Sunday, May 26, 2019

Appropriate

The hot, sunny day curdled into in a drenching rainstorm, leaving a thin film of humidity over everything as I walk home from the subway.

As I cross the street, a car waiting to turn edges closer to the crosswalk, and I hear, from inside the car, a woman’s voice shout, “Fucking move!”

I neither quicken nor slow my pace, but continue to the curb, and as soon as I’m out of the crosswalk, the car roars through, with some further choice words I can’t make out and a cackling laugh from the passenger side.

They speed to the next stoplight, only to get stuck behind a garbage truck, and I smile.

Unsolicited Advice

“Yeah, I can’t really take credit for any of this,” I say, indicating all of Katie’s sculpture art in the booth, “since my wife makes all of it.”

“You’re a lucky man,” the guy replies.

“You know,” I say, and something in my tone makes him look up at me, so now we’re eye to eye, “the secret to being lucky is knowing that you’re lucky.”

He takes this in, then says, as he walks away, “I’ll keep that in mind."

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Little Drunk People

The play date seems to be going well, until the mothers decide it’s time to go. They call their respective toddlers, and while the little girl toddles dutifully back, the little boy, on being called, takes one look over his shoulder at his imploring mother, and then takes off in the opposite direction with a determined waddle.

He’s in no real danger, and he can’t go very fast, but his mother, clearly having gone through this bit a fair number of times, watches him wander like a drunk person over the grass with a resigned look in her eyes.

“Um,” says the other mother tentatively as the boy totters over to a tree and leans on it with both hands like he’s trying to push it over, “have you thought about maybe giving him a bribe?"

Friday, May 24, 2019

Attention Must Be Paid

The three girls get on the train in full voice, joking, talking trash, taking up all the air in the car. The doors shut, and one of them shouts, “What time is it? Showtime!” and her friends laugh, they’re not really doing Showtime, but the rest of the train ignores them, and this simply will not do.

She steps to the aisle, turns to her friend, and as she starts to do a little shuffle, says, “Clap or something, girl."

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Nice Day For a Picnic

A mob of very young school children, thirty or forty at least, herded by a train of attending adults, come into the park while I’m eating lunch. Their semi-tidy line, a convoy of big heads all about the same height on top of small, compact little bodies, collapses into small pods of children as the adults lay out blankets for a picnic on the grass under the trees.

Periodically, one of the children will stand and revolve over to another pod, where he or she will talk to an adult, or to another child in tiny, piping voices that I can’t really hear except as a high countermelody above the burble of noise in the park, and then yet another child will stand and move to yet another pod, like some diagram of an obscure chemical process, ions and protons exchanging their orbits in a lovely, burbling dance.

I watch the groups shift and the adults try to keep track as the children wander here and there, beneath the trees, on the grass, under a blue sky, the bright sun shining down, and a pleasurable pressure builds up just behind my eyes; I take it all in, and sigh.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Helping the Lost

There’s only one turnstile at this subway entrance, and this woman’s inability to figure out how to swipe her MetroCard through the reader has caused a serious line to form behind her.

Finally, the green “Go” sign lights up, but then she pushes the turnstile around without going through it, and everyone in the line groans.

The woman behind her walks her to one side, gently explaining her mistake, and then goes through, seemingly leaving the woman stranded outside the subway.

But then she comes around to the fire exit door, slams her hip into the bar, and lets the woman in with a grim smile, leaving before the woman can thank her.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Witchy

I’m exhausted from a long night and an early morning, sitting at the front desk of the doctor’s office.

“Okay, if you could just fill out these forms, three pages, make sure you fill in every line, sign the third page...,” I say to the patient in front of me, when I sense the woman I work with behind me.

“Hey little boy, want some candy?” she says in a witchy voice, then cackles at her own joke as she puts three small pieces of chocolate next to me.

“You know that got creepy, right?” I interrupt myself to say to her, which brings on another fit of cackling.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Ah, Youth

The two kids behind the counter at the Uhaul are flirting pretty hard, and they don’t care who sees.

When he asks to borrow her scanner to complete my transaction, she hands it to him with a wicked smile and a saucy, “Tap it.”

This gets a big, knowing laugh from him, and then he shakes his head and sings quietly, in a thick Caribbean accent, “Me ‘fraid the pussy bite me.”

Now they’re both laughing, totally in their own world, and I just stand, smiling, pretending I don’t know what’s going on, happy just to see them enjoying themselves, each other, their youth.

Sarcasm is Impolite, But Appropirate

“So a lot of the problems between, say, the Hutus and the Tutsis, I mean, it would be ahistorical to not see how that came from colonialism, so a lot of the racism in specifically Africa supports and comes from white supremacy,” I say to Katie as she’s getting ready for bed. “Anyway,” I sigh, “it’s complicated.”

