Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Sudden Storm

Even though the clouds have been piling up since I came home from work, the storm still seems to come on quickly, like a single yelling voice turning into a shouting crowd. The lush green backyards out our kitchen window are tossed by the wind and rain, the trees gyrating back and forth in the frothing air.

“I wonder what the front looks like,” I muse as I cook, but Katie is already on her way to her studio to look out on the street.

“It’s a river,” she informs me on her return.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

New York

“Oooohhhh, take me off your mailing list, for kids who think it still exists, for those who think it still exists,” the singer wails in my headphones as he laments a New York that used to be. We’re going over the bridge again, a very Groundhog Day sort of feeling, and I’m looking upriver past the glittering spans of the Williamsburg Bridge up into Queens.

The train passes over something on the third rail that sparks like a flash bulb going off, white light obliterating anything more that ten feet from the train, and everything in that circle stark and harsh.

Then the spark is gone, and the New York City shyly returns, a little less bright to my eyes than it was a second ago, but still there, still glittering, after all.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Looks Like Rain?

Katie is sitting on the front steps of our building when I arrive home from my shift at the doctor’s office, waiting for the guys who are delivering her chest of drawers that she recently purchased. She sees me coming down the street, and even though she’s clearly pretty tired, she manages a smile.

I take off my bag and sit next to her, and we talk about our respective days, and rate the steady parade of dogs out for their evening strolls. 

“That cloud,” Katie says with a worried look, pointing up at a dark gray customer that seems to have come out of nowhere, “moved in about five minutes ago, and the guys are bringing the piece in a pickup truck."

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Working a Double

The words on my phone blur, and I wasn’t really reading them anyway. I blink hard, once, twice, and then open my eyes as wide as I can and try to look at something else for a second.

The aisles of the market are somewhat full, but not packed, and nobody seems to be buying stuff. A balding man and his wife at a nearby booth bend closely over a counter crowded with boring, basic jewelry at least half of which I know for a fact was imported from China, and they seem to be frozen for a moment, like figures on a screen that are just about to start moving, and I watch them for a while before I look away.

I Miss Drive-Ins

One of the characters in this movie lives behind a drive-in movie theater, and the shot of him driving back to his house gets the sound of a drive-in exactly right: all the tinny little speakers that are meant to go in your car windows blaring out the sound track to the movie so that it carries in a faint chorus across the parking lot.

When I was a kid, the DeAnza drive-in in Tucson would have a swap meet in the hours before dark. My parents would take us there, and I would run around in the deepening dusk as the vendors packed up their wares and folded their tables in preparation for the movie to start.

The hot desert air would cool, and I would find my way back to the station wagon where my dad was fiddling with the heavy, metal speaker to get it hooked over the door, and the sound would come on, the screen would light up, and the magic would begin.

Friday, August 16, 2019

All In the Timing

“Key lime pies!” Katie exclaims in delight on seeing them in the display at the pastry shop.

“Oh, I’m sorry, someone called in and reserved every single one of those,” the woman behind the counter says with a frown.

There’s a silent pause, a moment of exquisite tension as the woman behind the counter and Katie lock eyes, and then, almost simultaneously, they both start to grin.

“I’m glad it’s not true, but I really appreciate that joke being made,” Katie says, laughing.

Liminal

A huge yellow moon lifts above the clouds as we ride the Manhattan Bridge in a taxi over the East River to Brooklyn. The everloud glittering towers and spires of the island behind us are quiet, and ahead of us, Long Island waits for us with its own problems and beauties.

Bridges are connections between the spaces, which is what makes them beautiful. They are like fall and spring, and their loveliness comes from the fact that we cannot remain on them, but must use them to get to where we are going. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

He Didn’t Want To Fill Out A Form

“Sir, everyone else has filled out the form....,” I begin gently. The other patients in the doctor’s waiting room are carefully looking everywhere else but at the two of us.

“This isn’t about everybody else, this is about me!” he says, his voice rising.

“Yes, I can see that,” I sigh.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Monthly’s Can Only Swipe Once

A well-thought-out, but ill-considered reply from me to a senator’s tweet has me blocking folks left and right on Twitter today, and their bad vibes leave me pondering why people can’t just be nice to each other to the point that I don’t hear the woman behind me at the subway entrance.

“Excuse me!” I finally hear her say, and move one headphone off my ear to show that I’m listening. “Can I pay you cash to swipe me in?” she asks.

“Sorry, it’s a monthly,” I call behind me as I swipe myself in and dash down the stairs to the train waiting to take me home.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Working Man Needs Rest

“Yeah, Lana del Rey kinda makes you want to kill yourself,” Katie finishes.

“Yeah, maybe if you're depressed,” I reply, laughing, “but if you’re not depressed then she’s sly and charming. I’m not depressed.”

“Your eyes are bloodshot and you’re ready to go to bed at 7:30, but you’re not depressed,” Katie says, looking at my heavy-lidded eyes and patting my cheek fondly.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Processing Trauma

We’re on the Brooklyn Bridge when the cab driver breaks the quiet of the ride.

“Did you hear about that accident on the West Side Highway?” he asks a little too loudly.

“Yeah, it sounded awful!” Katie says.

“I was there at about 3:45” he says, his heavily accented voice, quieter, but still quite loud in the small cab, “the lady’s whole car was on fire, and the flames were so intense that none of the four cars there could get close enough to help."

