Sunday, July 31, 2016


This guy who lives right around the corner from us always tries to bum cigarettes, no matter how many times we tell him we don't smoke, but today he's changed tactics.

"Can you lend me a dollar for some food?" he asks.

A few blocks later, I realize what's been bothering me, and say, "That was sort of a weird way to ask, right?"

"How do you think he would have reacted if we'd said, 'Man, you owe me from the last dollar I lent you!'" Katie agrees.

Pokémon Stop

I pour our frozen vegetable scraps into the tubs of compost at the green market at Grand Army Plaza, stuff the plastic bags in to the trash, and head back out of the park. The sky is threatening rain, so there's no reason to linger, especially with how slow I'm walking lately, but I pull out my phone and open the app that's been motivating me to work a little harder on my physical recovery.

I know I can hit at least two extra Pokéstops on the way home if I just walk a little farther.

(Later that night, when I have to hit the painkillers, I pause to reflect that maybe I may have pushed a little too hard, too soon.)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Murder of the Already Dead

The cat, who has been agitated all day, has disappeared, which is not unusual.

Until I go back to the kitchen to refill my water bottle, whereupon I see her, sitting watching intently as a mouse whose back she seems to have broken pulls itself back and forth across the entrance to the kitchen.

After video conferencing to check with Katie, I grab the rubber gloves and paper towel, as she suggests, and pick the brokenbacked mouse up.

I hold it underwater as she suggests until it stops struggling, but I still wish it had gone down some other way.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


I'm sitting on a wooden chair facing east, concentrating on the breath going in and out past the tip of my nostrils, counting each breath. Even though meditation is nothing more than this, I'm not very good at it, but right in this moment, I'm actually doing pretty well, following each breath.

Then the nerves in my leg that have been dead since my surgery earlier this month suddenly knit themselves back together for a moment, and electric, glittering pain shivers into the center of my thigh, and I sit there, rigid, until it passes a few seconds later.

Whatever concentration I had is shot, and my chattering mind jabbers at itself like a crowd after a lightning strike, until the timer goes off and I am released from my chair.

Behind the Sky

While my friend shops, I step out onto the back patio of the grocery store in Red Hook and sit at a table beneath the shade of a large umbrella, watching the sunlight glitter on the water of the Buttermilk Channel as giant container ships slowly crawl into port in New Jersey.

A guy at the next table asks his friend, "What do you think is behind the clouds?"

A long pause, and the friend answers, "Well, like, space."

"No," the first guy says, a hint of lazy frustration creeping into his voice, "I mean behind that, man."

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

And My Bald Head

I hobble to the grocery store singing a song to myself, but stop when a woman walks by the other way checking me out with a dubious look on her face.

Another man makes eye contact, looks frightened for a moment, and looks away quickly, and I start to think I might not be imagining things.

Then I remember what shirt I'm wearing and it starts to make sense.

Later, I tell Katie, "I think I might have overdone it with the philosophical thing today, especially with the tubes hanging out of my leg."

Weather or Not

As I cross the street to go grab a bite (bahn mi from the local shop a couple blocks away), my fellow pedestrians are beating a hasty retreat from the rapidly gathering storm clouds above.

The wind begins to pick up, and some stray drops spatter on my face, a herald of what's to come as the sky quickly darkens. I find myself clapping, applauding in anticipation of the rain, like an audience member cheering when the lights go down before the band hits the stage.

A woman hurrying to escape the approaching deluge catches me, and gives me a tight-lipped, forced smile, perhaps acknowledging that yes, nature is impressive in her strength and majesty, but damn if she isn't occasionally a bit inconvenient.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

In the Cave

The sun is blazing outside, but the inside of the apartment is dark, cool, and cavelike.

Our roommate emerges from her room, after I haven't really seen her all day, and I hear her puttering about in the kitchen as she makes food.

I stick my head into the kitchen, ask, "You feeling okay?"

"I was thinking about going to hang out in the park," she says, shrugging, "but it's just too hot."

Love and Light

My parents' final night in town, we go out to celebrate. I come from a long line of boisterous folks, and when my family and I get together, it tends to get loud, to the point that maybe some people at the tables close to us might have given us a look (or two).

Afterwards, when we've gotten in the cab and are hurtling down Atlantic Avenue toward home, my mom pipes up, "I said goodbye to that lady who kept turning around to look at us, and she smiled and waved."

"She used all her fingers to wave, too, not just her middle one," she adds with obvious relish.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Lives of our Younger Mothers

"I went sailing around Lake Michigan," my mother says in reply to my father as we drive past the East River up the FDR.

"How did that happen?" I ask.

"Before I met your father, when I lived in Chicago, I was seeing a man who owned a fleet of sailboats, and he took me sailing one weekend," she says.

When I ask for clarification on her use of the word "fleet," she adds, "Oh yes, he was the man who gave me my pet ocelot named Karma."

