Tuesday, August 31, 2021


Paws that would grab my fingertip in a slow, needling squeeze are still, and her eyes, while open, see nothing. Even so, her expression reads as nothing less than a fierce concentration, and in this moment as the vet pushes the sleeping drugs into the catheter, she is still breathing. I can see her side rise and fall with the quick, shallow breaths of quickly approaching death.

I stare down at the floor for a moment, to try and master my grief, then force myself to raise my head and watch as the second dose goes in, and her chest rises, falls, and then the mysterious something that was my cat is gone, and we are left together in the room, weeping with a stranger beside a mass of fur and flesh that used to be our friend.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Cat's Sick

The icy anxiety I've been carrying around in my solar plexus hasn't dissipated by the time it's time to leave for work, but since time only goes in one direction, there's nothing for it but to go. The cat still lies in the middle of the hallway, drunk on the phenobarbital the vet prescribed to control what she thought were seizures brought on by a brain tumor, though we have our doubts how well it's working.

I sit down next to her and pet her, and she gives a complaining mowr that stabs me right in the heart, but I get up and head out the door anyway. I lock the door behind me against her low yowl of protest, and go down the stairs, worried and sad and trying not to show it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Too Honest

Okay, I think to myself, give him another shot: “How you doing?” I ask the annoying know-it-all bartender.

“Alive,” he replies with all the cynicism a twenty-something can muster. “If I was dead I wouldn’t be complaining.”

“That would certainly be a change,” I say without thinking. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Watching You Watching Them

The German Shepherd teenage puppy (all gangly long legs and awkwardness) bites at the bag, then the hand holding the bag, then at his leash, then the hand holding the leash. His expressionless owner watches all this, finally moving his hand when the dog gnaws at the leash. 

A woman watches them, her expression perfectly readable, even with her mask on. I watch her eyes shine with absolute love and adoration as she watches the dog, and the dog watches the bag that presumably has food in it.

Friday, August 20, 2021

The Expert

"Was Ted Kaczynski a serial killer?" I ask my resident expert, who at this moment is working in her studio on her sculptures. I'm not asking if he killed a number of people, because of course he did, but whether or not he meets the strict definition of "serial killer," and nobody I know cares as much or has as much knowledge about shit like this as my wife.

"Yeah," she says after pausing her current podcast and putting down her tools. 

"I mean, I guess he did kill more than a few people, and he planned it out, so it's not a spree killing or anything...," I muse while she nods solemnly.

Sky Trees

The walk home from the train hasn’t changed, even with a pandemic. Sure, some of the businesses have closed but the sky still looks the same, the streets still quiet and lined with brownstones. 

I look up at one of the three churches I pass on the way, and I see, nestled in the crook of the steeple that the airplane knocked the cross off of back in the 60s, a single tree, incongruous and defiant. It is so far above the ground, and I have no idea how it grows or what keeps it up there.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

August In New York

I roll out of the apartment to hit the post office, humming a little tune. Some clouds that look like they might do something are gathering off in the east, but the sun is shining bright on Brooklyn.

A shirtless bald man with a Santa Claus beard and a Key West tan is crossing the street with his colorless sweatpants pulled down a full three inches below the crack of an ass as flat as the asphalt.

"So that's what we're doing today," I remark as I pass him, and he ignores me and continues on his way.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Empty Hands

I feel a small surge of annoyance and resentment when the guy sits next to me on the bench outside the vet's office and takes off his mask, even if he is downwind, and I instinctively pull the pet carrier in my lap a little closer. My cat, disturbed by the movement, yowls her disapproval despite her lethargy, attracting the attention of the man's dog, who shoves his nose into my crotch underneath the carrier before being dragged off by the maskless man.

A few minutes later, the nurse comes to the door and, after a few questions about why we're here, takes the carrier from me. She quickly disappears into the dimness of the vet's office, and I am left, standing on the sidewalk outside, my hands empty.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Processing Information

"I was thinking I could either wear the black flowery dress with the heels," she says to her boyfriend while I perch on the stool surrounded by paper spilling out of shoe boxes, "or I could wear the skirt with these white sneakers, but really the skirt would look better with the... are you listening?"

"I'm listening," he says, not shifting his gaze from the middle distance.

