"Okay, here's what I'm going to need you to do," I say to the Time Warner representative, because I'm working on being more assertive. "You guys are going to comp us the week that we don't have service until you can get a technician out here."
"Of course sir," says the rep, without skipping a beat.
Caught off guard, I can only say, "Well, thank you," and wonder if I was too hard on him.
"I'm sorry, did I hear you guys say you needed recommendations for a place to eat?" Katie says to the couple (whom we've never before seen in in our lives) standing by the traffic light.
In less than five minutes, we're chatting like we're old friends - Gary and I are discussing his growing up on the Upper West Side, and his travels in the Middle East, while Sam acts like she's about to invite Katie to her wedding.
"You live in Park Slope?" he says, his eyes twinkling. "Let me guess: finance, or law?"
The guy behind the counter is about five feet two inches, with a marked hunch and a comb-over that hides nothing on his narrow pink skull. His nails look like little half-circles on square, blunt fingers, and his hands shake as he caps and recaps his yellow highlighter pen.
"So here's the emergency roadside assistance number," he says slowly, highlighting a phone number on the van rental contract before capping, then un-capping the pen yet again, to highlight another number, "and here's the mileage."
I'm trying not to be impatient with him, so I keep my face carefully composed as I nod and say, "Uh-huh."
"You're all set, thanks," I say to my co-worker as I take the paperwork back from him. I start to sign my copy, a quick scribble resembling the letters that spell my name, but I stop, breathe, and start again.
I take my time, not overly careful, just trying to be deliberate, moving my pen with smooth, patient loops and strokes across the page. I finish and admire my handiwork, a signature that my elementary school teacher would be proud of, while my co-worker has long departed down the hall and away to more important business
"Nice hat," I say to the woman behind the counter. She's wearing a black baseball cap with a gold triforce symbol, referring to her love of the video game series "The Legend of Zelda," a series I have spent more hours than I care to count playing.
"Yeah," she says, "I love Twilight Princess, but I'm still stuck on Majora's Mask, and I've been playing for months."
"I know what you mean," I say, sighing and giving her cash for the white paper bag with the eclair.
The dog poops under one of the trees that lines the sidewalk (which is somewhat frowned upon) and in the dirt right next to the fresh turds is a beautiful, polished stone. After I scoop up the poop (turning the bag inside out around it with a single, practiced motion) I stoop down and grab the rock for one of Katie's butterfly sculptures.
As I walk away, I imagine what I would say if anyone asked, for instance, "Who took the single rock that I left in the woodchips under that tree?" or "I saw your dog poop, and even though you picked it up, are you kidding?"
But in my mind I'm denying everything, without shame, and getting away with it (even though nobody asks).
When Willie Nelson sings, he's so far in the pocket it sounds like he might be singing a different song. His guitar has a second hole, a worn out spot just down and to the right of the main one on his acoustic, and it sounds like he hasn't changed the strings, maybe ever.
And "singing" is sort of a strong word, anyway, when really, as Katie says, it sounds like he's doing a very loose spoken word interpretation of whatever song his band happens to be playing.
But when it all comes together, you realize he's doing exactly what he wants to do - not because he can't play in strict rhythm, or right on pitch, or with a new instrument - but because he wants to do it exactly the way he's doing it.
The dog stops and shakes, her harness rattling like sleigh bells, and we continue on our walk. When we reach the corner, one of the kids with the clipboards who hits people up for donations for her (probably nonexistent) "basketball team" steps up with a brittle smile stuck on her face.
"I'm sorry to bother you," she begins.
"That's okay," I say with a smile of my own, looking in her eyes as I walk right on past her, and her smile drops into a scowl.
Man on his morning run brushes past, close enough for me to feel the breeze from his passing, and I watch him race away down the sidewalk, the leading wave of his impatience fading with his footsteps.
Short guy in a suit walks the other way, his tiny tie a blood-red choke-knot beneath his chin. It pushes up the fatty folds of his neck into fleshy collar that seems ready to throttle him, despite the undone shirt button at his throat.
A woman bumps my bag gently in the narrow aisle between the zucchini and the peaches at the greenmarket, and I only think to check for my wallet when I'm on my way home later.
After a night with Kevin at the kava bar, I make my way home, only mildly krunked, and catch a glimpse of my reflection in the plate glass window of a shoe store. I'm having a good hair day, I notice with no small pleasure - my side part is hanging very fetchingly over one eye, giving me a slightly anime look.
I realize with a shock that this, this hair, this look I've got going now, as an adult (supposedly) looks familiar for a reason.
It's the exact style I was going for when I was in junior high school, imitating the coolest guy I knew, and now I've got it.
What to do before we watch the bloviating assholes that make up the front-runners of the Republican Party debate on national TV? It doesn't seem like there's enough time to really get any momentum going on any of the multiple projects Katie and I have.
But just as I'm about to leave to go pick up the food we ordered a few minutes ago, inspiration strikes.
"I'm gonna saw the bone off those antlers I bought," Katie says brightly, and goes off to do just that.
"So I sent the landlord a letter by certified mail, asking for the rest of my deposit," our friend says. We're standing at the curb by her SUV while she drops off some stuff for Katie, chatting as the dog stares off into space.
"But the smart thing was, I cee-cee'd my friend who is a lawyer," she continues with a sly grin.
"And I included a self-addressed, stamped envelope," she adds, shrugging.
I stare at the brown, fluffy puppy laid out panting on the floor of the train for several minutes before I recognize it as Teddy, the dog I met a few days ago, and his owner Kaylene.
"I thought it was you," I say, and Kaylene turns around with a shocked smile. She's only been here a couple years, so she probably hasn't yet got used to the way that New York, a city of millions, throws people together.
Katie is hard at work in her own personal sweatshop, making butterfly sculptures for next weekend's flea market, and her strong work ethic has shamed me into revisiting some of my old stories that I've been neglecting. But first, I open up some music files on my computer to limber up my creative muscles.
This proves less fruitful than I'd hoped, however, and after a couple of hours, I'm only slightly closer to having a completed song than when I started, and the thought of writing just fills me with despair.
I snap the laptop closed and go out the window to breathe for a moment on the fire escape, where a sunny day dappling through green leaves and a gentle breeze don't give a good goddam about my work ethic.
The moon is huge and bright and yellow over the park. Katie and I lay on our backs with the cool grass tickling our bare legs, unspeaking, staring up into the sky while the dog paces circles around us.
I identify a couple of constellations (Sagittarius low in the south, Lyra straight above with Vega bright and blue), and then a shooting star, throwing off sparks like a roman candle, scrapes across the darkness.
A few minutes later, Katie stands up and heads over to Coco, saying, "Hang on, I think the dog is lost again."
We can see Bergen Street a block away, but Flatbush is closed, with police and fireman's tape criss-crossing the sidewalk and barring our way, and trucks flashing blue and red lights stretched across the road blocking traffic. Cops stand around idly chatting while, in the center of the road, water bubbles up and sheets into the gutter, turning the Avenue into a river.
"Water main," the policeman explains somewhat helpfully when we ask if we can walk under the tape to our destination. "Gotta go around the block," he adds shaking his head.