Saturday, June 30, 2018

It’s All In The Attitude

“I’m not really sure I can pull this off,” the dad says, dubiously eyeing the colorful, differently patterned cuffs and collar on the very fashionable shirt I’m selling at a friend’s booth.

“Well, it’s like how some people say they aren’t ‘hat people?’” I tell him. "Well, you know how you become a ‘hat person?’ You put on a hat."


After our meal celebrating my birthday, Katie and I sit close together, holding hands, talking quietly, making jokes, the way we usually do. Two other couples sit a few seats away, chatting pleasantly.

As we go over the bridge, though, the guy wearing the hoodie who’s been curled up in the corner seat suddenly sits up with a stricken look on his face. “Too many emotions!” he whines desperately, then fumbles a cigarette out of his pocket and lights it while the rest of the car stares in mild horror.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Saved by Serifs

Shootings, racist DHS employees, Supreme Court disasters, and an upcoming birthday all join forces to turn the volume WAY up on the noise in my head, until finally Katie has had enough.

“Will it help to try to count the number of cats JT has? They’re all named after fonts,” Katie asks.

We end up debating the relative merits of serifed versus sans serif fonts for over an hour, and how Times New Roman might be one of the more perfect fonts ever made, and, frankly, it really does help.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Memory Loss

“Yeah, he lived with us for a while, and he was a DJ, I think? and he had all his records in this, like, plastic tub that just weighed a ton that we had to carry upstairs. I don’t really know what happened to him...,” I finish, and my voice sort of trails off.

All of these people, more each year, who I know or more like knew, people I don’t speak to anymore, or who don’t speak to me, or who just sort of drifted off, all of these stories that I had with them that don’t have endings, just unravelings.

Memories are not something we carry solely in ourselves, but in the stories between us, and when the other participants are gone, a piece of our own story goes with them.

Wasted Effort

The tall couple that squeezed by us down the row during previews smelled really good - clean and citrusy.

After the movie Katie stands up out of the row and moves behind me, and I stand so they can get out while they gather their trash and bags and get ready to go.

Instead of coming out the way they came in, though, the couple ignore us and make their way out the other end of the row, which is probably smart, but still feels kind of like we’ve been slighted.

I make eye contact, smile, and say, “Okay,” as they go, but the woman only looks confused.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Back to our Regularly Scheduled Program

The SUV to the airport pulls up across the street, and we hustle my mother and father through traffic while the driver folds up my mother’s walker and tosses the luggage in the back. She clambers up into the back seat, and my hand on her back feels huge next to the light, bird-like bones of her back.

“We had such a good time,” she says, after giving me a kiss, and my father, from the other side of the seat, reaches over her back to bump fists before I shut the door.

I back away from the vehicle with an apologetic wave to the truck that’s been idling behind us while we say our goodbyes, and the driver of the truck shrugs while the SUV pulls away, headed toward the airport, and traffic slowly resumes its usual pace, a constantly flowing river of steel that washes away all traces my family was ever even here.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mom Is Independent

After helping my mother to stand up from the bench outside the Botanical Gardens, the stranger says, “If my mama was here and knew that I didn’t help, I woulda got a smack.” He mimes whacking his own wrist.

I nod in agreement as my mother and father make their way to the curb where the car will soon be waiting. “Kinda the same, except my mom would prefer I not help her,” I say, laughing.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Midsummer Lights

The wine sloshing around in my veins as I walk home from my parents’ Air B’n’B makes me pleasantly sleepy, even though there’s still a tint of light left in the sky. We stroll up the hill to our block, passing beneath trees and looking in windows as we pass the houses, and I’m thinking about my upcoming birthday.

Ahead in the dim, twilight shade, a single, tiny green light hovers and flits for a moment and disappears. “Firefly,” I say to Katie, pointing to the space where it was a moment ago, but it’s already gone.


The SUV from North Carolina in front of us is riding the brakes all the way down the West Side Highway, and our driver keeps trying to pass, only to find himself back behind him again when the flow of traffic changes.

“My last business was in cosmetics,” he says after trying to pass again, “but I made a purchase for thirty thousand dollars and the buyer ran off with my money.”

From the back seat I can see him shrug as he continues, “The bank said there was no way to trace him, and I wasn’t even the first person to report him, but everything happens for a reason, so what can you do?”

“Very philosophical,” my mother says thoughtfully.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Young Married Couples

“I was 190 pounds when we first married, a real horse,” my father says. “Resting heart rate around fifty, so when we’d go to to sleep, my breathing would be about the same as my heart rate, so it’d be really slow.”

“When your mom would try to match my breathing, she’d have to wake me up because she was suffocating,” he continues.

“I nearly died!” she exclaims.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What We Think Is Funny

The video our friend sends us of the car burning in the back of the box truck outside our subway station is spectacular - flames leaping high, ashes swirling, the whole thing - and he advises us that the station is full of smoke, maybe to take another way home.

But when we get back to the station from our movie, everything seems to be under control, except somebody has put one of those tiny conical air fresheners you sometimes see in gas station bathrooms at the top of the stairs.