Later, towards the end of the transaction, I say, "When you were talking to him, it was kinda spooky, because when you asked if he was listening, I could have sworn I heard my wife."

When she explains that she does that when she's talking and he's not looking at her, he and I say at the same time "He's/I'm processing."


I'm in the stockroom when I hear the familiar click and static of the airphone (the p.a. system that allows people on the floor to broadcast through the stockroom). 

"Saige, did you die?" my manager Patrick's voice booms amongst the shoes. "Saige, did you die?"

I turn to see Saige hurrying past carrying an armload of shoeboxes to the front.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Antidote

"Did you get food on it?" Katie asks sweetly of the shirt that I have announced I'm wearing to work tomorrow.

When I object to her characterization, she adds, "Look, you eat at a 135 degree angle, so that isn't on me. At least you married someone who's good at getting out stains."

"They say you marry your opposite," I muse, "but really it should be, 'You marry your antidote.'"

Don't Get Excited

I squat on my left leg on the miniature staircase in the physical therapy suite, and try to slowly lower my right leg to the ground. My leg trembles with the effort after only three repetitions, but I keep going.

A stabbing pain rips through my knee, and I inhale sharply. "Okay, I think that's all for the day," my therapist says in an overly casual tone.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Exit, Pursued By A Hawk

I round the corner from the subway heading home down my usual route, with the usual people crossing my path, the usual cars rushing through the intersection toward their usual places, everything in place, when, above me, something catches my eye.

A pigeon sails erratically across the sky pursued by a hawk. It zigs and zags, wheeling overhead as the hawk unhurriedly banks to follow. They pass over the T-Mobile store, over the traffic on Flatbush, out toward Crown Heights and beyond, and I watch, entranced, until they pass out of sight, and I come to myself, shake my head to bring me back to the mundane world, and continue on my way home.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Treats Driven

"So, now that you know which of these shoes is more dressy, and which is more everyday, you need to ask yourself: how important is being dressy?" I tell her.

"Not very," she admits.

"Then get the brown ones," I say authoritatively, and she nods, like of course.

When we're at the checkout, she hands me a Kind Bar (the one that's all chocolate and nuts), and says, "Because you made it easy, and you were kind." 

Friday, August 6, 2021

Pre-Dinner Clean

My deodorant gave out midway through my physical therapy session before I even went to work this morning, so I have felt absolutely filthy all day.

After I arrive home, the stink of myself in my nostrils, tired of rebreathing my own air beneath a mask all day, and just generally disappointed in the world, Katie greets me with a weary smile.

"Are you gross enough," she says with a mischievous grin, "for a pre-dinner shower?"

I aver that I am, in fact, more than gross enough, and we start stripping in the hall as we run for the showers.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Pass It On

My co-worker comes into the stockroom with a spring in her step, singing a little tune, and she dances a couple steps down the aisle. 

"You're so happy, I love it!" I say, enthusiastically.

"I just had a really nice customer, and it made my day," she replies with a big smile.

"Makes me think that maybe I could effect somebody else's day positively, too, right?" I say.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Checked Out

"Here it is, 672," I say, pointing at what I think is the house we're going to.

"It's 627," she says. "Man, are you checked out today!"

When I protest she calmly explains, "If I'm saying that, it's the culmination of a lot of things, not just the one thing."

Monday, August 2, 2021

Not Pertinent

A shoe was a little dirty so I ask a co-worker if I should take it out of circulation. She tells me to put it back on the shelf and then asks about the customer who pointed out the (very small) dirt spot, “What was she?”

I give her a look and she adds, “It's okay, I’m not trying to pull the race card!”

“Nah," I say, shaking my head, "don’t ask a white man questions like that - we’re in enough trouble as it is!”

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Low Battery

End of a frantic workday, my knee sends out periodic distress signals without any hope or expectation of relief, and I limp down the stairs to the subway, letting my heart rate gradually fall from manic taps to a steady pulse.

At the edge of the platform, waiting on a train, I'm listening to a slow, sad song until my headphones announce they're out of juice and die without further comment.

My electronic book reader, too, opens to a mostly empty screen with a graphic of a battery and an exclamation point to report its inability to perform its only function.

I sigh and slap the cover closed, slip it back into my bag, pull out a notebook, and commence writing it all down, like so.