Monday, November 11, 2019

What’s Good For Me?

When I wake up, still on the couch, the guy on the video is still slicing fruit, but I have no idea what’s going on, so I tell Katie, “I fell asleep.”

“Time for bed!” she says, and so naturally I sit there staring at my phone, flipping through memes, for another twenty minutes.

“Oh my God, you’re in pain,” she says, looking at me hunched over with a scowl on my face as I stare into my glass brick at pictures of cats. “Just go to bed."

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Let Him Be

I walk into the pizza place during my lunch break, nerves still jangling from a busy selling floor, and ask for a couple of slices.

After the guy behind the counter slides them into the oven to reheat, I turn around to survey the place, only to see a guy I work with eating a couple of slices of his own and watching videos on his phone.

He doesn’t see me, and I think about whether or not to disturb him - we’re friendly, but not friends, and I pretty sure he didn’t come to this place to make conversation.

So I let him be, and, after I get my slices, slide into a booth that allows me to sit facing the same direction as he’s facing so he can watch his phone unmolested.

Friday, November 8, 2019

We’re All Pretty Predictable

Katie grabs some stuff from her studio while the cat jumps up on the couch demanding to be fed. I pick the cat up, and needle-sharp claws go into my shoulder as she whines about the indignity of it all.

“I bet you can guess what I’m doing just from that sound,” I say.

“I bet I can,” Katie replies, without looking.

So Much For Metta

The unkempt man in the hoodie sleeping across three subway seats is now awake, and unhappy about it. He grabs at his crotch with one hand and gestures wildly with the other, the entire time saying things I cannot hear over the music playing in my headphones. 

Even without hearing him, it’s obvious that his imprecations are growing more violent as his gesticulations increase in ferocity and intensity, but I try to imagine him bathed in loving white light, surrounded by angels who soothe his fevered brain and calm his tattered heart.

Then he shudders up to a sitting position and begins shouting, and I move to the other side of the car.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Germophobe

“Could you please bring me a pair of shoes that no one has ever tried on before?” she asks, so, after a brief hunt, I do, because she asked nicely.

She takes the box from me and unpacks the shoes herself, after thoroughly cleaning her hands with sanitizer. “I don’t do drugs, and I don’t hurt anyone,” she explains patiently as she lifts the shoes from the box and puts them on her feet. “We all have our little quirks,” she finishes. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

We Think She Used To Be Owned By An Elderly Spanish Woman, Based On No Evidence

The cat licks her chops after her nighttime dinner and stalks around on the bed, waiting for us to settle down and go to sleep so she too can go to her favorite sleeping spot.

“So if Honey [nb: my first cat] died eight years ago today, that means that eight years ago you,” she says, speaking to the cat, “were on the streets!”

“And I might as well have stayed there, the way you idiots make me live,” I say, pretending to speak as the cat in the time-honored tradition of pet owners everywhere.

“I used to speak Spanish!” Katie yells in mock outrage on the cat’s behalf.

Good With Faces

“Hey, how are you?” I say cheerfully to the woman coming into the stockroom behind me.

“Scott, I have to ask: do you even know my name?” she says.

“You're Sarah,” I reply seriously, “and if I’ve ever given you the impression that I don’t know your name, I am very sorry.”

I leave her with a confused expression on her face, but with a sinking feeling in my heart, knowing that if a few other people I work with had asked me that same question, the conversation would have gone very differently.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

No Car? No Problem!

The bus is almost empty, but I’m carrying four enormous sheets of stiff plastic, each about four by eight feet, and that, together with my almost pathological midwestern aversion to inconveniencing others, makes me want to just walk the final thirteen or so blocks home.

Katie’s having none of that, though, and when the bus driver slams the door on us, she doesn’t yell, doesn’t fuss, she just looks at him. Finally, when he asks, Katie tells him we’re only really going three stops, and he grudgingly opens the door and lets us on. 

As we shuffle to the back to the empty back of the bus, I carry my giant plastic sheets past an older gentleman, and he says, with a wink, “That’s the biggest MetroCard I’ve ever seen."

Not a Secret

The first weekend day of November comes in cold, crisp, and clear after yesterday’s rainy warmth, and so Katie sends me out to the farmer’s market. The dry, cold air dries out sinuses and skin, and she’s hoping I’ll pick up some eucalyptus to put in the shower, because the fragrant, menthol atmosphere they create helps us get through the long, dark days to come.

Apparently we’re not the only ones with this idea, because the stalls all have eucalyptus by the bushel-full. I see a couple people walking around with bags of the stuff, and we all make eye contact and smile at one another, like we know a secret.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Some Questions Are Stupid

“Would you like to see a video I found?” I ask Katie as she comes out of her studio.

“I have polyurethane all over my hands right now,” she says, holding up her hands, which are exactly as described, “so I can’t right now.”

Later, after she has scrubbed her hands in mineral spirits and then soap and water, and shown me her still-stained cuticles with a certain amount of chagrin, I ask, “Now, would you like to watch an English Bulldog snore?”

“Of course I would,” she says, with a look that implies that, although she loves me, she thinks the questions that I sometimes ask are pretty dumb.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Face of a God

The fountain at Grand Army Plaza geysers water high into the air despite the gray, overcast, misty day. I walk past it from the arch at the top of Prospect Park towards Flatbush and the bust of JFK that they put up the year he died.

The fountain is a weird modernist/classic hybrid behemoth, all greenish brass and gods cavorting in water, that reminds me of the uber-pagan stuff they have at Rockefeller Center. Especially the Neptune they’ve got facing the park: he’s fat, but he’s somehow still got a six-pack, and his face is a rictus of awful good cheer that I find myself imagining providing small children nightmares for many past generations, and for many generations to come.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

What’s In A Name?

This enormous German Shepard walking into the ATM vestibule of the bank is remarkable for any number of reasons - his size, his floof, his missing eye that makes him look like he’s winking - but most of all for what he’s carrying.

He’s displays, clenched in his mouth, a full-sized orange traffic cone, and a well-loved one at that, from the looks of it. 

Katie and I coo and fuss over him, and he rewards our attention by walking over and dropping the drool-covered cone at our feet and looking up expectantly.

“Oh, Romeo loves to play tug of war with his toy,” his owner says helpfully, as Katie picks up the only toy big enough for a dog this big, and Romeo grabs the other end and growls happily.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Mark 6:4

If someone leaves a shoe in a section of the stockroom where it doesn’t belong, it’s called a “ditch.” A ditch means that the shoe in question could not have been found, if it was needed, by anybody else, because it was not in the place where it was supposed to be, and the only reason that it wasn’t in the right spot was because somebody was too lazy to find the spot where it belonged, and just put it any old place.

A ditch in my area caused me rage today, and so I shouted out, “Ditches get stitches!”

There were a bunch of people within earshot who heard this, I’m sure, but none of them laughed.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Fewer Stories Lately

I open up the “Health” app on my phone and throw it on the bed. It reads “16,833 steps/34 floors.”

Katie smiles wryly. “That’s 13 stories less than yesterday,” she says.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

rally

The rally of employees for the opening of the new store is in full swing, music far too loud for such an early hour, and there are too many people around me, so I step around the crowd and walk over to the floor-to-ceiling windows and look out.

The roar of the music and noise of people, only a few feet away, fades considerably, and I stare down to the ground. I feel a small moment of peace after so many weeks of hard work.

I step back into the melee, the DJ starts playing “Poison” by Bell, Biv, Devoe, and the crowd goes nuts.

Duck Season (Rabbit Season)

This lady is contrary - if I suggest a trend, she likes it, but not that way; sure she likes block heels, but not those block heels. 

Finally she says she wants exactly those shoes, and I run to the stockroom to grab them, but on my way there, I see another pair of shoes, similar, but not exactly the same, when suddenly a strategy comes to mind.

“Listen,” I say, sitting down with her after showing her the exact one she asked for and having her reject it, “I don’t think you’re going to like this next one, but I thought I’d show it to you, just in case.”

“Oh!” she says, as I pull it out of the box, “that’s actually pretty cute!"

Monday, October 21, 2019

Golden Retriever

The fifteen minute break is over, and one of the Assistant Managers grabs me and a couple of other people to go bring some display fixtures up from a car parked downstairs.

As we’re crossing the street, we see a group of my co-workers coming back from a restaurant - very, very late.

The manager gives them the stink eye, but one of the group perks up as he sees us, like a golden retriever seeing somebody grab a leash.

“Hey, guys, where are we going?” he asks happily, oblivious.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Remembering the Dog

A cold, driving rain, harder than when we left the house, greets us as we leave the grocery store, and Katie and I pull our hoodies down lower to cover our faces. My glasses fleck up with droplets that scatter the streetlights into sparks across my eyes.

I find myself thinking of having to walk the dog in weather like this: the reluctance of a smart, stubborn, slightly demented dog to get wet, the ages that she would take to pee while I stood, soggy and bored, waiting for her to figure out the exact spot on which she wanted to do her business.