Out on the street, though, the smoldering remains sits sullen in a puddle of sooty water, and the air reeks of smoke and burnt chemicals, causing me to remark, “I can feel myself getting cancer just standing here and breathing.”

“Again!” says Katie cheerfully.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

One Hundred Twenty-Five Steps

I sit up from where I’m writing. “Jesus, I don’t think I left the house today,” I say.

“That’s always a fun realization,” Katie says, slipping a t-shirt over her head as she readies for bed. “Probably only clocked about a hundred and twenty-five steps, too, but, to be fair, we were only up for around twelve hours,” she adds as she heads into the kitchen to make tomorrow’s coffee.

Called On Account Of

The Brooklyn Cyclones are ahead by five runs, which is rare enough that we're all avoiding remarking on it. Superstition.

"I believe they can win," says Pete as he finishes his margarita.

"Well, now you've done it," I say, and it starts to rain.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Charmed, I’m Sure

“Your partner is lovely,” I tell my co-worker Pat after she gives me the bottled water that her partner bought me.

“Yeah, I’m glad you met her,” Pat says with a smile. “Last time we met, you were talking so much about your wife I was like, ‘Yo, I’m not hitting on you, I’m a big ol’ dyke.’”

“Oh, no, I talk about her all the time, and to be fair,” I add, “you might still be hitting on me, because I am damn charming."

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Sleepy Time

I lay down for a nap. The bed is soft, and I am very tired after getting up at five in the morning to work a shift for a friend of mine.

I know that if I lay still for long enough, my body will relax, and sure enough it does, but all that means is that I’m able to feel the adrenaline that has been keeping me upright still shoving its way through my veins. The heavy pounding of my heart shakes my entire body, but the sensation is almost delicious, because I know that very soon I’ll be completely unconscious, and very shortly whatever “I” was will have disappeared in the long, slow labyrinth of my body and sleep.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Night Music

The Philharmonic plays light selections of classical music while we sit on the grass in the park and eat until we have to stop because to eat any more would be injurious. Afterwards there are fireworks, greens and purples and reds and golds sparkling in the sky over our heads, and I try to conjure up the feelings fireworks gave me as a child, the wonder and awe, but for some reason I keep thinking of Weimar Germany, and so many families for whom the upcoming Fourth of July festivities celebrating freedom will just be empty words.

We walk home beside the park afterwards, all the plants exhaling slow, green air for us to inhale, and families and couples peel off down particular side streets according to their privilege. We turn off a bit further along, mostly just following the crossing lights, and see cranes above the buildings, paused in their work remaking the face of Brooklyn, their long necks and heads lowered like enormous, heavy animals, slumbering in the twilight of the glow of the city that burns the thin clouds orange and gray.


Riding our bikes back home from the movie theater around midnight, we pass quietly through mostly empty Brooklyn streets, between rows of houses glowing sleepily with warm nighttime light or shuttered and dreaming.

Katie’s taillight blinks red like the lights on the wings of a high, silent airplane as we glide through the cool night air. She passes beneath the shadow of a tree, and I have this vertiginous sensation, a foreground/background shift, snapping the whole street into focus.

The tall trees thick with foliage blocking out the elegant, alien swan-necks of the streetlights; the silent, slumbering houses, and just a few yards ahead, the beacon of my love’s taillight, steady as a pulse, pulling me through the night, guiding me home.

Thursday, June 14, 2018


The desolate Brooklyn streets are flanked by warehouses and industrial decay, painted up in gaudy hues with spraypaint murals. We sit on the wood fence and eat pizza while white, college-looking kids drift in and out of the bar next door.

A woman strides by, headphones firmly in her ears. “That’s the first black person I’ve seen in almost an hour,” I say to Katie, and she nods and takes another bite.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

His Face

In the storage space where we keep everything for the family business, at the end of a long hallway, this guy is standing. He squints at me with his mouth open, like he can’t quite believe what he’s seeing, and then starts down the hall toward me wheeling a dolly heavy with boxes.

My heart quickens a little as I realize we’re going to have to pass one another between the seemingly endless rows of identical storage lockers, and I turn up my music like a shield against the world.

He brushes by me without making eye contact, or even acknowledging me at all, while maintaining the same expression, and I realize that may just be his face.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Power Up

“Okay, so, in Super Mario, the raccoon suit? is the best power-up to get,” Katie leans over and murmurs to me as we ride the subway into Manhattan.

“Sure, it like makes you invincible or something,” I reply.

“Yes, but having said that, I would not get the raccoon suit tattooed on my calf,” she says, pointing out the massive, really depressed looking guy in the shorts about to get off the train at the next stop who, sure enough, has the raccoon suit Mario tattooed on his thick calf.

I watch this guy for a bit, his hunched shoulders and dejected expression, and I wish he had been born about five hundred years ago, where, instead of seeming to feel uncomfortable in his own skin, his impressive bulk would have made him the most feared and terrifying of the king’s marauders, allowing him to crack skulls and pillage all over the countryside like the true bad ass he is.

