Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Checked Out

"You doing okay?' my friend asks as we walk through the stockroom.

"I gotta be honest: I'm on my fifth day in a row being here and I'm actually kinda checked out right now," I tell him with a certain amount of false bravado.

He laughs because I don't usually talk like this at work. The thing is, though, is that while it's not exactly true, the act of saying it seems to free me up - I feel this weight of trying and straining lift from my chest, so that all I have to do is survive the next four hours and be useful, and everything will be fine, which leads me to believe that I should have been doing it like this all week.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Do The Right Thing (Without Thinking)

Trash on the floor of the stockroom, don't stop, gotta get back on the floor, gotta sell, doesn't matter, nobody cares, just leave it, already past it: stop.

Out loud, "Goddamit."

I turn around, walk the five paces back to the spot, reach down, pick it up, throw the trash in the bin.

It's never automatic; every time I have to choose.


Sensitive

The mask of white spreading down from eyes to muzzle makes the dog look old and worried, and his owner, herself in mask and turban, with a gray sweatshirt that announces in all block-caps “CANCER CHEMO YEAH IT SUCKS”, seems to have worries of her own. We speak briefly, long enough for me to greet her dog with outstretched knuckles before wishing her the best and dashing off to sell another woman shoes.

Later, a DJ begins spinning in an effort to give Saturday’s mad shopping rush a party atmosphere, but the initial volume is too high, and an assault of pop music rumbles and shrieks through the store, drowning out conversation and rational thought. Shoppers and salespeople alike grimace and shake their heads, shouting to be heard above the din, while the dog sits next to his person on the couch, head buried in her side as she pats his back consolingly.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Unmasked

An unmasked nose no longer blind: smell of sawdust and cigarettes by the construction site, sour odor of trash, waft of cooling asphalt presaging a hot summer to come. Soft caress of evening air against my cheeks dissolves the workday, and I am lifted out of my day into the night.

I come to the door of my apartment, and the sight of myself in the glass is startling. Who is this person looking back at me with his whole face, and what is he doing out in the world unmasked?

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Another New Normal

"The CDC says we don't need masks inside anymore," my co-worker says, his eyes wide. "NBA finals coming up, graduations coming up, they're gonna do this now?"

Later, riding the train home, I find myself eyeing my fellow commuters warily, wondering: if they've heard the news, if they've been vaccinated, if anyone might be brave (or foolish) enough to take their mask down, or sit next to a stranger - but nothing seems to have changed. We all ignore each other, sit with empty seats between us, keep our masks up, as if we're not all going to have to adjust to another "normal" yet again, one where we have to decide who to trust, with no simple rules, and nothing certain.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Not Today

I grab the bananas from the shopping basket to weigh them, and discover the tip of one of them has gone black and split, with a stringy, sunken texture and a few tiny patches of off-white fuzz.

I look at it, then at the woman helping with the self-checkout area, who is looking at me. "I think I'm gonna get some better ones," I say, and she gives a sort of shrugging nod.

I leave the remainder of my groceries and walk back to the produce aisle with a strangely proud feeling, like I somehow stood up for myself, even though I didn't do anything out of the ordinary.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Imaginary Things

"We party like Post Malone," I sing the refrain of the pop song as I'm undressing for bed.

"You know, he wanted to touch a dybbuk," Katie says [ed. note: a DYBBUK is a creature from Jewish folklore believed to be the unquiet soul of a malicious dead person], "but he freaked out so his friend did it, and then something bad happened to both of them."

"Well, like I always say, those things can only hurt you if you believe in them," I reply primly.

"Just like bitcoin!" she adds.