It’s only been a little over a year, and still I’m amazed at how so little time has passed, and how far away she seems, and how I miss her.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Take the Compliment

The guy sitting by the train door when I get on has goth game for days: from the soles of his spiky leather booths, right up through his black jeans, on through his black denim jacket covered in band patches from Sisters of Mercy and Ministry, right to the top of his pentagrammed top hat.

I lean over and say to him, “I love your hat.”

Instantly, his face falls, and I realize that receiving a compliment on his fashion sense from a guy who dresses like me (a green button down, comfortable pants, Frye work-boots) might not have complimented him as much as I thought.

“Thanks,” he says, without changing expression..

Rescue

The sirens and flashing lights down the block have attracted all sorts of people, including us, out into the chill fall air, and the fire trucks have cordoned off the block. We watch with concern as lights play on the outside of the building where smoke poured out only a few minutes before, and a few brave fire-fighters have climbed up to the window and begun to smash out the windows.

A woman and a man walk out of the building with a dog each, and another woman starts crying when she sees them, and yet another woman looks at us and see’s our delight and says, “There were actually two dogs in there.”

When we point out that two dogs came out of the building this very moment, she turns, looks, sees the other dog, and her face lights up with joy.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

An Apple, A Day

Footsore and weary after a long day of work, on my way to pick up some fruit and vegetables, I make it halfway across the intersection before the light changes, and I’m forced to pause on the median.

I stare up Atlantic Avenue as the traffic files by, their lights illuminating the dusk, and a cold wind pushes at me. I squint into the wind, and realize that it’s actually kind of cold, and that I’ve become like some sort of animal who has no emotional response to its own discomfort, but merely accepts it as a fact, like darkness or hunger.

Later, after getting the food, I walk down the street eating an apple, and it is so sweet and tart and delicious that I find myself giving thanks for the mere fact of being alive.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Exit Strategy

I pride myself on being able to chart the shortest route from the subway station to where I’m going, especially if I use the station in question frequently to get to a destination I go to often.

So when I get off the train to go to work, and see a woman I work with going up the stairs ahead of me, I fully expect her to go the way I’m planning on going.

Instead, when she exits the turnstile, instead of taking a left, and exiting a little less than a block away, she goes right, to an exit that I know will let her out on the other side of the street, adding at least a minute to her walk.

Which just seems perverse to me.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

High Holy Days

“Excuse me, are you Jewish?” the kid with the scraggly beard and the shofar asks as I walk by.

I’m always pleased when the Jews are out for their holidays trying to find secular Jews and they ask me, like the fact they can’t tell whether or not I’m Jewish means that I have a little of that air of holiness and otherworldliness that the orthodox Jews always seem to carry with them. 

“No,” I say with a big smile. “Have a nice day."

Monday, October 14, 2019

Breakfast Orphan

We’ve both been working pretty hard, and sleeping maybe less than we should, so Katie and I are both a little punchy as we head down the frozen food aisle to the checkout with frozen waffles, causing her to exclaim, “Says here on the box they have nine vitamins!"

“Nine!” I say in mock admiration.

“Are you a breakfast orphan, with no who loves you enough to make you a nourishing meal? Here’s your waffle!"

Pattern Of Behavior

“Okay, get on your bike and ride to mommy,” the man tells his small son as he finishes petting the tawny French bulldog. “And don’t hit anyone,” he shouts after him as the kid barrels down the sidewalk.

The kid rides a few feet past his mom, who is standing waiting on the next corner, and when the dad gets to them, he explains, “He had to stop and pet a dog.”

“You have to tell us if you’re going to keep doing that,” she says to her son in a mildly scolding tone, but he’s already ridden off again.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Triumph

He’s so large that his enormous bald head almost hits some of the pendants hanging over the entrance to the booth as he comes in. His face is a visage of longing and grief as he surveys Katie’s art.

“You want to capture them all!” he says in a thick German accent.

When I assure him that we don’t capture butterflies he replies, shaking his head, “I mean that when you see them [meaning the butterflies] on the street, they are so beautiful you want to capture them forever, and this you have done!"

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Perspective

“I’m a very social person,” my co-worker says as we walk to the train, “and I don’t have a person at home, so I usually see my friends all the time.”

“But this job has me so tired that once I get off work, I only have energy to go home, eat some dinner, watch a little TV, and then go to bed,” she continues. “Although,” she adds, thoughtfully, "I do have plans tomorrow night, and Sunday night..., and Monday.”

“That’s more people than I’ve seen in two months,” I reply as we head down the steps into the station.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Salvage Rights

“Hi! You look lost,” I say to the unfamiliar guy in the stock room.

We establish that he’s from another department looking for some shoes to outfit a mannequin, and he adds, “I’m glad you came along, or I might have been wandering around here forever.”

“Well, the cool thing is, any bodies we find back here we get to go through their pockets and pilfer their clothes,” I say as I lead him to his shoes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

I Walk Weird

I’m walking down 7th Avenue home from the subway, about to pass a woman walking a bit slower than me, when I suddenly realize I don’t know how to walk.

I mean, I continue walking, in that I am putting one foot in front of the other and not falling down, but the mechanics of it, how fast I do it, all that, seems weird and forced and entirely unnatural.

I pass her on the left, acutely aware of the way my hips sort of bobble back and forth as I walk, feeling the incipient pain as I almost over-extend my left knee with every step, and I decide to just forget about and relax.

And suddenly everything comes back into focus, and I can feel the earth passing swiftly underneath my feet as I pass this woman and speed off into the dusk.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Afternoon Tea

I leave the group of guys I was eating lunch with, and the loud restaurant where we were eating, and head out to the park by myself. I genuinely love people, but I’ve been around too many people today for my taste, and I need a recharge.

I sit on a rock on a cloudy day, looking down the hill to a road where bicyclists and horse-drawn carriages slowly make their way uphill as they wind through the park. A pigeon wings across a gray sky before landing on a branch high above, and I sip my tea, and think about very, very little.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Good Dog

Many of the people I’m working with lately have a lot of tattoos - a lot of tattoos, all up and down their forearms and sneaking up their necks from under their collars, peeking out from behind shirts or unexpectedly delivering quotes from mediocre poets on an ankle or a bicep.

But the better ones are really something to admire, actual works of art on a canvas of skin, and I occasionally think about adding to my one tattoo on my chest, like today as I was riding home on the train.

But the only thing I would really decorate in that way that would have meaning for me is a long spindly scar running up my right thigh, and when I thought of tattooing that, I cringed in sympathy at the already traumatized flesh having to endure any more suffering at my hand, whether for art or not.

I stood on the train, imagining my body as a large, faithful dog, doing its best to comply with my sometimes irrational demands, and my heart flooded with affection for the loyal, foolish thing.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Maybe Not Everything

I take the ceramic Virgin Mary planter (complete with ceramic rosary!) downstairs and place it on the stoop next to the painted white rattan spice rack.

When I get back upstairs I tell Katie, “You know, it’s nice to know that there’s this whole economy of people leaving stuff out on their stoops, knowing that some other people will take it, no matter what it is. It’s like this energy of stuff flowing through the city.”

When I go back downstairs the planter is gone, but the spice rack is still there.

Disinfected

While we’re stopped at the bus stop, the driver seems to be obsessively rubbing the upper edge of the little plastic door/shield that encloses his seat at the front of the bus. I watch him run his hand up and down the top edge, and then he does it again and rubs the side of the fare collection box, then the steering wheel.

I find his actions mystifying for a few seconds, but then, I smell it. Wafting back to me is the alcoholic scent of of hand sanitizer, and what looked strange is now obviously an act of self-preservation.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Not Mad

Someone put the boxes in the storage room in the wrong order, which means we have to take them all out and put them back in the correct order, which is not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, but it’s still pretty annoying.

“I’m not mad, I’m just mad,” I say to no one in particular.

“I think I’m gonna start saying things like that,” says the soft spoken southern man I work with, overhearing me. “Like, ‘I’m not mad, I just hate you.’”

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Happier Than Most

A bunch of us are in the storage room at my new job, moving boxes of shoes around the shelves, but we’re taking a quick break. I start dancing for no good reason, mostly because keeping still is irritating, and dancing feels good.

“You’re always happy,” one of my co-workers says, watching me contemplatively as I absentmindedly boogie.

“That’s not true,” I say, because it’s not, but I do know what she means.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Forgotten Umbrella

The sky is forebodingly dark, and I hesitate outside the subway station for a moment: do I continue on to the library as planned, knowing that it’s going to rain (nay, deluge) shortly, or do I head home and avoid the whole mess?

When I arrive at the library the ground is still dry, and the fountains outside burble contentedly, blissfully unaware of the thunderclouds hovering just overhead. I feel the faintest prickles of rain as I head inside.

When I have dropped off my returns and picked up my books, I head back to the door, and on my way there pass several drenched and bedraggled folks staggering in, while outside the library what looks like an impenetrable wall of water buckets down on the plaza.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Tired, Hangry

The guy standing riding next to me on the subway is holding the bar above his head with both hands, but he’s got this weird slouch with his hip cocked out that rests his elbow on the vertical bar that I’m holding. What this means, in terms that may be more easy to visualize for those who don’t spend hours out of their days commuting on a subway train, is this guy keeps bumping my hand with his elbow when the train starts and stops.

