedroom, and the cat follows me back, meowing pitifully and attempting to indicate by example that the kitchen is just past the bedroom, dummy. I turn around and head back to the front of the house without feeding her, and her disappointment in my idiocy is palpable as she slinks back into the living room, like what did I do to be saddled with such negligent dopes.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Tear Down The Wall

In the greenhouse at the New York Botanical Garden, surrounded by a riot of green leaves and luscious orchids that swell and throb with color, my eye strays down to a small plant, growing in the seam between two stones in a wall. It’s not big, but it’s well established and solidly planted.

“Oh, that wall is done for,” I say to Katie.

“If we could see plants growing at the same speed we move around, we’d be terrified,” she replies.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Counter-intuitive

Leda, carved in stone, stares down lovingly at the equally stoney swan which she holds by the neck with gentle double-entendre, who gazes back with what can only be called lecherous affection (if such a thing is possible for a bird).

“So the God, Jupiter, or Zeus, really, was stalking her and changed himself into a swan so that he wouldn’t be noticed when they got together,” Katie’s mom explains as they stare up at the statue.

“That’s very counter-intuitive,” Katie says, looking at me and then back up to the swan.. “And I have several follow up question.:

Sagittarius Retrograde

Our friend talks about astrology all the time, specifically about her own sign (Sagittarius) and how she’s “such a Sag” (pronounced SAAHJ).

I don’t really “believe” in astrology - despite the fact that I probably could still draw a relatively decent birth chart for you if I knew your date, time, and city of birth, and with a calculator I could probably progress your birth moon - I just find it fun, and interesting, way of looking at the world.

So when I point out Katie’s necklace (which I bought for her for Christmas), I’m surprised that our friend doesn’t recognize the astrological sign for Pisces, which is Katie’s birth sign.

She squints at it for a second, then smiles brightly and starts talking about herself again.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Friendly?

“I see you’re married,” says the guy after signing my timesheet at the temp gig. “How long?”

I take a beat to process this, since: 1. I didn’t know he was paying attention to anything about me at all, because 2. this is the first overtly friendly gesture he’s made in two days and I’m not entirely sure what it means or why he’s decided to change it up now.

“Um, yeah, married nine years this September!” I say cheerfully after I recover and fold the timesheet to put it in my bag.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Dutch Courage

“Had enough for one day?” I say to the only guy who really talked to me like I was a person during my temp gig today as he’s grabbing his jacket from the closet - he’s an older gentleman, a board member of the company I’m working at, and Dutch, which makes him refreshingly egalitarian, and not at all taken aback at my familiar tone.

“There’s an American phrase I like,” he begins, thoughtfully. “‘Liquored up,’which I like because it reminds me of cowboys, so now I am going to go get, as you say, ‘liquored up.’”

“Well, it’s nice to have a hobby,” I reply.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Spam Filter

“Hey there, animal lover,” the guy standing on the corner with the clipboard says as I’m about to cross the street to go to the grocery store.

I feel sorry for these guys - I know they’re just trying to make a living, like all of us, and since they have few skills that anyone will pay them for right now, they have to be the human equivalent of a spam email, accosting random strangers on the street - so I try to be nice to them without wasting my time.

“Hey, it’s you again!” I say with a big smile and a wave.

His smile falters in confusion for a second, so I administer the finishing blow with a, “Hey, I’m not going to stop, but have a good day, okay?"

I Think I Know Which I Am

We’re walking down the street, about to pass a school yard, when a kid comes up to us and says, “My friend kicked the ball and it went under that car across the street.”

So of course I go and get the ball from under the car, feeling very grown up and sort of, well, “cool" isn’t exactly the word, but certainly helpful.

But when I throw the ball back to the kid, I manage to both throw the ball poorly enough to almost not make it to the kid at all, and throw my hat out in the middle of the street, and then when I go to retrieve my hat I only avoid being hit by a car because the driver of said car has seen that an idiot is about and slows down.

“Whoa!” says the kid, marveling, I presume, at my singular lack of skills, while Katie watches with a simultaneously concerned and embarrassed look on her face, and I find myself pondering that old saying about God looking after fools, drunks, and old people.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Sun Was Still Out

My legs ache and my feet throb from having been walking around all day, but there’s still a long stretch of Flatbush Avenue to traverse before I can rest my bones.

When I walk past the bar on the corner, there’s a line outside - at 5:30 PM; on a Sunday. Okay, maybe something’s on TV, some kind of sports event or whatever, but that’s not what gives me pause.

At the door, the bouncer is giving each person who enters the bar a full and thorough putdown, checking for weapons, and really getting up in there on every person, and while I’m trying not to stare as I trudge by, I can help thinking: at 5:30 PM, on a Sunday.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Butting In

“What’s west Texas like?” her friend asks.

“Well, it’s like the surface of Mars, but it smells like gasoline,” I say, truthfully.

“That’s why we only pay a dollar forty per gallon,” a dude who was not involved with this conversation and who is not known to any of us says, butting in.

“I take the subway,” I say, deadpan, giving him a hard look.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Not My Place to Judge

Standing in line for the pharmacist, Katie and I chat vacantly about the shampoo and conditioner, and why the tubes of lotion are locked up with a key, but the nicotine patches aren’t.

A song comes over the store soundsystem, something about “making this place your home,” which sounds to me like one of those bands that wore suspenders and had creative facial hair and played acoustic instruments back in the early 2010’s. I think to myself, but do not say aloud, that this is one of the whitest songs I’ve heard today.