Iodinated Contrast

It’s raspberry flavored,” the nurse says, setting down a liter bottle of red liquid.

“And I have to drink it all?” I say, eyeing it dubiously.

“I’m not going to make you drink all of it,” she says, shrugging a little, “but it’s better if you drink as much as you can, because it’ll make the picture better.”

“I kind of like the taste,” says a woman sitting in the corner of the waiting room, saluting me with her almost empty bottle.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

From the Mouths of Children

Another block party along the bike path has the entire street closed off, so Katie and I get off and walk our bikes past the tables set up in the road, past the dads serving ice cream from enormous tubs into styrofoam bowls, past the the families playing corn hole, past the dog behind the fence barking desperately to join in the game of frisbee happening just a few maddening feet away.

We get almost to the end of the block and, seeing almost nobody around except for a couple of kids, I get back on my back and start riding, only to hear a young voice admonish, “Don’t ride your..., don’t ride your bike!”

I ignore the kid and go through the intersection, and when Katie finally catches up with me, I say, laughing, “You hear that kid scolding me?”

“That’s why I didn’t ride my bike back there,” she says earnestly.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

I See

...her across the street. Me watching her, her watching a starling that alighted near her in the crosswalk, cars whizzing between us.

She opens her phone to check something. I open my phone to write this down.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Her Arsenal

I’m sitting on the couch, reading after Katie has headed back to the bedroom to start getting ready for bed. I’ve turned off the TV and the house is quiet.

From the other end of the house comes the cat, meowing in high dudgeon that she has still, at this hour, still not been fed her final meal of wet food for the day.

She runs up to right where I’m sitting and stares at me for just a moment expectantly, as if the entire universe has paused in the space between us, before unleashing a series of angry, wet, explosive sneezes that spatter the couch, and then, with one last contemptuous look, running back to the kitchen to wait for me to come feed her.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

They’re Going to Find Out

“Yeah, I’ll work really hard to not go back into an office,” I tell my friend as we wait for his food. The woman spreads a thin sheet of batter on the large, round griddle, and it almost immediately starts to bubble and steam until it’s formed a crepe, whereupon she heaps brown saucy things and green spicy things on it and folds it into a warm delicious packet.

“The thing for me is, I’m sort of a director now,” he says earnestly. “Managing people, projects, upper management, and I always get the feeling every time I go in I’m going to be found out."

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Literally The Least We Could Do

The ad for the new podcast says, “And we ask the important questions too, like, is Will Smith just coonin’?”

“There are plenty of things I’m not allowed to say,” I muse to Katie. “They’re not for me, and I’m okay with that.”

“Reparations!” she shouts in agreement, walking back into her studio.

He’s Optimistic Things Will Get Worse

He sits on a milk crate by the curb, a resigned look on his face, his wares spread out before him in tidy, colorful rows. But nobody is buying on this blue-sky, sunny day because the only thing he is selling is umbrellas - short ones, long ones, in every hue of the conspicuously absent rainbow.

When I point him out to Katie, we agree he’s certainly emblematic of something. “Or,” she says, “he’s Nostradamus, like, ‘What do you know?’"

Monday, June 4, 2018

Parting Gifts

Amongst the increasing piles as we tear down the booth on our last day at the market are a bunch of tarps that we used to protect the merchandise from a leaky vent that was raining water down on our stuff.

Don’t need it anymore, though, so I wad up the clear, thin plastic stuff that more closely resembles garbage bags than anything else, and take it over to the manager running things.

She’s French, and we’ve only really started chatting the last couple of weeks, but she seems nice, so I tease her a little as I hand her the tarps, growling, “Don’t say I never gave you anything.”

She takes them with exaggerated delight, says, “Oh, I will make the most beautiful, transparent dress.

Sunday, June 3, 2018


I’m pretty sure this kid’s mom is going to buy her a butterfly.

If I can only keep her focused long enough to freakin’ pick one.

“So in the game? there’s like jewels, but they’re not really jewels they’re coins, just different colored coins, like blue, like a sapphire, but you can use them to buy, like different animals to be, but most of the animals cost one hundred and fifty but right now, I have seventy six,” she says, having not paused once to so much as breathe the entire time.

“Let me just check the price on this one,” she says for the fifth time, going over to the big piece with a giant blue butterfly that she really wants, even though we both know that her mom isn’t going to cough up the cash for that one, and that she has to pick one of the smaller pieces, and I grit my teeth and smile.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Unselective Memory

I chat with my childhood friend online, and after the discussion about music and how his kids are doing, I discover he doesn’t remember seeing one of the many movies we saw together. It was this terrible hip-hop film vehicle for Dr. Dre and Ed Lover of Yo Mtv Raps! fame called “Who’s The Man?” - he and I would see about a movie a week for a while there, going and seeing whatever was in the theater, and while we saw a lot of dreck, this particular piece of dreck really burned into my memory.

“It was right around the time we saw ‘Clueless’ and ‘Truth or Dare’,” I type, hoping to jog his memory.

“ha!” he replies, “I just watched Clueless a couple months ago."