It’s a light tap, probably barely worth noting any other time, but today I am livid as it happens again and again, until I am ready to swing my elbow around and knock this guy in the head.

I blink, shake my head, and realize that unless I get home soon, eat something, and maybe go to bed early, I will do something that, while probably not as extreme as actually striking someone, will probably get me in more trouble than I want to deal with.

Monday, September 30, 2019

I Just Have That Look, I Guess

“So are you and your wife vegetarian?” my co-worker asks.

“No, I mean, I am, but she is an unrepentant omnivore,” I say. “But I don’t remember saying either of us was, so how did you know?”

She looks me up and down and says, “Well, I have to admit I kind of stereotyped."

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Consolation Prize

The street fair ends at a pizza shop that’s set up a tent outside with a little beer garden and people selling slices to the passers-by. They also have a DJ playing middle-of-the-road hits at ear-bleeding volume while a middle-aged guy with a receding hairline who’s probably the manager shouts over the music through a microphone. 

“I’ve got a t-shirt from our shop as a prize for the best dancer in Brooklyn!” he yells as a bunch of white ladies half-heartedly boogie to Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up.”

“Your prize for being the best dancer in Brooklyn is a mediocre t-shirt,” Katie says.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Dismissed

The dog, a curly-headed little russet puppy, clocks me walking down 7th Avenue from about a block away.

Unlike most New York dogs, who are a little too bored to get too excited for a new person, this dog leaps onto his hind legs and begins to dance a little jig.

When I finally arrive next to him and his owner, he immediately stops dancing and, after a few desultory licks, commences looking for the next person down the block.

“Looks like I’ve been dismissed,” I say to his owner, who nods back sadly.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Like an Animal

Katie and I help out the neighbors by occasionally walking their dog. We wrap the harness under and around her tiny, smooth-furred frame, and take her downstairs, where she immediately pulls us around the corner to a tree beside which a bald man stands between two cars, pissing on the street.

“Looks like everybody is peeing here tonight,” Katie says as the dog squats to do her business.

“Sorry, I just couldn’t hold it anymore,” the guy mutters as he continues to do his.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Former Mayor of New York

We’re riding in a car to a meeting for Katie’s business, about to cross the bridge, when I do that thing that apparently I’ve done since I was a very little child and start reading interesting signs I haven’t seen before.

“Forno’s Italian Restaurant and Cafe,” I pronounce, as if I’m reading scripture at Sunday service.

“Was that the name of the pizza place by where we stayed in Chicago?” Katie asks.

“I keep wanting to say ‘Fiorello’s’ but I know that’s not it,” I reply.

Too Tight

In my new job with shoes, I find myself noticing what people wear on their feet, and I try to identify it and translate it, like I’m attempting to learn a new language.

One woman wears an espadrille with a perforated orange shell and an ankle strap, and the contrast between the texture of the sole and the strapiness of it reads like a dialect where I understand the words individually, but the overall meaning eludes me: a failed seduction.

The woman next to her wears a snake skin sandal with a heel and an ankle strap, but the toe strap is far too narrow for her feet, and her toes are crushed together, leaving the bone at the joint of her big toe protruding alarmingly. Her face is pinched and drawn too, and when she looks up from her phone, she seems to regard the world with a look of pained disappointment.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

American Flag As Warning Sign

My co-worker and I have to ride the freight elevator down to the second basement to put the extra inventory into overstock, and two guys who are working in construction on the new store are riding with us.

“Nancy Pelosi announces impeachment inquiry,” one of the guys says, looking down at his phone. He’s wearing a t-shirt with an American flag on it.

As we arrive at our floor, the other construction guy says, “What?” but I hustle to get off the elevator so I don’t have to hear what the first guy replies.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Bees

The hot sun reminds me of a fall day in my hometown in Arizona, so I decide to eat lunch outside at a little sidewalk table.

But the reason the table was untenanted quickly becomes apparent, as the bees descend upon me and my sandwich. They land on the table, on my food, on my bag of chips, on my thermos for tea, and they refuse to leave, no matter how many times I flap my hands at them to wave them off.

Finally, one lands on my wrist, and I pull it close to my face, attempting to reason with him by saying, “It’s not for you buddy."

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Totally Bought It

“How are you doing?” I say, making strong eye contact with the clearly bored kid behind the counter at the hardware store.

He holds my gaze with a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “I’m doing fantastic.”

This makes me laugh, which surprises him, I guess, because now he smiles for real, and says, “Practicing my acting."

Sartorial Insults

The relatively normal looking guy (kinda short and skinny, blond, bearded, red flannel shirt and skinny pants, lace up boots) leans over to the guy sitting by the door on the subway, says something unintelligible in an accent I can’t place, flips the guy off, and walks to the next car.

I’m sitting on the same bench as the guy who got flipped off, so I lean around the person between us and ask, “What just happened?”

“He said my watch ‘fucking sucked,’” the guy says with a chagrined look.

When I take a look at his watch, and tell him it looks perfectly fine to me, he replies, somewhat sadly, “I work really hard for it."

Friday, September 20, 2019

Controversial Opinon

“What’s up jerks!” Katie yells from the other end of the couch. “If there was a way that the Oreos could stick together without the middle, I’d be fine with that.”

“'Welcome to my TED Talk,’” I add, completing her thought.

“Anybody who doesn’t like it can get double stuffed,” she finishes, which of course makes me laugh and almost causes milk to come out my nose.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Steady On

I’m pushing two large boxes on a dolly down the sidewalk, and I’m trying to be relatively decent. That means, as I pass the elementary school where, through an accident of terrible timing, the entire world is picking up their kids, that means not running these oblivious idiots (and their children) down with my dolly.

This woman walking toward me pushing a stroller, however, is not oblivious at all, and for a brief moment there is a clash of wills as she and I walk straight at each other, neither of us swerving, counting on the cultural weight of our respective burdens to give us the right of way.

Finally, at the last moment, both of us diverge slightly from our paths, leaving us a small bit of wiggle room through which we pass, neither one of us looking at the other.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

“I’m Gonna Need A Second."

“So then I finally get an IT guy on the phone,” says Katie, describing her ordeal with customer service today, “and he says, ‘There will be ninety seconds of silence.’”

“Like he was going to put me on hold, but then he didn’t put me on hold! He just sat there for a moment and took a deep breath,” she sighs in imitation.

“Like he needed to pull himself together or something,” I say, laughing.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Example

Katie tells me about thread she discovered this morning on a neighborhood website about a dog who was left abandoned on a Brooklyn street who was subsequently rescued and given much needed surgery, and concludes her story by saying, “Humanity is garbage."

“But I like you,” I say.

People are fine, but humanity is garbage,” she says. “Would you like an Airborne?"


Water of Kindness

The crosstown bus is crowded - packed with all the people who would normally be riding the broken L train - but the driver patiently gets them all on, and extends the ramp so people using walkers and wheelchairs can board.

An older woman in colorful headdress and matching dress pushes her walker up the ramp like a queen boarding a ship and parks at the front of the bus. Then, at the next stoplight, she reaches into the basket of her walker, pulls out a water bottle, walks it up to the driver, and hands it to him with a smile.

He takes gratefully and thanks her, and she waves off his thanks and makes her way back to her walker, where she and I exchange a smile.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Provider

While I wash dinner’s dishes, the cat sits in the hall just outside the kitchen with a most severe expression, waiting for me to get over my incredible stupidity and feed her.

“The cat is so disappointed in me,” I tell Katie.

So disappointed,” she agrees. “I think the only reason she’s not as disappointed in me is that she think you feed both of us.”

Friday, September 13, 2019

Coming On Fall

“Joan Shelley,” says Katie, coming into the bedroom from her shower, her shoulders above the towel wrapped around her still glistening and pink. “Like the River Loves the Sea.”

So I put on a song from the album, and sit listening, and for a moment it’s like I always listen to music, with my heart tense, primed and expectant for some kind of epiphany, some revelation of ecstasy.

But after a minute, I realize that living in this feeling isn’t really listening, per se, so I let my heart relax, and the song, a delicate, folky thing that makes no gesture toward grand, quietly works its way into me, and it is somehow, lying in bed with the air conditioning still on and a few weeks of summer still left to pass through, it is somehow fall, and the leaves in my mind are turning from green to gold and fire.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Trompe L'Oeil

A trick of perspective turns the subway map 3D, stretching and flattering it out while simultaneously deepening the page. The farms and parks of Queens seem to extend out into the distance, while JFK and Coney Island curve down into Jamaica Bay.

Manhattan stays the same, though. Its obdurate grid floats on the Hudson, self assured as always, uncompromising, face-front to the world.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Schadenfreude

Katie works in her studio at the end of the house while I lie on the couch in the living room watching Bill Hader get interviewed on YouTube.

“Wow! Jimmy Fallon is getting fat!” I yell to her.

“Good!” she yells back.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

That Kind of Cat Person

“I don’t want to be one of those cat ladies,” the woman says, gesturing grandly. Nobody’s coming into the booth to buy stuff right now, so I don’t worry about it.