The black guy sitting in the waiting area for the pharmacy starts singing along, and I mentally shrug, because obviously it doesn’t matter what I think is white or not.

Etiquette, Shmetiquette

She’s blocking the entrance to the grocery store with one of the enormous tank-like strollers that are de rigueur for the mothers of Park Slope, staring intently at the screen in her hand, a million figurative miles away. I manage to sidle around her and reach the door just as she realizes she’s utterly in the way, and she makes a little “oh!” of distress and starts to wrestle her stroller out of the doorway, which now moves her into my way.

But I’m a polite guy, raised relatively right, so I try to move out of her way to let her pass through the door before me, but she’s pulling back to let me go through, only to see me trying to let her through, so she moves just as I see her pulling back, so I try to go through, which gets in her way, etc.

Repeat a couple more times, until I get disgusted and just go through the door, etiquette be damned.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Not Scared

“Some people got mugged at Grand Army Plaza,” Katie says, looking up from her phone.

That’s one of our usual subway stops, so I’m a little concerned, but we agree that a guy my size is unlikely to be mugged, all things being equal.

Later that night, we get off at Grand Army Plaza on our way home from a night out, and there’s a guy vaguely fitting the description of the mugger standing under the stairs looking like he’s sizing people up in a nefarious sort of way, so I point him out to Katie.

“Yeah, I like to make strong eye contact with people like that,” Katie replies, grinning sharply.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Wasted on the Young

“So when you were down in Miami, did you stay at your company’s hostel?” I ask the friend of ours who still works at the company Katie worked at before the butterfly business took off.

“Yeah, I’m too old to stay at that place,” he says ruefully.

“When I Katie and I stayed there last year, coming back at night? we’d just walk past the pool, surrounded by all these beautiful, young people, and straight back to our room,” I say.

“They’re just sitting there, with their whole lives ahead of them,” he agrees, shaking his head in amazement.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Good Trees

A square concrete block, about a foot-and-a-half on each side with some sort of spout or drain coming out one side, pokes out of the rapidly melting snow on one edge of this meadow in Prospect Park, and I sit down on it to watch Katie take pictures of the trees. She’s focused in on a pair of slim, smooth-barked trees that are otherwise bare but for the entirely out-of-season Christmas ornaments festooning their branches, and although they stand out a bit, the look isn’t completely inappropriate.

Once she finishes, she joins me on the block to admire some of the larger arboreal specimens, and she points out the small patches of snow that seem to serve as little accents on the darker branches.

But I’m taken by an enormous pin-oak that towers above the entrance to a tunnel, its naked branches stark and bristling against the blue sky, its thick, heavy trunk sturdy as a stone in the iced ground, its matte bark pied in green and blond and dark brown, and I can’t help but exclaim, “Goddamn, those are some good trees."

Monday, March 4, 2019

Reflecting

It’s 1:00 AM, and it’s snowing again, so I open up the top half of the kitchen window and rest my chin on the frame, drinking in the cold, stony tasting air.

The sky is close and gray, and the backyards behind our apartment building are lit up like dim daylight. I try to imagine how it’s possible that it can be so bright outside in the middle of the night.

Maybe there’s a feedback loop, between the light of the city reflecting off the clouds, reflecting off the snow, reflecting back up into the sky, like two soft mirrors facing one another, amplifying the ambient light and diffusing it all over everything, as the quiet snow swallows up the dark earth.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Bringing Peace

All the rock and pop music on my phone isn’t cutting it, so when the train goes up on the bridge, and I’m able to get a signal, I switch over to my classical music playlist and queue up “Venus, the Bringer of Peace” from Holst’s Planets suite.

As the twinkling notes of the song rise up in my headphones like stars appearing in the darkness, the twinkling lights of Manhattan rise up on the other side of the river. The music brings out the calm, stately version of the city, a version that, despite the avarice and hustle and grind, despite everything, really, still exists.

It’s much easier to see from so high up, but, even as the song continues, we descend the other side of the bridge and down, into the darkness beneath the city.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Snowy Morning

The cat’s pleas (delivered while stomping on my chest, full voice, with all the rage of a thousand kibbles denied) and my own restlessness rouse me from bed hours before my “shame alarm” is set to go off, and I stumble into the grainy half-light of the morning kitchen. Out the back window, the lightly snowy backyards of the buildings behind us are a study in half-tone contrasts, all white and black and a million grays in-between. A few final snowflakes hurry down the sky, like soldiers arriving late to a battle that’s already over, to lay themselves down in the field next to their brethren and dream of soft and quiet.

The microwave goes off, the cat’s food is ready, and I lean down to receive my high-five in payment for her food, which she, after a moment’s thought, reluctantly gives.

Friday, March 1, 2019

A Shinto Farewell

I stand in the now empty storage space. All of our stuff that was in here is now loaded into a rental truck and is waiting upstairs for me to drive it home.

“You’ve been a great space,” I say to the bare room, my voice echoing off the corrugated steels walls and concrete floors, “and you really helped us out, helped us to get free, so... thanks.”

I feel a little foolish for a second, but then I touch the wall, fondly, like I’m petting a horse, and a sudden, genuine gratitude wells up in my chest, so I sit with that for a bit, until I finally turn to leave, closing the door behind me.