Friday, June 21, 2024

Fine, Then. Leave It There.

I find a seat on the train and sit down with a sigh. The guy across from me is a middle-aged latino fellow with a gym bag and sweats on, headphones in, and right next to him on the bench is a single folded dollar bill.

I do the raised chin thing with eye contact, try to get his attention to tell him about the money, but he narrows his eyes to almost slits, like he’s squinting at something outside the train, and refuses to meet my eye. 

I raise my chin again and he, still not meeting my eye, shakes his head, so I shrug and go back to writing.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Be Prepared

The processor sets up her station at the DMV while I wait - counting money, setting her keyboard and chair exactly where she wants it, getting the printer and scanner up and running - and then pulls out a clear vinyl bag with a zipper at the top, about the size of a medium clutch bag. This bag is full almost to bursting with pens: highlighters in various day-glow shades; ball point pens - capped and clickable, in blue, black and red; markers in a variety of widths; plus some hand sanitizers, a couple pencils, paperclips, and other sundries.

When I mention how much I like the bag, she says matter-of-factly, “Oh, yeah, I take that thing everywhere.”

She extracts, after some consideration, a red pen, a yellow highlighter, a black clicky ballpoint, and a Sharpie from the bag, and, placing them equidistant from each other in a tight rectangle, adds, “You never know when you’re gonna need a pen."

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

This Is Why

I see a former employee of mine on the subway platform at Union Square as I’m on my way to a physical therapy appointment, and I walk past without him seeing me, make my way further down the platform, and stand waiting for the train.

It’s mostly because I don’t want to have to explain my cane, what I’ve been up to, the whole thing that has been this past year, but this guy was a pretty neat guy when I knew him, and we had a good rapport, so I turn back up the platform and walk until he sees me, whereupon he gives me a surprised, friendly wave.

“Wait,” he says after we greet, indicating the cane, “last time I saw you you were this big strong guy!”

“Hey, I’m still plenty strong,” I say, eyes narrowing, smile still firmly in place.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Sometimes, You Need To Move

As we’re finishing lunch with our friend for her birthday, in the middle of the conversation, her husband who hasn’t been feeling well stands up with a silent grimace and abruptly walks outside.

“Well, goodbye,” she says to his back with a mild exasperation, but I’m not offended. I know that expression, the sudden stab of pain that short circuits thought, making any position sitting still a torture, when you can either walk or writhe.

“No big deal,” I say, and we continue as if nothing happened.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Lucky Me

The receptionist at the hospital is doing her best, since the automatic check-in machines that dot the airy, two-story, white stone lobby seem not to be working, and while the line is pretty long, it’s moving at a good clip.

When I finally get to the front at her enormous desk, she, all professional, asks the usual, name, date of birth, phone, but after a moment, her bored countenance shifts and she looks up at me apologetically.

“Your appointment is for... July seventeenth,” she says, hesitantly, as if expecting me to blow up at her.

A beat, then I give her a smile and say, “Ah, well I guess you just freed up my morning, didn’t you?"

Dogs Just Know

The old man walks a little way past the dog tied up outside the grocery store, then backs up a couple steps, and starts talking in a low, gentle voice. It’s clear that he is not the dog’s owner - he could be, I suppose, but somehow you can tell this is just a random encounter - but the dog is wagging, not in the frantic, attention starved way of some high-strung dogs, and not in a submissive, frightened way, but in the slow, calm, friendly way that dogs have when they’re relaxed and happy.

The man is kneeling now, directly in front of the dog, his wrinkled face inches from the dog’s, and the dog is gazing into this man’s eyes with understanding and boundless love, as if he’s been waiting for this conversation all day. 

When I come out of the store later, a young man, tall, good-looking, with impeccable hair and tastefully expensive-looking clothes is standing holding the dog’s leash, with a statuesque woman, equally outfitted, flanking him on the other side of the dog, and the dog’s eyes are staring off into nothing, the three of them out of some kind of central casting version of an ideal couple and their beautiful accessory dog.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

I Wouldn’t Have Done Much Better

We’ve set up our blanket on the soft grass on the hill above the baseball diamond, where the game is just wrapping up.

As the left-fielder bobbles a high fly ball, allowing the opposing team to bring in two more runs and win the game, I remember the miserable spring I spent, an uncoordinated twelve-year-old, half-heartedly playing on the junior high baseball C-team (as opposed to ‘A-‘ or even ‘B-‘)  to please my parents while I waited for swim season to start, barely able to throw a ball with any accuracy, let alone hit.

Some kids playing catch behind us miss, and the ball they’re using sails just over my head to land right in the middle of our blanket with a resounding thud.

“You’re gonna have to get better at catch if you wanna do that,” I tell the kid who comes to fetch it, and he apologizes, grabs the ball, and runs off to do it again a few minutes later.