“Oh, wait,” Katie says from the bathroom as she pretends to take notes on her hand, “you say racism is complicated?”

I laugh as she continues, still pretending to write, “I just want to make sure I get all this."

Friday, May 17, 2019

They Can’t All Be Deep

After several weeks of eating lunch in a sort-of park (really more a patch of grass with some public art and a couple of benches) that took almost fifteen minutes to walk to from my work, today I ate lunch in Fort Greene Park, which is a real-ass park, with hills and paths and trees and lots of grass and a graceful, tall memorial to the Prison Ships Martyrs. It was less than five minutes away.

I climbed up some stone steps and followed a coarsely graveled concrete path to a bench where I sat and ate a sandwich while, far below, the Mr. Softee ice-cream truck played it’s cheerful, incessant song over and over.

I was reading while I ate, so it took me a while to notice that I had dripped a little bit of food on my pants; then it started to rain.


Not Talking to Me

The grocery store doesn’t seem to have the brand of turkey dogs that Katie likes, but I’m lingering by the packaged meats section, hoping they’ll magically materialize. 

“Disgusting,” a low voice behind me says, and I turn to see an older black woman watching me with a sour look. “All this meat, don’t even know what’s in it, killing things, chemicals, disgusting.”

I consider engaging, but after a moment’s thought decide that she wouldn’t care if I was a vegetarian even if she knew, and so I retreat into the white New Yorker’s standard gambit of “they must be talking to someone else."

Thursday, May 16, 2019

New Panhandling Technique

We’re standing on the corner after the play, chatting away about nothing, just enjoying one another, when a skinny man in a navy blue hoodie walks up

He asks for change, we don’t have any, but instead of that being the end of it, he gets agitated and starts saying he “won’t take no for an answer.”

Now this kind of bullshit may work on the tourists, but we’ve been here a while, so it goes back and forth for a minute until finally, Katie steps forward and says, in her most serious Katie voice, “We don’t have anything to give you.”

Something snaps in his eyes, he says, “I give up,” and he’s walks into the crosswalk and lies down in the middle of the intersection; an SUV drives up, honks, and then goes around his prone form.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Not Much of a Mystery

“I think there must be something going on with eggs right now,” I tell Katie. “A dozen are ninety-nine cents.”

She agrees this is amazing and goes online to find out why, finding articles from 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018, all of them positing different reasons for the price of eggs, but this doesn’t satisfy her, so she goes quiet for a while, reading.

“There are just a lot of eggs,” she finally says after a few minutes, with a note of disappointment. 


Monday, May 13, 2019

Getting My Steps In

I can take the stairs up to my current temp job, nine floors.

At about floor four, I’m starting to breathe a little harder, but by floor eight my legs are burning and I’m really huffing.

I reach the ninth floor, pushing the pace as much as I can, get to my little reception desk, and have a seat. I can see the rainy day descending out the office window, while I sit at the desk, legs throbbing pleasantly from the exertion, and my anxiety has mostly disappeared.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A Mother’s Blessing

“I often think back to that conversation we had, years ago, when you first met Katie,” my mother says. “You asked me, ‘Don’t I deserve to be happy?’ and I said yes, you did.”

“And now I am,” I say.

“I’m so glad you found someone who makes you happy,” she says.

Escape

A minor back injury, not serious, but painful, makes this shift at my friend Dan's booth selling vintage toys seem a lot longer than it is, and standing on my feet all day is not helping anything. Finally, I take his advice and have a seat for a few minutes, just to rest, but something in my expression must have shown my frustration, because one of the other vendors (a bit of a joker) walks over with a serious look on his face.

“Are you in debt to Dan or something? ‘Cause if you are, say the word, I'll give my people a call and we’ll get you out of here."

Hard to Tell

Bill takes out the garbage for my apartment building, like a super, except that’s all he does in that capacity: he takes out the garbage and nothing else.

“I like to play this game when I go out to bars,” he tells me as he’s hauling the trash to the curb. “I tell the bouncer, ‘If I'm less than twenty years older than you, I’ll pay double, but,” he stops and puts up his hand, like he’s swearing an oath, "if I’m right, and I’m twenty years older than you, or more, then I don’t pay to get in.”

He looks pretty good for his age, dark hair, no grays, sort of indeterminate Mediterranean face that looks kinda old starting in their mid-thirties and just settles into that, so I tell him, “I bet you win that game a lot."

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Object of Discourse

I’m standing by the window, looking out on a gray and gloomy day, when Katie comes up behind me.

With an audible gasp, she grabs the back of my head and points my face towards a beautiful dog walking across the street.

“One day, you’re going to break my neck doing that,” I tell her, laughing.

“Listen, my elbow hurts, which is clearly what we should be talking about,” she replies.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

We Cinephiles

“What movie you going to see tonight?” my co-worker asks.

