Tuesday, January 28, 2020

train sleep

I close my eyes to better concentrate on the music. The rocking of the train and the hard subway seat fade away, and I’m left moving through the mix on my headphones, navigating the space between the cymbals and the toms on the drum kit, teasing out the separate threads of the vocal lines from the fabric they’ve woven together, feeling the bass out in the dark seas of pitch where notes cease to exist.

I can almost see it, some kind of light or consciousness at the center of the sound, right there, as close as a person can get to the center of the universe.

My body jerks and I awaken with a start.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Fatten Me Up

I lay my head in her lap as Katie scrolls through her phone. She looks down and then pokes the rise of protruding ribs underneath my t-shirt (my chest is shaped much like my grandfather’s and the bottom of my ribcage sticks out a bit). 

“I have muscles elsewhere,” I say.

“You just have to eat a stick of butter before bed,” she says playfully.

Backhanded

I’ve only just arrived to work when I hear the woman’s voice outside the stock room at the cash wrap asking, “Are you a manager?”

“Well I want to complain about one of your employees,” she continues after presumably receiving an answer in the affirmative. I freeze where I am in the stock room, listening: what will she say about one of my co-workers?

“I want to complain because he’s just too nice,” she finishes, lamely.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Different Kinds of Problems

“Speaking of the coronavirus,” Katie says nonchalantly as we walk into the grocery store. “There was a...,” she pauses, “...I’m sorry to say, viral video of a doctor freaking out on his supervisor because he was so overworked, just asking to be fired.”

A man perusing the avocados gives us a bit of a look as we walk by, and we ignore him. I go to the produce section, look around for a moment, and announce, “Looks like they moved the Brussels sprouts again.”

Thursday, January 23, 2020

What Women Have To Put Up With

My co-worker is smiling after the slightly sweaty man walks away from her, but her eyes tell another story.

“Oh, this random customer just asked if he could take a picture of me holding a shoe,” she says when I ask her what might be the matter. She takes a deep breath, her face flush, and her smile is hard and angry, just like when she caught a different customer taking a picture of her while she was bent over helping a customer.

“I guess it’s better if they ask first,” she says sarcastically, “like, I don’t mind if you’re creepy as long as you’re polite about it."


A Natural

The sky outside the window turns purple as the night slowly turns into morning. The cat sleeps on the couch next to where I’m lying on my back on the floor.

As I move slowly through a series of stretches and poses called sun salutation, I tie my breathing to my movement (the word yoga coming from the word “yoke,” after all) and my busy mind slows down a little. 

The cat, sleeping on her back, the pure white fur of her belly exposed, one paw thrown dramatically over her face, snores delicately, more relaxed than I’ll ever be.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Darkness

I woke up in the dark last night, terrified because I couldn’t see, when the reason I couldn’t see was, of course, that it was dark.

Tonight, as we walked home from the grocery store, I pointed out a vapor trail from an airplane that extended across the dark sky above. It was a slightly lighter streak of darkness against the greater expanse of night, barely visible in the closer glare of the street lights, and it took her a second to find it.

“See, you’re not losing your vision,” she said. 

Workers Comp

I grab a sizable pile of shoe boxes and head upstairs, and one of my coworkers gets nervous.

“Don’t want you falling down the stairs like [redacted] did yesterday, on the floor all laid out,” she explains.

“He was fine,” another co-worker scoffs. “Down there looking for a check."

Monday, January 20, 2020

Pre-Post-Apocalyptic

After walking up four flights on an escalator that had been turned into regular stairs, the gentlemen with the cane who had made the journey with us questioned whether this movie theater was “ADA compliant.”

“This place used to be kind of awesome,” Katie says as we walk by a sign announcing that the elevators were also out of order. The drain of the drinking fountain is covered in rust, and dust bunnies hang from ceiling tiles that look like no one has cleaned in months.

I find myself thinking about the movie “28 Days Later” for some reason.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Suspicion

The tourists are gathered in a polite semi-circle around the MTA booth, and the guy in the booth is saying over the speaker, “So this is cash-only, here.”

I’m on my way to work, so I continue past, but something about what he said is bothering me as I walk up the stairs from the subway station: was he telling those tourists that he, in his capacity as MTA worker, was only accepting cash? Because that is 100% not a thing and it sounds like something a person who was running a scam on tourists would say to not have to record selling Metrocards to gullible tourists. 

But later, as I’m relating this story to Katie, I realize that he could have been telling these tourists about any number of establishments in the area, and that I should maybe be a little less suspicious.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Marriage

“Why did this post get more views?” I muse out loud.

“It’s because it’s funnier than that other post! I’m funny, I said something funny, and you were smart enough to write it down in a funny way, and that’s why it got more likes,” Katie replies passionately.

I laugh as I write it all down again.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Public Speaking

“Glarghb aaeagth abargh, garaghach baragathagh,” the beggar at the end of the car announces to everyone. He then proceeds to stalk the length of the subway car shaking his cup of coins at each person, occasionally glaring intently at a person when they fail to put any change into the pot.

“I wonder if he thinks he’s being intelligible,” I say to my friend after the man has finished his shakedown and moved on to the next car. “Like, it sounds like that, but he thinks he’s saying, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I fear I must intrude for a moment on your commute to ask your assistance....’"

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Tough Love

A co-worker walking by approaches me for a hug, and then seems to almost instantly regret his decision.

“Oh,” he says, sounding a bit like he’s in pain, “you hug kinda hard.”

“Sorry, I’m sort of enthusiastic,” I reply contritely, as I let him go.

“No, it was a good hug, I’m just fragile,” he reassures me.

Ripped Off

“You paid eight dollars for two slices of pizza?” she asks, incredulous.

