Monday, June 17, 2019

Tempus Fugit

I look up from the magazine I’m reading at the touch of rain drops on my forearms. The sky is darker than the reflected light from the page, and my vision goes hazy around the edges as my eyes adjust.

This is what I imagine my vision might be like when I’m older, say, forty or fifty years in the future, and I look around, sort of taking it in; the details and the lack of details, the way the colors stand out against the dark.

A voice in my head, kind of resigned and longing, says, “Oh, It’ll all go so fast!”

Pivot!

At the top of the stairs, I grab the set of shelves we’ve been hauling up to our apartment and lift it out of Katie’s hands to pivot it onto the landing.

She looks up at me in mild exasperation. “You don’t have to do it all yourself,” she says.

“You’re right,” I say, after all the excuses have filed unspoken through my head and I’m left just with my pride.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Hebrews 13:2

We make eye contact as he’s coming down the aisle, and he comes straight into the booth and starts looking at Katie’s work.

It’s been a bit slow, so I’m glad for the business, but some things come to my attention that give me pause. One, he’s extraordinarily tan - every inch of his exposed skin is that particular shade of leather red that indicates excessive sun exposure over a long period of time on a white dude; two, he’s carrying a rolled up sleeping bag strapped to his back and nothing else - no backpack, no fanny back, none of the usual accouterments of the tourist or tech bro that frequents this side of town; and three, he kind of smells like he hasn’t showered in a while - not excessively so, but my nose is pretty sensitive these days, so I could tell.

On the other hand, his shoes were clean and looked pretty new, and his eyes seemed intelligent and mildly interested without looking fanatical or deranged, so I just say, “Hey there, how are you?” and he looks up from the piece he’s holding and smiles.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Look Up

My usual lunch spot in the park is overrun with children today, so I find a nice park bench out of the way and sit, while the air behind me fills with their shouts and playful screaming. I don’t mind the screaming because they’re far enough way that it all sort of blends in together into a nice wash of sound.

I read through Twitter, click over to Facebook for a moment (only to quickly click away in bored horror), then realizing that the sky has gone a little dark, I put down my phone and look around me.

A bank of clouds has passed over the sun, and the sky has gone a pearly, diffuse gray, so I watch the trees and the clover-covered hillside I’m sitting on, thinking about trees sinking fingers deep into the earth while I eat a PB&J.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Perspective

The train car reeks of rotting vegetables, like depression and anxiety given a smell that permeates the air. I look around me in disbelief, since normally a smell this pervasive and high-toned will attract notice, but aside from the car being a little less crowded than usual, people just stay in their conversations and reading their newspapers like no one even smells it.

At the next stop, I flee the rampaging odor to the next car, where I find three young men shoveling what looks like rice and chicken and beans out of aluminum take out containers and into their faces. The smell of food, just normal take-out from some bodega, while usually unwelcome, smells like manna after the catastrophe in the other car, and I settle into a seat directly across from them with a smile and a sigh.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Fitness

I’m sitting on a park bench, staring up into the trees as the breeze riffles absentmindedly through the leaves. Periodically, shorts-clad fitness enthusiasts run through the plaza, or pause to do stretches at the foot of the Prison Ships Martyr’s monument, or push ups, or leg lifts.

Of course they do this on the plaza where underneath are interred the bones of literally over a hundred thousand people who died centuries ago, and of course everyone dies and no amount of stretches or running or breathing exercises or cold exposures or anything else is going to prevent that.

I had a point, but I guess I’ve already made it, so that’s the end of that.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Mobius Train

The subway running parallel to us on the bridge goes slightly faster than we do, and the windows slowly cycle past us.

No one in the other car looks up this time, so I watch the riders in the other car in anonymity as they pass: readers, sleepers, people with headphones on, people standing and chatting like figures from a silent movie.

I get the peculiar feeling that I am outside the world, looking in, but that the train I’m looking into is actually my own, the one I’m in right now. For a brief vertiginous second, the universe twists around itself, and I am watching for my own eyes to meet mine, peering out from the train, watching for me.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Leafy Privilege

The tree in front of the church isn’t dead yet, but it’s certainly not looking in the bloom of youth. Its leaves are thin and sparse, its branches stark and spindly against the streetlights, and even in the fog that sits on Brooklyn like a wet blanket tonight, ribboned plastic bags snarled in the limbs stir in invisible breezes like ghosts floating through the aether.

But the bags get me thinking, so I start to look for them in the other, healthier trees as I walk down the street through the mist, and I notice: the healthier trees are lush with leaves, thick and robust of limb, and free of bags, completely.

I wonder, do the healthy trees have something that allows them to free themselves of the errant plastic bags that still litter the streets, or are they healthy because they are free of plastic bags?