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Shift Change

The bus pulls over at the stop and lets a few people off, but then the driver, instead of continuing on his way, opens up the little armored plexiglass and steel door to his driving vestibule and steps out. 

I’m literally one stop away from where I was planning on getting off, and I briefly consider getting off and walking, but I’m not in a hurry, so I stay put. A woman, small and tidy in her uniform, steps in front of the bus and examines something while the current driver strips some gloves from his hands and throws them into a duffel bag at his feet.

The two of them exchange cursory greetings as she gets on, and he waves a lazy farewell as she encloses herself in the driving vestibule, powers up the bus, shuts the door, and pulls slowly away from the curb.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Are We Really Friends?

The dog has smooth, russet fur, and yellowish eyes that might be a bit disconcerting if they weren’t filled with such a kind expression. Her owner confirms that she’s friendly, so I hold out my hand palm down, fingers gently curved, for a cursory sniff, and then she goes in for chin scratches almost immediately.

After we’re done getting acquainted, I thank her owner for the privilege, and return to setting out my lunch: a sandwich, some chips, an apple. The dog perks up and sits at attention while I continue studiously avoiding eye contact, but eventually, realizing that no treats are forthcoming, she lies back down at her owner’s feet with a heavy, regretful sigh.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Why So Serious?

The C train I’m on doesn’t list the stop I need, no matter how many times I look at the map that says my stop is on this route. Maybe it’s just going express, skipping the stop I need, which is no big deal - I can just get off the train before that and wait for a local.

But my anxiety keeps growing as I get closer to my transfer point, until I’m checking my breathing, and working actively to calm myself.

When we arrive at the stop, the computerized voice announces that this is an express train, pauses, and then announces that this is a local train, listing all the stops, including the one I need, and I feel the knot in my stomach evaporate.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Luke 15:8-9

About an hour after lunch, I realize I’m thirsty, which shouldn’t be, because all I have to do is fill up my water bottle and....

I stand up from my desk and walk quickly to the back and tell my co-worker, “I’ll be right back.”

The hill up to the top of the park is steep, but I take it at almost a jog despite the sick feeling I have, straight toward the bench where I sat and ate my sandwich an hour ago.

There, sitting right where I left it, is the old Nalgene bottle I’ve had for more than fifteen years, and my heart lifts like I’m the luckiest man alive.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Balancing Act

The Finnish couple in the booth have ooh’d and aah’d appropriately at Katie’s amazing work, and the husband has wandered off to another booth while the wife and I chat.

“I understand how delicate this work is,” she says seriously, holding up a butterfly to the light and watching it shine, “because I knit, lace and things, hundreds of different stitches in one piece, and I will not let anything go out unless it is perfect.”

“Well, I’m glad people like you need lackadaisical people like me to help them take it easy,” I say.

“Yes, I have found mine, and I am glad she has found hers,” she replies, nodding firmly.

Monday, August 5, 2019

I Like To Share

“I got a treat for you,” my co-worker says, reaching into her desk drawer and pulling out a huge bag of peanut M&M’s. A starburst in red on the bright yellow background declares that this is “SHARING SIZE!” which is fine by me.

“I”m sharing, so if you want M&M’s you know where to find them,” I say to another co-worker as he passes, but after he walks out of earshot, the one who gave them to me comes up.

“I didn’t give ‘em to you to share with him,” she hisses.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

“I’m Here To Rescue You"

I stand at the bottom of the subway stairs looking up and out to the sidewalk above, where it is bucketing down rain thick and silver against the streetlights. A whole group of us are down here from the last train that let off, and periodically someone makes a run for the surface, or a soaked individual shaking the water from his head or a giggling, wet couple comes down to join us in the station.

The rain slackens and redoubles, getting heavier and heavier, and I curse my lack of foresight for not bringing an umbrella, even though I checked the weather yesterday and the forecast only called for a ten percent chance of rain.

Then, at the top of the stairs, in a t-shirt, a pair of red terrycloth shorts, and colorful rain boots with pictures of owls on them, stands Katie, with an umbrella for me in one hand, and a big smile on her face.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

I’m Lucky

“So, are the butterfly wings lucky?” the man asks, his eyes searching mine.

“You know what the secret to being lucky is, right?” I say, smiling. “Knowing that you’re lucky.”

“I like the way you think,” he says, picking up a piece to purchase.

Desire Paths

I step off the paved path in the park and start climbing the hill, thinking about the phrase “desire paths” and what a good song title it would be.

A desire path is a trail worn into the landscape by foot traffic, either human or animal, and it’s called that because it’s the way that people naturally go, no matter what the designer of a park might have made as “the way to go.”

I trudge up the desire path to the top of the hill and pause in the heat and humidity, breathing a little hard, then I sit down and take out my lunch, only to just sit there for a while with it on my lap, staring at it.

Finally, I take one last, long deep breath of the wet air that sits like a heavy, foul smelling blanket of wet dog hair on my chest, and then I put my lunch back in my bag, stand up, and start trudging back down the hill again.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Prejudiced

“I used to live out in Kew Gardens for about ten years,” I tell the old Brooklynite in the market booth.

“Oh, that’s not New York,” he says dismissively. “Used to be farmland into the fifties.”

“And we don’t even talk about Staten Island,” he adds with a scoff.