“Why not?” I ask. “If you like cats, and you’re not causing anybody trouble, why not just sort of lean into it?”

“Well,” she concedes, “maybe I just don’t want to end up on ‘Hoarders.’"

Monday, September 9, 2019

Pretty as a Picture

“Excuse me, who made this?” the patient asks, pointing to the blue and grey print up on the wall opposite my desk.

“Oh, that’s Matisse,” I say. “He was around in the middle of the twentieth century, and toward the end of his life he did a lot of work with cutout shapes that he arranged to look like people.” 

“May I take a picture of it?” she asks shyly.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

A Restless Soul

The DJ played a song I like while I was working at the market today, but I didn’t get to listen to it because I was talking to a customer, so while I’m walking to the subway after my shift I find it on my phone and hit play.

I stride past a woman who is looking down at her phone, past a couple holding hands, while the music sings of reincarnation and trying to get at least one life right. The music swells and smiles, grabs my heart and squeezes it with joy, and I feel myself starting to cry with longing for all the lives I don’t remember, that I probably never had.

I cover up my mouth to push the sob back down into my chest, but people just walk by, because this is New York, and if you want to cry on the street, nobody cares.

For Fun

“That’s new,” Katie says, pointing out the new electronic sign that let’s commuters at the entrance to the subway know how long until the next train arrives. “Now we don’t have to throw ourselves down the stairs.”

“Unless we want to,” I add. "You know, for fun,”

Friday, September 6, 2019

Head Inside

“Problems arising from the burial in the unconscious of material which is not in its province are partly caused by personal attitudes,” the book I’m reading says. “Frequently however the problems are caused by attitudes which seem built into our society rather than being a personal matter.”

A little boy with some older people runs ahead of them, leaping off the path and lifting up his head to yell up into the sky as he lets the low hanging needles of a pine tree graze his face.

The wind blows harder for a moment, and then the moisture in the air turns to a fine mist that speckles my khakis and my leather bag, and, not wanting to get rained on, I stand with a sigh and head inside.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Find My Friends

I couldn’t have been asleep long, could I? 

The house is almost dark, though, and Katie still isn’t home from her errands, so I check the app that I have that lets us find each other when we’re apart (which is seldom). Her little blue dot on the screen hasn’t moved from where I last saw it before I accidentally napped, and my mind conjures visions of her struck down crossing the street, lying hurt on the pavement, or just her phone abandoned downstairs while she herself is disappeared by some nefarious person who left it there to torment me.

Still groggy, I slip on my shoes and run downstairs only to find her, sitting on the stoop, chatting on the phone with her mother; when she hears me open the door behind her, she turns and smiles.

You Should Look Out The Window

The weather comes on every ten minutes on the TV at work to tell me that there’s a storm watch until six o’clock for Brooklyn, and I believe them.

It’s a few minutes before five and everybody’s wrapped up for the day, so I tell the boss, “Hey, if you don’t need me, I’m gonna split and get ahead of this storm.” 

Everybody looks at me weird, but I’m already out the door, so it’s fine.

Down on the street, the sidewalks are wet and the air smells and feels like a damp armpit, but the sun is out and the skies are clear, and I feel a little foolish.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Watch and Learn

She doesn’t even look at me as she comes into the booth, but makes a line straight for a piece of Katie’s art that contains a death’s head moth (the type of moth made famous for the outline of a skull on its back by the movie “Silence of the Lambs”) where she stands studying it, fascinated.

“I always like to see the people who go for that piece right away, because even though they don’t look alike, they’re definitely a type,” I say conversationally, and she (thankfully) smiles.

“I bet it’s interesting to guess what butterflies certain types of people go for, right?” she says, looking around.

“Nope, because if you try too hard to guess, you’ll miss what they actually do go for,” I say.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Hard to Ignore

“So, how’s the business going,” I ask my friend after we’ve put in our lunch order.

But just as he begins speaking, an older man drunkenly stumbles through the door of the restaurant and demands to speak to a manager.

In a piercing, querulous voice, he details how he fell down outside the establishment yesterday, and he demands compensation, no not tomorrow, right now, dammit, no he won’t leave, he’ll stay right here until the manager comes (all the while waving a walking stick around like he has a mind to start braining people with it if he doesn’t start getting some answers).

Eventually he is talked outside, where he is left cursing at the facade of the restaurant, until finally I interrupt my friend, saying, “Listen, I’m really sorry, you’re going to have to repeat that, since I have no idea what you just said."

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Happens All The Time

She walks into the booth and doesn’t say anything for a long time. She just stares at the butterflies with tears in her eyes.

“My grandfather used to call me his butterfly,” she says finally, her voice choked. 

“I understand,” I say, and she turns and walks out of the booth.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

I’d Like To Speak To The Manager

“I think you’ll find given your age that your ability to see things up close will continue to diminish until about age seventy,” the optometrist says as she makes notes in my chart.

“Who do I fight about that?” I ask, and she laughs nervously.

“I don’t know, evolution?”

“I’ll be writing a strongly worded letter,” I say seriously.

Nothing Further From the Truth

Jeremy, who works behind the counter at the pizza place we frequent, gives us a finger point and a smile when we walk in.

“You look like you just got back from vacation,” he says. Katie is wearing a Brooklyn Cyclones baseball cap, and I’m in shorts and a “Soylent” t-shirt I got for free.

“Nope, we just finished working at home all day,” Katie says with a weary smile, and I shrug.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Cabbage

“One thing I learned from that cabbage recipe we like,” I tell Katie as I cook dinner. “Don’t be afraid to let your veggies get a little brown.”

“Why aren’t we eating that cabbage right now?” she asks intently.

“We’ll eat it tomorrow, I forgot about it."

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Thwarted

I exit the building after a particularly trying morning, ready to recharge my batteries eating my lunch under a tree in the park.

But as I walk out from under the scaffolding around the entrance, my face is coated in a very fine mist, and the entire park is hazed in what feels like a low-hanging cloud.

I lift my face as I continue up the stairs at the to the park, enjoying the feel of the almost-rain on my face. Then I realize that, as fine and unassuming as this rain appears, if I stay out in it longer than a few minutes I’m gonna be soaked, and with a resigned sigh I turn around and go back inside.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Throb and Rumble

Walking past the construction site in the morning, everything is hidden behind enormous plywood walls painted blue. But work is definitely in progress, because even the sidewalks vibrate with the uneven percussion of machines pounding away at the earth, and people walk by a little more quickly, uneasy at the sound.

At night the subway home stops on the bridge, with the peculiar silence that comes in a stopped train when the constant roar of the air conditioning stops and sudden silence engulfs the train where we hadn’t even noticed there was noise. But even in the newly yawning abyss of the absence of a din, there is a throb and rumble as other trains pass us going back into Manhattan, a restless bass ostinato that unsettles and makes us anxious for going.

Monday, August 26, 2019

See You Next Life

The park where I eat lunch most Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays is also a grave, a great beautiful memorial to thousands of Americans who died hundreds of years ago as prisoners on British ships during the Revolutionary War.

And like most gravesites, it is, far from being a spooky haunt for apparitions and ghouls, a quiet, lovely, slightly melancholy place: butterflies float above mildly unkempt lawns; children run laughing around the plaza under which lie the bones of those who died in pain and fear just off the shore, within sight of their homes; and just a few yards away, a woman coos and babbles over two babies she is entertaining on a blanket on the grass.

Katie asks me via text what I’m thinking about. I reply, “I was thinking about the two babies that are lying on a blanket, and wondering if in our next life we could figure out a way to be twins.”

Sunday, August 25, 2019

She Was Home Like Five Minutes Later

Katie stands at the door a little after 10 PM. “I’ve got my phone and my debit card,” she says, “and I don’t have my ID, but it’s okay because my debit card has my name on it.”

We’re both thinking about a news story we read a few months ago where a guy left his apartment to move his car and went missing, only to turn up almost two weeks later in a hospital because he was hit by car, and nobody knew who he was since he didn’t have any ID on him.

“Come home soon, I love you,” I say, making sure to say it and mean it just in case it’s the last thing I ever get to say to her.

Why Does It Cry On Such A Nice Day?

A beautiful day: blue sky piled high with fluffy white clouds sailing on cool breezes that only just cut the hot sun’s mild aggression. And yet.

And yet there seems to be a crying child on every street corner from here to the park, some of them just crying as they are led by sympathetic parents down the sidewalk, others straight up wailing as their adults look on with exasperation.

One child cries like she’s been shot as she’s being carried bodily across the street while she strains back toward the other sidewalk with all her might, and when her mother reaches the far end of the crosswalk and puts her down, she collapses in a small heap of blubbering child, and the proceeds to try to crawl back into the street.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

He’s Sure

I’m scooping fresh cat litter into my refillable jug at the pet store when the two of them walk by. He actually runs by, a small wire-haired terrier, followed by his owner, and they both go to the chew aisle where he stands looking up at her expectantly.

“Well, go ahead and pick one,” she says, where upon he very carefully begins looking in each bin, carefully considering his options until he finally, gingerly, grabs a rawhide bully stick almost as big as himself and drags it over to his person.

