Friday, September 20, 2019

Controversial Opinon

“What’s up jerks!” Katie yells from the other end of the couch. “If there was a way that the Oreos could stick together without the middle, I’d be fine with that.”

“'Welcome to my TED Talk,’” I add, completing her thought.

“Anybody who doesn’t like it can get double stuffed,” she finishes, which of course makes me laugh and almost causes milk to come out my nose.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Steady On

I’m pushing two large boxes on a dolly down the sidewalk, and I’m trying to be relatively decent. That means, as I pass the elementary school where, through an accident of terrible timing, the entire world is picking up their kids, that means not running these oblivious idiots (and their children) down with my dolly.

This woman walking toward me pushing a stroller, however, is not oblivious at all, and for a brief moment there is a clash of wills as she and I walk straight at each other, neither of us swerving, counting on the cultural weight of our respective burdens to give us the right of way.

Finally, at the last moment, both of us diverge slightly from our paths, leaving us a small bit of wiggle room through which we pass, neither one of us looking at the other.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

“I’m Gonna Need A Second."

“So then I finally get an IT guy on the phone,” says Katie, describing her ordeal with customer service today, “and he says, ‘There will be ninety seconds of silence.’”

“Like he was going to put me on hold, but then he didn’t put me on hold! He just sat there for a moment and took a deep breath,” she sighs in imitation.

“Like he needed to pull himself together or something,” I say, laughing.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Example

Katie tells me about thread she discovered this morning on a neighborhood website about a dog who was left abandoned on a Brooklyn street who was subsequently rescued and given much needed surgery, and concludes her story by saying, “Humanity is garbage."

“But I like you,” I say.

People are fine, but humanity is garbage,” she says. “Would you like an Airborne?"


Water of Kindness

The crosstown bus is crowded - packed with all the people who would normally be riding the broken L train - but the driver patiently gets them all on, and extends the ramp so people using walkers and wheelchairs can board.

An older woman in colorful headdress and matching dress pushes her walker up the ramp like a queen boarding a ship and parks at the front of the bus. Then, at the next stoplight, she reaches into the basket of her walker, pulls out a water bottle, walks it up to the driver, and hands it to him with a smile.

He takes gratefully and thanks her, and she waves off his thanks and makes her way back to her walker, where she and I exchange a smile.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Provider

While I wash dinner’s dishes, the cat sits in the hall just outside the kitchen with a most severe expression, waiting for me to get over my incredible stupidity and feed her.

“The cat is so disappointed in me,” I tell Katie.

So disappointed,” she agrees. “I think the only reason she’s not as disappointed in me is that she think you feed both of us.”

Friday, September 13, 2019

Coming On Fall

“Joan Shelley,” says Katie, coming into the bedroom from her shower, her shoulders above the towel wrapped around her still glistening and pink. “Like the River Loves the Sea.”

So I put on a song from the album, and sit listening, and for a moment it’s like I always listen to music, with my heart tense, primed and expectant for some kind of epiphany, some revelation of ecstasy.

But after a minute, I realize that living in this feeling isn’t really listening, per se, so I let my heart relax, and the song, a delicate, folky thing that makes no gesture toward grand, quietly works its way into me, and it is somehow, lying in bed with the air conditioning still on and a few weeks of summer still left to pass through, it is somehow fall, and the leaves in my mind are turning from green to gold and fire.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Trompe L'Oeil

A trick of perspective turns the subway map 3D, stretching and flattering it out while simultaneously deepening the page. The farms and parks of Queens seem to extend out into the distance, while JFK and Coney Island curve down into Jamaica Bay.

Manhattan stays the same, though. Its obdurate grid floats on the Hudson, self assured as always, uncompromising, face-front to the world.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Schadenfreude

Katie works in her studio at the end of the house while I lie on the couch in the living room watching Bill Hader get interviewed on YouTube.

“Wow! Jimmy Fallon is getting fat!” I yell to her.

“Good!” she yells back.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

That Kind of Cat Person

“I don’t want to be one of those cat ladies,” the woman says, gesturing grandly. Nobody’s coming into the booth to buy stuff right now, so I don’t worry about it.

“Why not?” I ask. “If you like cats, and you’re not causing anybody trouble, why not just sort of lean into it?”

“Well,” she concedes, “maybe I just don’t want to end up on ‘Hoarders.’"

Monday, September 9, 2019

Pretty as a Picture

“Excuse me, who made this?” the patient asks, pointing to the blue and grey print up on the wall opposite my desk.