Thursday, July 21, 2016


"And this website, where they show everyone who's buried in this cemetery," continues my father, talking about the woman after whom my sister is named, "says that it's spelled A-L-I-N-E, Aline." He pronounces it "A-lean."

"Don't you think it should be spelled A-L-E-N-E, when you hear that?" my mom asks, trying to enlist support.

"I hear that you're trying to rename your child who is a full grown adult," Katie says, smiling.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Mom and Dad

My dad shows Katie pictures on his phone of his new house while we wait for food in the neighborhood Italian restaurant. I lean over and rest my head on my mom's shoulder.

"I'm growing my whiskers back," I say, and purse my lips to show her while she nods approvingly.

She looks up sadly at my still-pretty-bald head and adds, "Too bad it's not growing back everywhere."

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Recreational Vehicle

We sit on the stoop with the doge at our feet discussing the tricked out camper van we're gonna buy someday, while the moon ducks in and out of the thinning clouds overhead.

"I have some experience living in those sort of accommodations," I say somewhat pompously, referring to my time living in an RV, before I moved to New York. "Though, I didn't enjoy it much," I add, more normally.

"To be fair," I continue, "I wasn't really able to enjoy much of anything, in those days."

Monday, July 18, 2016

After the Rain

"If the roof in your office isn't leaking anymore," I say as we walk the dog together, "then that means you can just set off the sprinklers and fill the entire place up to the ceiling with water." I was picturing her office like a fish tank, tie and button down salarymen swimming through the place like mermaids in a '50s resort.

"If the roof isn't leaking anymore," Katie counters, "then I guess I can go find another job!"

"I don't let the dog pee on that tree anymore," she adds as the dog begins nosing around a wilted looking specimen drooping over the sidewalk.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Oh, Those

"Man, my uncle had one of those," the guy with the labrador retriever and the fluffy beard says, gesturing.

I turn around and look at the doge, who is nosing around the base of a tree with no indication that she'll poop anytime soon. "Yeah, she's like, fifteen years old," I say.

"Yeah, he caught the tube on a fence or something, and boy, did he squeal!" he continues, as I realize he's talking about the drains coming out of my leg.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Convergent Play

I tap my fingers on the door to Katie's studio for admittance. She's been working on her butterfly sculptures all day while I sit out in the family room writing and reading and watching videos.

"I'm lonely and tired and hungry," she says when I ask how she's feeling.

"Well, let's have dinner," I say, "'cause I'm bored."

Using My Contusion

The beggar on our block has Katie, the doge, and me cornered on the steps, too polite as we are to simply walk away and go inside. He has regaled us, at length and in detail, including genealogies of the antagonists and a history of his troubles with them going back fifteen years, regarding the $300 he is owed for work which will not be paid until August, if then. 

I've tried to distract him from his obsessive recounting of the saga, to no avail, but when he launches into a third go round on the whole thing, starting all the way back at the beginning, I decide I've had enough.

"Look, man," I interrupt gently, shifting my weight a little to emphasize the issue, "my leg's kinda hurting here, so I think we're gonna head inside."  

Friday, July 15, 2016

Apocalypse Every Day

"The thing about the apocalypse," I say after dinner to our friend Laura, who's visiting us, "is that it's not something that's going to happen to the whole world in some distant future. It's different for everybody."

"It's the death of a loved one, or it's losing your job, or it's getting pregnant, or it's cancer," I gesture to my leg as she nods. "It's a hard break from what came before in your life, and afterwards, nothing is the same, and it's happening all the time."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Friendly Fire

Emily and David Facetime us from the west coast just before we get ready for bed, and I'm surprised, for a moment, to see the sunlight glowing on the back wall of their kitchen. I haven't spoken to anybody but Katie all day, so I'm very grateful for the conversation, and we chat as their toddler eats blueberries with a distracted air.

Periodically, for what seems like no reason, the toddler will cry about something, only to forget what she's upset about a few moments later, and David explains, "She's just learned to throw a tantrum, but she doesn't quite know how to use them yet."

"It's like being around someone who doesn't know how to use a weapon," he continues, "so occasionally everybody just gets sprayed with fire."

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Guard Doge

The visiting nurse jumps a little in her chair every time the doge barks. I try to reassure her while calming the dog, but they seem to feed off each other: the nurse gets agitated, which riles the dog up, which leads to more barking, etc.

Finally everybody settles down a little, and I say, apologetically, "She would never bite you, but I guess that doesn't mean you should come over and try to pet her or anything."

The nurse shakes her head, "No, I would never do that when she thinks she's protecting you."

Monday, July 11, 2016

Repentant Thief

After I make my phone play the "Find My iPhone" sound to no effect in the house, I check the map on my computer screen and watch the dot representing it bob up the street, then text Katie I think you have my phone.