“Well, if you’re sure,” she says, picking him up, and he wags his tail enthusiastically.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Couldn’t Have Happened to Two Nicer People

He’s middle-aged, if I had to guess - a paunchy, middle-aged, white guy in jeans, a t-shirt, and the requisite baseball cap, with the only thing really setting him apart from any number of people walking down Union Street in Park Slope being a large American flag on a pole that he carries over one shoulder like a rifle.

A white guy carrying a flag and not being in uniform or marching in a parade of some kind signals “danger” to me, so I judiciously cross to the other side of the street where I can walk in parallel to keep an eye on him. We walk together that way for a while, with him in my peripheral vision, until he passes behind a parked car, where the flag suddenly stops moving.

I pass a little beyond the car and see that he has been stopped by one of the clipboard kids - street solicitors (read: scammers) that hit up pedestrians for money for probably non-existent charities - and, after watching for a moment, I happily continue on my way, a smile on my face and a jaunty spring in my step.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Sudden Storm

Even though the clouds have been piling up since I came home from work, the storm still seems to come on quickly, like a single yelling voice turning into a shouting crowd. The lush green backyards out our kitchen window are tossed by the wind and rain, the trees gyrating back and forth in the frothing air.

“I wonder what the front looks like,” I muse as I cook, but Katie is already on her way to her studio to look out on the street.

“It’s a river,” she informs me on her return.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

New York

“Oooohhhh, take me off your mailing list, for kids who think it still exists, for those who think it still exists,” the singer wails in my headphones as he laments a New York that used to be. We’re going over the bridge again, a very Groundhog Day sort of feeling, and I’m looking upriver past the glittering spans of the Williamsburg Bridge up into Queens.

The train passes over something on the third rail that sparks like a flash bulb going off, white light obliterating anything more that ten feet from the train, and everything in that circle stark and harsh.

Then the spark is gone, and the New York City shyly returns, a little less bright to my eyes than it was a second ago, but still there, still glittering, after all.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Looks Like Rain?

Katie is sitting on the front steps of our building when I arrive home from my shift at the doctor’s office, waiting for the guys who are delivering her chest of drawers that she recently purchased. She sees me coming down the street, and even though she’s clearly pretty tired, she manages a smile.

I take off my bag and sit next to her, and we talk about our respective days, and rate the steady parade of dogs out for their evening strolls. 

“That cloud,” Katie says with a worried look, pointing up at a dark gray customer that seems to have come out of nowhere, “moved in about five minutes ago, and the guys are bringing the piece in a pickup truck."

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Working a Double

The words on my phone blur, and I wasn’t really reading them anyway. I blink hard, once, twice, and then open my eyes as wide as I can and try to look at something else for a second.

The aisles of the market are somewhat full, but not packed, and nobody seems to be buying stuff. A balding man and his wife at a nearby booth bend closely over a counter crowded with boring, basic jewelry at least half of which I know for a fact was imported from China, and they seem to be frozen for a moment, like figures on a screen that are just about to start moving, and I watch them for a while before I look away.

I Miss Drive-Ins

One of the characters in this movie lives behind a drive-in movie theater, and the shot of him driving back to his house gets the sound of a drive-in exactly right: all the tinny little speakers that are meant to go in your car windows blaring out the sound track to the movie so that it carries in a faint chorus across the parking lot.

When I was a kid, the DeAnza drive-in in Tucson would have a swap meet in the hours before dark. My parents would take us there, and I would run around in the deepening dusk as the vendors packed up their wares and folded their tables in preparation for the movie to start.

The hot desert air would cool, and I would find my way back to the station wagon where my dad was fiddling with the heavy, metal speaker to get it hooked over the door, and the sound would come on, the screen would light up, and the magic would begin.

Friday, August 16, 2019

All In the Timing

“Key lime pies!” Katie exclaims in delight on seeing them in the display at the pastry shop.

“Oh, I’m sorry, someone called in and reserved every single one of those,” the woman behind the counter says with a frown.

There’s a silent pause, a moment of exquisite tension as the woman behind the counter and Katie lock eyes, and then, almost simultaneously, they both start to grin.

“I’m glad it’s not true, but I really appreciate that joke being made,” Katie says, laughing.

Liminal

A huge yellow moon lifts above the clouds as we ride the Manhattan Bridge in a taxi over the East River to Brooklyn. The everloud glittering towers and spires of the island behind us are quiet, and ahead of us, Long Island waits for us with its own problems and beauties.

Bridges are connections between the spaces, which is what makes them beautiful. They are like fall and spring, and their loveliness comes from the fact that we cannot remain on them, but must use them to get to where we are going. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

He Didn’t Want To Fill Out A Form

“Sir, everyone else has filled out the form....,” I begin gently. The other patients in the doctor’s waiting room are carefully looking everywhere else but at the two of us.

“This isn’t about everybody else, this is about me!” he says, his voice rising.

“Yes, I can see that,” I sigh.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Monthly’s Can Only Swipe Once

A well-thought-out, but ill-considered reply from me to a senator’s tweet has me blocking folks left and right on Twitter today, and their bad vibes leave me pondering why people can’t just be nice to each other to the point that I don’t hear the woman behind me at the subway entrance.

“Excuse me!” I finally hear her say, and move one headphone off my ear to show that I’m listening. “Can I pay you cash to swipe me in?” she asks.

“Sorry, it’s a monthly,” I call behind me as I swipe myself in and dash down the stairs to the train waiting to take me home.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Working Man Needs Rest

“Yeah, Lana del Rey kinda makes you want to kill yourself,” Katie finishes.

“Yeah, maybe if you're depressed,” I reply, laughing, “but if you’re not depressed then she’s sly and charming. I’m not depressed.”

“Your eyes are bloodshot and you’re ready to go to bed at 7:30, but you’re not depressed,” Katie says, looking at my heavy-lidded eyes and patting my cheek fondly.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Processing Trauma

We’re on the Brooklyn Bridge when the cab driver breaks the quiet of the ride.

“Did you hear about that accident on the West Side Highway?” he asks a little too loudly.

“Yeah, it sounded awful!” Katie says.

“I was there at about 3:45” he says, his heavily accented voice, quieter, but still quite loud in the small cab, “the lady’s whole car was on fire, and the flames were so intense that none of the four cars there could get close enough to help."

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Shift Change

The bus pulls over at the stop and lets a few people off, but then the driver, instead of continuing on his way, opens up the little armored plexiglass and steel door to his driving vestibule and steps out. 

I’m literally one stop away from where I was planning on getting off, and I briefly consider getting off and walking, but I’m not in a hurry, so I stay put. A woman, small and tidy in her uniform, steps in front of the bus and examines something while the current driver strips some gloves from his hands and throws them into a duffel bag at his feet.

The two of them exchange cursory greetings as she gets on, and he waves a lazy farewell as she encloses herself in the driving vestibule, powers up the bus, shuts the door, and pulls slowly away from the curb.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Are We Really Friends?

The dog has smooth, russet fur, and yellowish eyes that might be a bit disconcerting if they weren’t filled with such a kind expression. Her owner confirms that she’s friendly, so I hold out my hand palm down, fingers gently curved, for a cursory sniff, and then she goes in for chin scratches almost immediately.

After we’re done getting acquainted, I thank her owner for the privilege, and return to setting out my lunch: a sandwich, some chips, an apple. The dog perks up and sits at attention while I continue studiously avoiding eye contact, but eventually, realizing that no treats are forthcoming, she lies back down at her owner’s feet with a heavy, regretful sigh.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Why So Serious?

The C train I’m on doesn’t list the stop I need, no matter how many times I look at the map that says my stop is on this route. Maybe it’s just going express, skipping the stop I need, which is no big deal - I can just get off the train before that and wait for a local.

But my anxiety keeps growing as I get closer to my transfer point, until I’m checking my breathing, and working actively to calm myself.

When we arrive at the stop, the computerized voice announces that this is an express train, pauses, and then announces that this is a local train, listing all the stops, including the one I need, and I feel the knot in my stomach evaporate.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Luke 15:8-9

About an hour after lunch, I realize I’m thirsty, which shouldn’t be, because all I have to do is fill up my water bottle and....

I stand up from my desk and walk quickly to the back and tell my co-worker, “I’ll be right back.”

The hill up to the top of the park is steep, but I take it at almost a jog despite the sick feeling I have, straight toward the bench where I sat and ate my sandwich an hour ago.

There, sitting right where I left it, is the old Nalgene bottle I’ve had for more than fifteen years, and my heart lifts like I’m the luckiest man alive.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Balancing Act

The Finnish couple in the booth have ooh’d and aah’d appropriately at Katie’s amazing work, and the husband has wandered off to another booth while the wife and I chat.

“I understand how delicate this work is,” she says seriously, holding up a butterfly to the light and watching it shine, “because I knit, lace and things, hundreds of different stitches in one piece, and I will not let anything go out unless it is perfect.”

“Well, I’m glad people like you need lackadaisical people like me to help them take it easy,” I say.

“Yes, I have found mine, and I am glad she has found hers,” she replies, nodding firmly.