“Oh, that’s Matisse,” I say. “He was around in the middle of the twentieth century, and toward the end of his life he did a lot of work with cutout shapes that he arranged to look like people.” 

“May I take a picture of it?” she asks shyly.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

A Restless Soul

The DJ played a song I like while I was working at the market today, but I didn’t get to listen to it because I was talking to a customer, so while I’m walking to the subway after my shift I find it on my phone and hit play.

I stride past a woman who is looking down at her phone, past a couple holding hands, while the music sings of reincarnation and trying to get at least one life right. The music swells and smiles, grabs my heart and squeezes it with joy, and I feel myself starting to cry with longing for all the lives I don’t remember, that I probably never had.

I cover up my mouth to push the sob back down into my chest, but people just walk by, because this is New York, and if you want to cry on the street, nobody cares.

For Fun

“That’s new,” Katie says, pointing out the new electronic sign that let’s commuters at the entrance to the subway know how long until the next train arrives. “Now we don’t have to throw ourselves down the stairs.”

“Unless we want to,” I add. "You know, for fun,”

Friday, September 6, 2019

Head Inside

“Problems arising from the burial in the unconscious of material which is not in its province are partly caused by personal attitudes,” the book I’m reading says. “Frequently however the problems are caused by attitudes which seem built into our society rather than being a personal matter.”

A little boy with some older people runs ahead of them, leaping off the path and lifting up his head to yell up into the sky as he lets the low hanging needles of a pine tree graze his face.

The wind blows harder for a moment, and then the moisture in the air turns to a fine mist that speckles my khakis and my leather bag, and, not wanting to get rained on, I stand with a sigh and head inside.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Find My Friends

I couldn’t have been asleep long, could I? 

The house is almost dark, though, and Katie still isn’t home from her errands, so I check the app that I have that lets us find each other when we’re apart (which is seldom). Her little blue dot on the screen hasn’t moved from where I last saw it before I accidentally napped, and my mind conjures visions of her struck down crossing the street, lying hurt on the pavement, or just her phone abandoned downstairs while she herself is disappeared by some nefarious person who left it there to torment me.

Still groggy, I slip on my shoes and run downstairs only to find her, sitting on the stoop, chatting on the phone with her mother; when she hears me open the door behind her, she turns and smiles.

You Should Look Out The Window

The weather comes on every ten minutes on the TV at work to tell me that there’s a storm watch until six o’clock for Brooklyn, and I believe them.

It’s a few minutes before five and everybody’s wrapped up for the day, so I tell the boss, “Hey, if you don’t need me, I’m gonna split and get ahead of this storm.” 

Everybody looks at me weird, but I’m already out the door, so it’s fine.

Down on the street, the sidewalks are wet and the air smells and feels like a damp armpit, but the sun is out and the skies are clear, and I feel a little foolish.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Watch and Learn

She doesn’t even look at me as she comes into the booth, but makes a line straight for a piece of Katie’s art that contains a death’s head moth (the type of moth made famous for the outline of a skull on its back by the movie “Silence of the Lambs”) where she stands studying it, fascinated.

“I always like to see the people who go for that piece right away, because even though they don’t look alike, they’re definitely a type,” I say conversationally, and she (thankfully) smiles.

“I bet it’s interesting to guess what butterflies certain types of people go for, right?” she says, looking around.

“Nope, because if you try too hard to guess, you’ll miss what they actually do go for,” I say.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Hard to Ignore

“So, how’s the business going,” I ask my friend after we’ve put in our lunch order.

But just as he begins speaking, an older man drunkenly stumbles through the door of the restaurant and demands to speak to a manager.

In a piercing, querulous voice, he details how he fell down outside the establishment yesterday, and he demands compensation, no not tomorrow, right now, dammit, no he won’t leave, he’ll stay right here until the manager comes (all the while waving a walking stick around like he has a mind to start braining people with it if he doesn’t start getting some answers).

Eventually he is talked outside, where he is left cursing at the facade of the restaurant, until finally I interrupt my friend, saying, “Listen, I’m really sorry, you’re going to have to repeat that, since I have no idea what you just said."

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Happens All The Time

She walks into the booth and doesn’t say anything for a long time. She just stares at the butterflies with tears in her eyes.

“My grandfather used to call me his butterfly,” she says finally, her voice choked. 

“I understand,” I say, and she turns and walks out of the booth.