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Helpful

The synthesizers at the expo are laid out on the tables like every kid's dream of Christmas, with blinking, cheerful lights and fun little screens, but this particular one I'm playing with is really giving me trouble. I feel the anxiety mounting in me as I twiddle knobs and plug in routers and push buttons, only to be rewarded with ugly, rasping electric howls or (worse) utter silence.

Finally, I turn to the guy in the cool black t-shirt with the fashionable mustache and the slightly bored expression and say, "Hey, I'm not really sure how this works."

His bored expression disappears at the prospect of talking about something he loves, and his eyes light up as he comes over and says, "Yeah, actually it's really fun!"

The Peace In-Between

The L train is notoriously unreliable on the weekends, so, with a feeling of almost reckless abandon, I walk past the subway station and down 8th Avenue to 14th Street to take the crosstown bus.

Once onboard I notice at once the disadvantages: the train is two stops, but with traffic, stoplights, and people getting on and off, we crawl along the surface while I imagine beneath us the subways hurtling through the darkness at double speed.

But after my initial impatience passes, something else happens, and the slower pace begins to feel more civilized. I find myself enjoying the lights of the shops, the couples strolling down the sidewalks, the black and yellow cabs weaving in and out of traffic like sharks, and I feel much more connected to my city than down in her guts, shuttling along, blindly worming through the city without going through the places in-between.

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Silent Treatment

It’s not the same squirrel; it couldn’t possibly be the same squirrel, in a different part of the park, in a park with hundreds (maybe thousands) of squirrels, there is no way that this squirrel sitting on his haunches by the path, munching away on something in his paws, is the same squirrel as the one I talked to the other day.

Still, as I’m walking by, I say, “I dropped an apple core by one of the trees back there. I bet if you’re quick, you can get it before anybody else.”

He doesn’t make eye contact, and he doesn’t stop munching, even when I pass within a couple of feet of him - he just stares stonily ahead like I’m not even there.

Desert Lessons

The top floor of this building where I’m delivering a check seems to have been designed as an afterthought, like a greenhouse plopped atop a normal building.

It’s as hot as a greenhouse, too, especially today, with the sun beating down through the glass walls while I sweat, waiting for an elevator.

The woman waiting with me sees me take a drink from the water bottle hanging off my bag and remarks, “Ah, smart.”

“I grew up in a desert,” I say, “you always carry water."

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Don’t Call Me Buddy, Pal

The park is cool in the shade, and I’m reading and eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when I feel eyes on me.

I look and, standing on the bench, about a foot from my hand, is a squirrel with a slightly ratty tail and an absolute absence of fear.

“Buddy, this isn’t for you,” I say, as kindly as I can, not wanting to violate his trust by shouting, but of course all he recognizes is tone, so he takes it as an invitation to come closer.

“Listen to me, man, I’m not giving you any, so you gotta get outta here,” I say a little more forcefully, gesturing sort of generally out to the rest of the park, but he just cocks his head, lifts up one paw as if to move even closer, and chitters quietly at me, like we’re having a mild disagreement and he just needs to convince of the reasonableness of his position before he can take possession of my sandwich.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Etiquette

The new subway poles sprout singly from the floor until about halfway up, where they split in two, only to rejoin at the top. This creates twice as many places to hold onto for standing commuters in crowded trains, while taking up less space than two poles.

Except for this guy, who gets on the train and, instead of just leaning on the pole (a cardinal sin in subway etiquette in any case), loops his arm through the duo pole and then leans against both poles, including the one onto which I’m holding.

I try to control my breathing, try not to hate this small, balding, man as he scrolls through his phone, but I do shift my hand so that my (extremely hard and pointy) knuckle digs into his shoulder, and he stands up, startled, while I am suddenly very interested by the subway ad directly above his head.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Three’s Company

The three boisterous ladies are almost out the door of the doctor’s office when one of them stops with her hand on the door, holding it just before it closes all the way.

I can hear her out in the hall as she starts to hum in a rough voice, a tune that I almost recognize, then she sings it, “Da-da-dada-da-daaahhh..., how’s that song go..., ‘Come and knock on our doooor....’”

“That’s who you look like!” she suddenly shouts in triumph, opening the door all the way and pointing at me. “Jack Tripper!"

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Caught

The tall, well-built, handsome man turns around and signs “I love you” while mouthing the words to his wife and baby before walking away. The three women working the booths around ours follow him with starry-eyes and then turn to each other.

“Oh my god, did you see him, I was just....,” one of them starts.

“Ladies, ladies,” I say, mock-reprovingly, and they all start to giggle.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Bringing People Together

“I used to have these framed butterflies, they were called ‘Butterflies of Peru’,” one of the women says. “But I want to replace it because I gave it to my best friend.”

Her friend looks up with tears in her eyes from where she’s perusing some of Katie’s sculptures and the woman says, looking at her, “Yeah, because they’re that special to me, I wanted you to have them.”

Now they’re both crying a little, and hugging in my booth, and I guess I must have gotten a little something in my eye, because I’m tearing up a little too.