Monday, August 5, 2019

I Like To Share

“I got a treat for you,” my co-worker says, reaching into her desk drawer and pulling out a huge bag of peanut M&M’s. A starburst in red on the bright yellow background declares that this is “SHARING SIZE!” which is fine by me.

“I”m sharing, so if you want M&M’s you know where to find them,” I say to another co-worker as he passes, but after he walks out of earshot, the one who gave them to me comes up.

“I didn’t give ‘em to you to share with him,” she hisses.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

“I’m Here To Rescue You"

I stand at the bottom of the subway stairs looking up and out to the sidewalk above, where it is bucketing down rain thick and silver against the streetlights. A whole group of us are down here from the last train that let off, and periodically someone makes a run for the surface, or a soaked individual shaking the water from his head or a giggling, wet couple comes down to join us in the station.

The rain slackens and redoubles, getting heavier and heavier, and I curse my lack of foresight for not bringing an umbrella, even though I checked the weather yesterday and the forecast only called for a ten percent chance of rain.

Then, at the top of the stairs, in a t-shirt, a pair of red terrycloth shorts, and colorful rain boots with pictures of owls on them, stands Katie, with an umbrella for me in one hand, and a big smile on her face.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

I’m Lucky

“So, are the butterfly wings lucky?” the man asks, his eyes searching mine.

“You know what the secret to being lucky is, right?” I say, smiling. “Knowing that you’re lucky.”

“I like the way you think,” he says, picking up a piece to purchase.

Desire Paths

I step off the paved path in the park and start climbing the hill, thinking about the phrase “desire paths” and what a good song title it would be.

A desire path is a trail worn into the landscape by foot traffic, either human or animal, and it’s called that because it’s the way that people naturally go, no matter what the designer of a park might have made as “the way to go.”

I trudge up the desire path to the top of the hill and pause in the heat and humidity, breathing a little hard, then I sit down and take out my lunch, only to just sit there for a while with it on my lap, staring at it.

Finally, I take one last, long deep breath of the wet air that sits like a heavy, foul smelling blanket of wet dog hair on my chest, and then I put my lunch back in my bag, stand up, and start trudging back down the hill again.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Prejudiced

“I used to live out in Kew Gardens for about ten years,” I tell the old Brooklynite in the market booth.

“Oh, that’s not New York,” he says dismissively. “Used to be farmland into the fifties.”

“And we don’t even talk about Staten Island,” he adds with a scoff.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Nothing, I Guess?

“What are you doing?” asks the little boy.

I cast a wary eye across the plaza to where the group of adults who are supervising him and his playmates are sitting, and think for a moment how I want to engage this.

“I’m reading,” I say, setting down my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and holding up my book.

“But what are you doing?” he asks again, failing to keep the exasperation from his voice.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A Common Scam

The guy sitting one bench over on the subway has a small pile of CD-ROMs in his lap, with obviously home-printed labels and insert cards. His eyes are closed as we ride across the bridge.

I remember my first week in New York, walking through Times Square, when a guy came up to me and, in increasingly aggressive tones, “sold" me his rap CD for ten bucks (which, of course, turned out to be blank - a very common scam).

The guy with the CDs on my train gets off at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, and I wonder who he’s gonna try to scam tonight, or if he’s just hustling for his music.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Truest Words

The world slides past my exhausted eyes as the cab takes me from our move-in morning at the booth to my shift at the doctor’s office, but I rouse myself enough to ask the driver if he minds if I eat my breakfast sandwich in his car.

“You gotta eat,” he says with a friendly smile.

When I’m done, he rummages in his bag for a moment, then pulls out a bottle of water, saying, “It’s too hot outside.”

Whether from being worn out, or from his kindness, my thanks are very emotional, but he waves off my gratitude, adding, “No one’s coming down to save us, so we have to take care of each other."

A Change In The Weather

A strange night-wind kicks up just as we leave the U-Haul place after dropping off the truck, making Katie and I squint into the dusty bluster.

“Wind usually means a change, but it’s just gonna be ninety-one tomorrow, too,” Katie says as we walk down Fourth Avenue past the park.

A few blocks later, we feel a few drops of rain that quickly change into a downpour that soaks through our clothes.

“Well, there’s the change,” Katie says, laughing.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

No More Drama

Our neighbor’s dog Val growls at the black lab as it walks by, and Katie and the lab (and the lab’s owner) step off the left of our stoop to chat. Katie coos and fawns over the lab, giving her scratches and pets, while Val retreats behind her owner’s legs.

Her growls and barks become increasingly plaintive as the lab and Katie ignore her, until finally she ventures over, tail tentatively wagging, to sniff butts with with newcomer.

She quickly panics again, though, and gives a snarl to the lab, who responds with a single deep, chesty bark that sends Val between my legs with a fearful look, while the lab settles herself down on the sidewalk with a sigh, as if she’s tired of all the drama.

Friday, July 26, 2019

A Version of Heaven

I step off the curb, then step back onto the sidewalk, for no reason.

A few seconds later, an SUV takes the turn a little tight and passes through the space I just was.

I continue on my way, crossing the street and walking the block to my home, but I imagine a “Sliding Doors” sort of moment where I actually got hit by a car - like, what if I actually did get hit by a car just a second ago, and this is my version of the afterlife.

I get upstairs, and there, sitting on the couch looking at her phone, is the woman I love, and the cat comes up and demands pets, and I am home, in my favorite place, with my favorite people, on a Friday night.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Produce is a Serious Matter

I go pick a pint of peaches but stop to briefly consider: they all look alike to me, but is it possible one is “best”?

“They’re all hard as rocks,” the guy running the market says matter-of-factly.

“Ah,” I reply knowingly, “dinosaur eggs.”

“It makes it so they transport well,” he says, fixing me with a look as if to suggest that my flippancy is very much frowned upon.

Field Report on Native Fauna In and Around Ft. Greene Park

I leave the hospital to go sit in the park for lunch and see, walking under the scaffolding along the curb beside the parked cars, a cat. She holds, in her mouth, the body of a mouse, and after giving me only the briefest of looks, she speeds along to other destinations known only to her.

Later, I sit on a bench beside a lawn in a plaza at the top of a hill beneath a sky that looks like it came from a Japanese animation: pure blue, thick clouds that would probably taste like soft mounds of whipped cream if you ate them, a benevolent sun that seems incapable of the killing heat he inflicted on us only a few days ago.  A female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail flaps lazily over the grass, and I watch her black wings with mild interest until she’s out of sight, then go back to my book.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Hercules

The server begins to pick up our dishes after dinner, stacking the plates on one arm as he gathers everything up. 

He clearly has no intention of making more than one trip, and so the pile on his arm grows to be rather large indeed, but still he keeps stacking.

After asking Katie’s mother to hand him a knife that he inexplicably missed, Katie’s father offers him a loose straw with a gently mocking smile. 

“Ah, the perfect addition to my collection,” the server says as he takes the straw, returning the smile.

Monday, July 22, 2019

When The Sky Opens Up

“The ground is wet but we are not,” Katie texts me before I get off work, and so I leave my umbrella at my desk when I go.

The sky looks relatively clear while I walk to the subway, but by the time I get to my neighborhood, it has darkened in a very threatening way.

I almost make it home before the sky opens up, but fat, wet drops begin plopping all around about two blocks away, and then there’s nothing for it but to run.

And run I do through the sudden deluge as it begins to pour, but it doesn’t save me, so that when I get upstairs, Katie looks at my bedraggled, soaked self and says, in genuine surprise, “Is it raining?"

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Vaping

The MTA app on my phone, along with Google Maps, both say that the bus is approaching right now. But as I sit at the bus stop in the scorching summer sun I'm pretty sure I can see the bus they are referring to across the street from me, and it is very much parked.

I watch the bus for a good twenty minutes before I notice the guy sitting in one of the passenger seats, looking at his phone, and I can’t tell for sure, but I think he’s driver, sitting there just chilling out.

Then I see him pull something away from his mouth, and a thick, fat vape cloud billows out of his lungs, and for some reason the thought of my bus driver vaping away comfortably in an air-conditioned bus while I sit beneath a blazing furnace of sky in the middle of a heat way just fills me with rage.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Soundtrack Of Our Lives

Watching the movie Yesterday, which is about a young musician who wakes up from a cycling accident to find that he is the only person in the world who has ever heard of or heard the songs of The Beatles, and proceeds to pass their catalog off as his own.

It’s a good movie, buoyed by an amazing soundtrack, but the best part of it is its ability to create a space in which it’s possible to actually hear the Beatles music again as if for the first time.

I find myself remembering finding, at the tender age of twelve or so, an unlabeled cassette tape in my sister’s collection (where I stole all of my most important music) which had, on one side, Queen’s A Night At The Opera and on the other, The Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

I hear those tunes again in my head now - the way they sounded like nothing I had ever heard before, the way they seemed to point a way forward to what I wanted to be, the kind of like I wanted to lead - and even though the movie isn’t as dramatic or intense as all that, I find tears streaming down my cheeks, and I cover my mouth with my napkin to make sure I don’t sob too loudly.