“We’re going to go see the new Avengers movie,” I reply happily.

“Ooooh, some of the women get special five dollar tickets to see things and they went and saw Avengers and they said it was so good,” she says. “Y’all see Deadpool?"

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Eye Contact

The heat in the sauna is enveloping and invasive: I can feel the hot air sinking deep into my lungs with every slow breath as my body struggles to raise and lower my chest against the weight of it.

A couple, a man and a woman, come in quietly and lay down at the other end of the room, but the constant proximity of near naked bodies at the spa today has made me very careful to keep myself to myself, so I say nothing and continue my slow, soporific descent into the center of the heat.

At last I’ve had enough, and I get up to make my retreat to the relative coolness of the hall outside, but as I do, I notice, out of the corner of my eye, the woman of the couple is lying down, face up, and is staring at me.

I do not make eye contact, and I do not pause, I simply pick up my towel, and exit.

Sunshine

I pop on my sunglasses right before I leave the house, but I can still feel the sun peeking around the edges, reaching around the frames to tickle my irises. After yesterday’s rain, the sky shines blue, and the air smells clean, and the dogs are leading their people around by the leash, and it’s just wonderful.

I’m running a few minutes late, though, so I hustle across the street to the shady side and begin my quick walk to the subway. In my hustle, I start to think about the woman who was mean to me last week at my temp job, the dozens of people who come in, demanding things of me, and I get so worked up over stuff that hasn’t happened yet that I almost forgot what a lovely day it is, when I walk around the last corner before the subway, only to be struck full in the face by more sunshine, and suddenly I’m back in my body, back in the here and now, ready to love the day as it is, grateful to be alive.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Margaritas and Memories

Mezcal is my preferred liquor for making margaritas - the smokiness of it, along with a smooth sweetness, just turns an ordinary drink into something more.

I’ve finished making guacamole, figuring we’d use the Cinco de Mayo nonsense as a nice excuse to cook food and make drinks that we love, and I take a long sip of my margarita. None of that sour mix garbage for us - margaritas in this house consist of fresh squeezed limes, agave syrup, and mezcal.

I inhale the scent of smoke before I taste anything else: it reminds me of pipe smoke, of campfires in the desert, of a sunset over saguaro, looking down from a high place as the rocks cool in the dusk, and the burning sky goes dark and fills with stars.

Taking Out the Garbage

I hoist my bike down the stoop and spend a moment adjusting my clothes and backpack for riding. The garbage and recycling bags I left out last night for pickup are where I left them, getting wet in the morning rain.

But lurking down every side street and idling at every street corner, the garbage trucks are finishing up their rounds, and I guess they just haven’t gotten to our house yet. One stops by the curb in the middle of the block, taking up the bike lane, and I ride in a wide arc around it, carefully checking behind me for overtaking traffic, only to see a good half-dozen other garbage trucks, circling the blocks like sharks.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Completing the Circle

On the way home from the store, we see, coming down the street, a former roommate of ours who, it turns out, has moved away and had only literally that moment arrived in town to pick up a few things, so it was a bit of a strange coincidence, running into her, and we marvel a bit over the odds.

Now this woman, when she lived with us, many years ago, was getting over her coke addiction, drank all our booze, and finally moved out under very strained circumstances, but she’s in recovery, paid us back for the booze, seems to be doing all right, and always comes into our lives at the most bizarrely opportune times - today, for example, we were cleaning the house in preparation for a possible new roommate - so it just seemed appropriate to see her.

“We’re just those people for you, I guess,” I say to her, hoping she’ll get what I mean, even if I’m not sure myself.

“You really are,” she says, hugging me goodbye.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Quick Trip to the Store

I take the stairs down from our apartment quickly thump-thump-thump-thump and out onto the street, down the street, chillier than it was earlier today, to the grocery store. Two ladies stare at the strawberries and pistachios as if they’re about to genuflect, but I don’t have time for their rapture, so I hurry between them to the produce aisle and my goal: tomatoes.

Ninety-nine cents a pound for beautiful, red, oblong plum tomatoes! I grab two and zip over to the self-checkout, where I use my bank card to pay thirty-nine sense for these lovelies, and ignore the bags and carry them home in my hands.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Maybe They Hear Us

We’re at the movies, watching a film of a live performance of the musical 42nd Street (is that complicated enough?). It’s a riot of color and movement, sound and vision, with smiling, beautiful people soaring across the screen dozens of feet high and luminous, and after every spangled, full-bore, blow-out of a number, many people in the audience applaud, including Katie, even though I can’t quite bring myself to clap for performers I know can’t hear me.

When I apologetically mention this to Katie (since I don’t want to shit all over anybody’s good time), she says, “Oh, I can’t help it. I’m like the dog in the car that walks back and forth thinking he’s making the car go."