“I mean, one was a white slice with spinach...,” I begin lamely.

“This is New York: I won’t bat an eye at a twenty dollar salad, I will thank you for not charging me more than thirty dollars for sushi,” she interrupts. “But this town was founded on dollar slices and eight dollars should feed a family of four!"

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Clowntown

The altercation at the end of the subway car between the yelling, angry old man and the shouty, angry young woman has escalated to the point where the woman is insisting, “You better back off, because in New York, we keep it street!”

“You don’t live in New York, you live in clown town!” he ripostes.

“I live in New York City, and I keep it street, so you just try me!”

“CLOWNTOWN!” he roars, and the woman sitting next to me puts her fingers in her ears.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Stay at Home

“Well, I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging about how much sleep I’m getting to new parents,” Katie says to our friends, and everybody laughs.

“If I try to put him down at seven, he’ll be up at seven,” our friend says. “So I just put him down when I go to bed at midnight, and we wake up a couple of times in the night, and then we get up at noon. It’s actually a lot easer than people make it out to be."

Time Check

The street person sitting in his sleeping bag looks up at me with hard, dark eyes wide in alarm beneath a shock of wild, white hair. “Is it ten o’clock?” he asks concernedly as I walk past.

“It sure is,” I call over my shoulder after a quick check of my wrist.

“Thanks, boss!” he calls back, genuine relief in his voice.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Undoing Minor Chaos

They’re so young it’s hard to even be mad at them, but this group of kids walking down Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn knocking down the sandwich board signs business put out front is pretty annoying.

But as they pass, leaving a knocked over sign or planter in their wake, passers by pick up the signs, right the planters, just generally undo their small demonstration of rebellion.

Katie and I pause in our walk to right a couple of signs. “It’s like they were never here at all,” I say.


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Remember?

I pace in front of the restaurant - if I go in, I’ll forget this melody I’ve got going in my head, and my phone, on which I would record it as a voice memo, is currently back at work, charging.

I sing it to myself again, even as the wind kicks up, chilling my hands and cheeks in the cold winter breeze.

I write down some lyrics on an old napkin I dig out of my bag.

I sigh, looking longingly at the front door of the restaurant, then start to walk around the block, singing the melody to myself yet again.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

And Now You’re Singing It Too

“They’re making The Nanny into a Broadway musical and the day it opens I’m going to have to kill myself,” Katie says as we’re lying in bed.

“Please don’t,” I say. Then, thinking about it, “How’s that song go again?”

“Don’t you put that ear worm in my head right before bed,” she replies angrily.

The Souls of My Shoes

I wipe down this pair of boots I dug out from the back of my closet with an old rag, and they seem to respond to the attention. A deep luster slowly surfaces in the soft, wrinkled brown leather, like a cat stretching out as it warms in the sun. 

Next, I shine them with a leather oil conditioner, and they seem to wake up even more. Before, they barely looked wearable, but now they seem to stand on their own, weathered but alert, wise with age and ready to carry me into a new day.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Vision

A couple of stops before my destination, I close my book and put it back in my bag, then sit for a while, alternately blinking and widening my eyes. I’ve recently found that I need a few minutes after reading to bring myself back to the “real” world, or I’m out of it and spacey for the rest of the day.

We pull into a station where the doors slide open, and I find myself staring through the frame of the doorway out onto the platform at a perfect tableau: in the foreground, a yellow strip on the platform bordering the edge, then a russet painted metal pillar that supports the roof of the platform, then a black trash can brooding sullenly behind them both. I stare for several minutes at this strangely portent diorama, vibrant and obscurely meaningful, struggling to figure out what it signifies, what I’m supposed to see, but then the curtain falls and I’m left looking at the steel doors of the train, back in the normal world again.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Layers

We walk through Carroll Gardens to the movie theater to see the newest Star Wars movie. The clouds are high and gray, with edges of gold as the sun goes down in late afternoon. I’m wearing one of the biggest, thickest sweaters I own, a huge brown zip-up monstrosity with giant pictures of ducks knitted into the pattern of the thing, and even though it’s warm, I still feel a little of the wind that cuts through the air reaching through the thick weave of it to try and snatch the warmth from my skin.

“I think I’m wearing exactly one layer too few,” I say stoically to Katie, and she frowns in concern.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Missed It

I can visualize everything about the scene: I was putting cat food into the microwave to take the refrigerated chill off it, Katie was walking out of the room into the bedroom, maybe, and she yelled something hilarious. But for the life of me I can’t remember what it was.

“I had my four each day, but then I thought, ‘Oh it’s too early,’” I tell Katie sadly. “I thought I’d remember, but I forgot."

Writing As A Lost Art

The manager insists that everyone write three thank you notes to customers before leaving work today, so I sneak off to the break room to write in peace. Two younger co-workers of mine come in and sit next to me to eat their lunches (bags of Wendy’s: burgers, chicken nuggets, all “mad unhealthy,” she says), and since I’m almost done, I don’t mind the company.

“Your handwriting is so beautiful,” one of them says, noticing I’m writing all my notes in cursive. “I’ll bet you were the type who practiced writing all the time when you were in school."

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A Sturdy Roof Over Our Heads

We sit eating pierogis at the bar in the food pavilion of the market at Bryant Park, looking up at the roof. The pavilion itself is a several-stories-tall temporary structure they’ve built housing various food vendors, and its clear plastic roof and wooden floor makes it look like nothing so much as a giant greenhouse.

“What kind of industrial-strength plastic must that be,” Katie says, remarking on the clear panels of the roof. She means to not leak with the rain, but I find myself imagining the entire structure covered in snow, huge white drifts of the stuff piling up on the roof, weighing down on the plastic panels which are strong enough to withstand it, God knows how.