The Service Industry

“No, man, you gotta put the phone number on there,” he says sternly to the older Asian man behind the counter at the laundry. He stabs the laundry ticket with his finger, and repeats, “Put it on there.”

“'Cause people, they need to get their stuff back,” he says, with a sweeping gesture to take in all the old articles of clothing people have left behind over the years that are hanging from the ceiling and stacked on the shelves (nevermind that I personally know, having gone to this same laundry for years, that the previous owner sold the shop to the current owner twenty years ago on the condition that he leave all of the very old lost items exactly as they were when he bought the shop).

Still, after that interaction has ended, I still feel kind of bad going up to the counter to drop off my laundry and saying to that same older Asian man, “Please have this ready for me by eight o’clock today."

Friday, July 19, 2019

Where Else?

After Facebook throws up a “Six years ago today” post on Katie’s timeline, I go back in my blog to see what we were doing.

Turns out we went to Ikea, and go irritated with each other, and I snapped at her, and she snapped at me.

When I relate this to Katie, she looks at me incredulously. “You put that on the Internet?” she asks.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Haunted

Nothing seems quite right - I’m hungry, but I don’t want to cook; tired, but I don’t want to sleep; feeling creative, but everything I make seems awful to me; my side of the room is messy, but I don’t want to pick up or clean, and I certainly feel guilty as Katie becomes industrious and starts picking up her side of the room.

I take a bag of garbage downstairs, drop it in the bin, and then continue through the vestibule to the outer door, where I stand on the stoop and watch the rain. The storm is supposedly the remnants of the hurricane that battered New Orleans earlier this month, but it still has a lot of energy and water in it, so it’s really coming down, sheets of rain against the streetlights, and the gutters are running like rivers.

I stand watching it, feeling uncomfortable in my own skin for the first time in ages; there’s only a few cars and a couple of delivery guys on e-bikes hurrying though the rain to their destinations, and I wonder if something that I thought was gone has returned.

DINKs

“So we’ve got four adults and a child coming,” I tell the hostess.

“Does the child need a high-chair?” she asks.

The child is four years old, so I don’t think so, but I text Katie, “Ask her parents if she needs a high chair.”

“I don’t really know how kids work,” I add.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Against Pity

The very old man in the waiting room with the sad, thousand-yard-stare and the seemingly only-marginally-engaged caretaker is breaking my heart. I find myself pining after my wife, and hoping that neither of us has to live long without the other when we get old.

After his appointment, as he’s shuffling toward the door, his caretaker asks him how his appointment went, and he says in a flat voice, “Looks like they’re gonna have to cut off the ear.”

As she reels in shock at this revelation, he glances over, catches my eye, and winks.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Congrats, It’s a Spike

I feel foolish, but I’m too far from home to walk it, so there’s nothing for it: I have to go in this bike shop to get my flat fixed.

They take my bike in the back while I pace the front of the store like an expectant father in a cliched cartoon from the Fifties.

“Well, when I’m fixing a flat, I don’t rest until I find the cause,” the repairman says finally, as he comes out from behind the counter holding my wheel.

“I think this is it,” he finishes with a small smile, holding up a thin piece of metal about an inch long.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Time is a River

"I forgot it was Saturday,” Katie texts me as I’m sitting in the shade eating lunch down by the East River.

Suddenly I have this vision of a day bounded by the four corners of a box on the calendar, squared off and completely denatured, a box called Saturday following a box called Friday, followed by a box called Sunday, and so on, forever.

That isn't how time is truly, though, but to see it as it is terrifies us: days unmoored from the work week, the vertigo of freedom, the singular flow of time as everything changes.

The saying goes, “The days are long but the years are short,” but what day is it really but today, sitting by the river watching it flow past, the same river, but never the same?

Friday, July 12, 2019

I Wrote This On My Phone

NYC used to be a city of driven, fast walkers, all of us too busy, too stressed, too on our way to look up and gawk at the spectacle of commerce and culture throwing skyscrapers toward the sun. You could tell a tourist by the way they looked around.

The two women walking in front of me this morning on the way to the subway stroll down the sidewalk, not looking around, heads still down, but their eyes and minds deep inside the small glass tiles in their hands. One stops up short as an electric car passes silently inches away from her in the intersection, and she looks up, mildly annoyed her reverie was broken, and then puts her face back in the glass and continues her morning stroll.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Times Better Get to Changing

“Did I ever tell you about Mr. from my freshman year of high school?” I ask Katie as I take out my contacts.

“The creepy band director who slept with one of his students?” she replies.

“Yes! but it turns out after my slightly cursory Google search that I can’t find out if he ever got charged with a crime, and then I’m pretty sure he moved to Nevada and got a job as a band director there, so I’m guessing not?” I say.

“Every woman needs to carry around a brick in their purse so that when they feel that rage they can just chuck it through the nearest window,” she says, wringing out the shirt she’s washing in the sink with just a tiny bit of extra twisting, like she’s visualizing a neck.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Born In the Sign of Water

I am covered in sweat by the time I get to the pool on this hot summer day, and I lock up my bike and head inside.

The locker room is moist and smells like urine, so I hurry up and change into my swimsuit and head out on the deck.

I haven’t swam laps, like really swam the way I used to, in more than five years, I think, and certainly not since I had cancer.

When I dive in, the water is shockingly cold, but only for a moment, and I instantly feel at home in a way that nowhere else on earth can really match.

It’s a Stretch

I start off writing about spilling ice cream, and then Katie reminds me of how we made pizza from scratch earlier in the day.

“You could talk about the gluten,” she says, and I remember us stretching the dough out on the pan. It would stretch out and then contract back, and we would gently knead it with our fingertips until it stayed in the shape we wanted.

“You stretch your muscles out every morning,” she says, referring to my yoga practice, “and we stretched the gluten the same way."

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A Medicine For Melancholy

As we walk across the meadow near the entrance to the park, I can feel my anxiety fading. We lie on a hill and stare at the sky, and I think about whether or not I can see the air between me and the clouds moving, until a hawk sweeps through my field of vision, and I lean my head backwards to watch it go.

We walk over to the pond to enjoy the dogs swimming and chasing each other around until we both have relaxed almost completely, then we start to walk back home.

As we pass into a shady grove, Katie says, “Isn’t it nice to know that the best cure for anxiety for both of us is a free walk in the park?"

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Window Crib

I look up from the bike lane to the apartment buildings on the other side of the road. They’re the usual midcentury four story boredoms of brick and a dearth of imagination, with bars over the windows from when Williamsburg was a bit dicier of a neighborhood.

Up on the third floor, however, in one of the windows where the bars have been built out to accommodate a window air-conditioning unit, a small child sits in the little nook where the air-conditioner would be, suspended out over nothing, curled up and calm.

She sees me, gawking at her, and she smiles a pleased, knowing smile, while she slowly raises her hand to wave at me.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Different Responses to Stress

“Okay, I’ll be right down,” I hear Katie on the phone in the other room where she’s been napping.

I instantly sit up in the bedroom where I’ve been napping and mentally prepare to do something, though I’m not sure what.

“They’re downstairs right now with the delivery,” she says, coming into the bedroom and grabbing clothes.

“Please don’t laugh at that,” she says, because I am as I hunt frantically for my shoes.

Dog Beach

There’s a spot in the park where people bring their dogs to swim in a pond, and they call it “Dog Beach.”

Today we went down to Dog Beach to watch the dogs. A pit bull swam back and forth like he was looking to try out for the olympic team.

When his owner managed to get him out he whined and pulled at the leash, but she didn’t let him go back in. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Scorpio Rising

“I think it’s Scorpio,” I say, pointing out the three stars and the tail.

“I don’t think Scorpio is as big a deal as people think it is,” Katie says thoughtfully as we head back toward the park entrance.

“That is so you: inexplicable opinions held with deep conviction,” I say, laughing.

“We were just looking at the sky, so I don’t think it’s inexplicable at all,”she replies, sounding only mildly offended.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Cooking With Gas (CO2)

“Brown sugar can help..., wait,” Katie says, stopping me before I go off, as I usually do, without listening to the whole thing. “Baking soda will also interact with the excess vinegar and turn it into carbon dioxide,” she says, more firmly.

I sprinkle less than a quarter-teaspoon into the too-vinegary black beans, and sure enough, they furiously foam up with fine brownish-black bubbles and then subside. A quick tasting shows them to be, if not perfect, then at least miles better than what they were just a moment ago.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

I.G.Y.

Laying back on the deck chair by the rooftop pool, I can feel tiny sparks on my skin as the sun gently unknits strands of my DNA.

On the runway far down below, passenger jets loft themselves majestically into the air, as if by magic, and the sheer impossibility of such large, heavy objects doing such a thing, while still resolutely continuing to do so, over and over, is very soothing.

Katie lifts her phone here and there, and takes photos of herself, and of me, of our food, our drinks, the planes, the inexhaustible white of the pool deck and furniture and all, and I watch the runway and think empty thoughts.

Two women pose in the pool with the runways behind them, and a third woman takes a picture of them, while far away, a black plume of smoke rises from a burning fuselage which has been lit on fire, we are told by the softly murmuring management, “as a training exercise."