Yes I do

Unless you feel like coming back, just keep it. I write

Coming back

Sunday, July 10, 2016

And Then Some

I take the stairs one step at a time, weak-leg-first like they taught me in the hospital, until I'm down on the front stoop with my book. After being cooped up all day inside, the fresh air and the clouds rolling in and all the people walking by in front of our building feel incredibly exciting and even kind of nourishing.

After a few minutes of reading, my roommate Grace rolls up, pink-faced and sweaty after her run, and we chat for awhile as she cools off, discussing New York (she likes it) and how great television is these days.

Just as I mention that the whole point of me being down here was that I was hoping people I know would walk by, an old friend and what appears to be her entire family walk by, and I get my wish and then some.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

My Bad Hand

The visiting nurse, Bagrat, watches me squeeze the fluid from the tubes leading from the long incision extending down my leg, and then asks me in what I-guess-is-a-Russian-but-turns-out-to-be-Armenian accent, "Have you been recording the amounts?"

"Sure." I pass him the sheet where I've been writing down the amount of stuff coming out of me.

He looks at the numbers I've written down in my wandering script, looks up innocently and says, "Oh, so you're also a doctor?"

Friday, July 8, 2016

I Asked That Same Question

It starts with a text from a number I didn't recognize, early morning after my first night home from the hospital, then a heartfelt and slightly indirect message on Facebook. We were friends at a crucial age, early 20s, when we thought we were effectively immortal, but I haven't heard from this guy in ages, except for him to occasionally show up on social media to make snarky comments and then disappear again.

Then my phone rings, it's him, and Katie stirs in her sleep. I pick up, but before I can get out more than "Hello" he's talking fast, just like he used to, saying, "So you're bald in these pictures and people are sending you supportive messages and shit, so what's going on?"

Not the Same

Our friend Jeff drives Katie and me home from the hospital after surgery. His infant daughter and Katie ride in the back while I ride in front.

"Katie, could you give her a couple of puffs so she's not as hungry later?" Jeff asks, referring to cheese puffs tailor made for infants.

But the part of my brain that has been thinking about marijuana for the alleviation of chemo symptoms wonders, for a half-second, why the straightest guy I know would be talking about smoking out his baby, and would that even work?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Grateful for What I Have

I drop a paper towel in the bathroom, think about bending over to pick it up, then about grabbing it with my toes, but then I think better of both options and leave it where it is beside the trashcan. I feel a small stab of sadness at the realization that certain things I took pleasure in, like my prehensile toes, aren't going to be an option for a while, and maybe never again.

The guy in the other bed in the hospital room we share has been here three weeks, and might be here for several more, with something incredibly complicated and hard that causes him to make heart-rending sounds of pain whenever he has to move. He asks the nurse to just wrap the IV cord tight around his neck to put him to sleep, as something of a a joke, and she tells him it's not funny.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


The funny thing about anesthesia is that there's no sense of subjective time. In other words, I started doing some breathing exercises in the operating room, wondering a little nervously if I would do something embarrassing while I was sedated like get an erection or fart, and then I was in the recovery room, no-time later. I didn't even get to do the counting thing they tell you about.

Opiates, on which I am currently snacking, on the other hand, leave me very aware of time, and the slowness with which it passes, and the long hours until dawn.


After the (somewhat disappointing and soggy) fireworks die down, Katie hands me a cherry. "Quick, eat this for me and give me the pit," she says, and I do, because she hates cherries, and she takes it and runs away.

Later, at home, she shows me a sizable welt on her shin. When I ask what happened, she explains, "We were spitting cherry pits off the roof, and I whacked my leg on the railing, but I hit the building across the street!"

Sunday, July 3, 2016


One of the vendors at the flea shakes my hand, his long, chiseled face serious with concern. "Good luck this week," he says, referring to my upcoming surgery.

I'm a little tired of talking about it, though, so I try to steer the conversation elsewhere, saying, "Thanks man, but what about what I heard about you getting over your Hep C thing."

"Yeah, six years ago they gave me this chemo that made me feel like shit, and it was useless" he says, "but this year, they give me this stuff that actually made me feel kinda better, and it worked!"

Saturday, July 2, 2016


"Eh, I made a mess," Glenn, the cable guy who came in to fix our internet, says as he picks up his tools and the coaxial cable cuttings that litter the floor.

"How could you tell?" I ask, acknowledging that, for the past few weeks while we've dealt with my health issues, Katie and I have not exactly been the tidiest of people.

"You know," he says, wiping his brow, "I stopped watching that show 'Hoarders' because I didn't think it was realistic.

"But going into peoples' houses like I do, I realized I was right - it's not realistic because they don't make things look bad enough."

Burying the Lede

After the storm passes, Katie and I go downstairs to pick up Chinese food.

"So our beggar friend? Made me talk to his cousin on his cell phone this morning," Katie says nonchalantly.

"How is it..." I glance at my watch, "eight-thirty before you mention this?"