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Revel-ry

It hardly bears mentioning that Brooklyn streets are made mostly of cracks, holes, bumps, and rage. Even on quiet Sunday streets, stealthy potholes and greedy seams lie in wait to rattle the teeth of an electric scooter driver and his passenger as they scoot around town on his birthday adventures.

But as we come around this particular corner toward Greenwood Cemetery, we find ourselves on virgin asphalt, seemingly laid this morning and smooth as the sea before God moved across the face of the waters. Trees interlace above our heads, creating a bower of green, and we sail beneath them, cool breeze in our faces, and Katie says, “Oh, this is nice."

A Rainbow In The Dark

The storm is kicking up dirt and dust, whirling little cyclones across the street as I’m getting ready to leave, but it’s not until I unlock my bike that it really starts to rain.

It falls with varying degrees of malice almost all the way home, but I push myself to outrun the giant tumbles of dark grey crowds looming overhead.

I make it to my apartment, only to find that I’ve left the wall of gloom behind, and a rainbow glitters in the dark above eastern Brooklyn.

When I take a shower, it’s fully thirty seconds before the water runs clear from all the dirt on me.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Maybe A Little Sullen

“May I please speak with Cindy?” says the pleasant voice on the other end of the line at my temp gig at the doctor’s office.

“Cindy’s actually out, so I’m working with Janice today,” I reply.

“Oh, you’re working with her? Bless you, she is something else,” she says.

Presidential

“Oh my God, just shut up!” I yell at the TV as Gillibrand talks over yet another person on the Democratic debate stage, and instantly feel a little weird.

“She’s your senator!” Katie says admonishingly, and I stop to take stock - is it because Gillibrand is a woman?

“I wonder why I’m so irritated at Gillibrand, but not at Kamala Harris?” I say, after thinking about it.

“It’s because Harris is acting presidential, and Gillibrand is just shouting,” Katie says.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Bless

She doesn’t have a German accent, but her name is pretty German, and when I ask her for her insurance card, she smiles in a slightly condescending, very German way.

“You probably don’t accept it,” she says straightforwardly - not like she’s happy to be superior, but that’s just the way things are.

“Well, let’s take a look,” I reply.

Sure enough, the card, entirely in German, is for a public health care system we can only dream about in the states, and when I read the title on the card (“Gesundheitskarte”) I absentmindedly say “Bless you,” and that makes her smile for real this time.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Demons In Your Brain

I’m waiting outside for Katie when the large woman with too many grocery bags walks by scowling.

“Get the fuck away from my head!” she suddenly shouts as she passes.

I very carefully do not move, and watch her in the reflection of the shop window until she is out of range.

I know you are going through something terrible, I think to myself, but you can’t go around scaring people like that.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Hebrews 12:6

The air smells like the insides of plants, like the color green, like the earth gave a relieved exhalation after holding its breath for an entire winter.

We climb up and down on unmarked trails through the park until we come to the main path and a set of stone stairs, where we find, midway down, an earthworm undulating his way across the step from one side of, presumably, inferior soil and decaying matter, towards the other, obviously superior soil and decaying matter on the other side.

We sit down on the step and stand guard so no one steps on him as he ripples across the granite, until finally, after almost falling off the step entirely, he stops beneath a thin layer of leaves as if he has reached his destination, though he is several inches from a thick delicious pile of loam and decaying leaves.

I reach down and pluck the leaf from on top of him, exposing him to the light, and there is a delayed reaction before he adjusts to the reality that he is not yet where he needs to be and starts moving again towards the goal.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Two Sides

He’s wearing a camouflage “Fox NEWS” baseball cap, and the woman with him (presumably his wife) is wearing a t-shirt that reads, “American Branches...” (this over a silhouette of a tree made of an American flag) “...Norwegian Roots” (this over a silhouette of the same tree’s roots made of a Norwegian flag). I can instantly read all the dog whistles and overt symbols, and recognize that these people are likely right-wingers, and my hackles instantly stand up.

Flashback to about an hour before this: A woman walking past is jokingly asked if she owns the illegally parked car with American flags draped all over it, and she answers, in the poshest of British accents, “Certainly not with all those flags on it.”

I instantly feel a defensive patriotic reaction, like who the hell does this woman think she is?

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Calves

The guy in front of me is on a fixie - a fixed, single-gear bicycle - and I’m definitely faster than him on these downhills. I can tell because I keep having to hit my brakes so I don’t pass him, since the bike path is kind of narrow and busy, and passing isn’t super safe right now.

Then we both turn the corner to head south on Vanderbilt, and there’s this long uphill, and the wind is no longer at our backs, and I suddenly notice that this guy’s calves are really cut, like really defined?

And I’m watching him just sort of get smaller and smaller ahead of me, until he passes through the upcoming intersection a good half-block before I get there, and I miss the light, and he’s gone.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Sunshower

By the time I get to my stop, the early-morning storm that flooded the streets and soaked my clothes despite my umbrella has abated somewhat. The steady rain that has replaced the deluge continues, but then something strange happens.

The sun comes out - not a lightening of the sky after dark clouds have passed, but the actual sun just above a swift scudding dark gray cloud line that roils over the park while behind me the wind tears the clouds into tatters. The sun is full-on shining through the rain so brightly that nobody seems to know whether they should keep their umbrellas up, and some people are getting drenched while they squint upwards in confusion at an uncertain blue sky that makes no sense at all.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Foggy Night

After the rainstorm, we go for a walk in the park, through air so thick it feels like you could grab handfuls of it and shove them in your mouth, and they’d be chewy. It’s not for breathing, this air, it’s for drinking.

Invisible runners plash on the asphalt as they come up from behind, and their footfalls recede into leafy darkness. The humid air somehow limits the reach of the streetlights, turning every pool of illumination into a little respite in what is otherwise impenetrable cloud.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Times Change

When I’d walk through Washington Square Park in the 90s, the dealers always seemed to know me, and they’d indicate the availability of their wares with a discrete “Trees, smoke, trees, smoke” like a Giger counter ticking more and more quickly as I approached and slowing and fading as they receded in the distance.

Today, as I’m walking down Broadway, a dreadlocked man breaks away from his conversation without looking at me and gives a casual, “Edibles.” as I pass, then goes back to laughing with his friend.

A few blocks later, I walk through NYU, under trees overhanging the sidewalk with long, rain-heavy limbs. The sounds of the city are muted, and I try to listen to the quiet before it’s gone.

Give Until It Hurts

“It feels like the worse things get, the better the good people get,” I say as our train passes over the bridge.

“Well, there’s just more separation,” Katie replies. “I was going to give this homeless guy sleeping on the train ten bucks, since it was all I had.”

“But then he started masturbating,” she continues.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Tempus Fugit

I look up from the magazine I’m reading at the touch of rain drops on my forearms. The sky is darker than the reflected light from the page, and my vision goes hazy around the edges as my eyes adjust.

This is what I imagine my vision might be like when I’m older, say, forty or fifty years in the future, and I look around, sort of taking it in; the details and the lack of details, the way the colors stand out against the dark.

A voice in my head, kind of resigned and longing, says, “Oh, It’ll all go so fast!”

Pivot!

At the top of the stairs, I grab the set of shelves we’ve been hauling up to our apartment and lift it out of Katie’s hands to pivot it onto the landing.

She looks up at me in mild exasperation. “You don’t have to do it all yourself,” she says.

“You’re right,” I say, after all the excuses have filed unspoken through my head and I’m left just with my pride.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Hebrews 13:2

We make eye contact as he’s coming down the aisle, and he comes straight into the booth and starts looking at Katie’s work.

It’s been a bit slow, so I’m glad for the business, but some things come to my attention that give me pause. One, he’s extraordinarily tan - every inch of his exposed skin is that particular shade of leather red that indicates excessive sun exposure over a long period of time on a white dude; two, he’s carrying a rolled up sleeping bag strapped to his back and nothing else - no backpack, no fanny back, none of the usual accouterments of the tourist or tech bro that frequents this side of town; and three, he kind of smells like he hasn’t showered in a while - not excessively so, but my nose is pretty sensitive these days, so I could tell.

On the other hand, his shoes were clean and looked pretty new, and his eyes seemed intelligent and mildly interested without looking fanatical or deranged, so I just say, “Hey there, how are you?” and he looks up from the piece he’s holding and smiles.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Look Up

My usual lunch spot in the park is overrun with children today, so I find a nice park bench out of the way and sit, while the air behind me fills with their shouts and playful screaming. I don’t mind the screaming because they’re far enough way that it all sort of blends in together into a nice wash of sound.

I read through Twitter, click over to Facebook for a moment (only to quickly click away in bored horror), then realizing that the sky has gone a little dark, I put down my phone and look around me.

A bank of clouds has passed over the sun, and the sky has gone a pearly, diffuse gray, so I watch the trees and the clover-covered hillside I’m sitting on, thinking about trees sinking fingers deep into the earth while I eat a PB&J.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Perspective

The train car reeks of rotting vegetables, like depression and anxiety given a smell that permeates the air. I look around me in disbelief, since normally a smell this pervasive and high-toned will attract notice, but aside from the car being a little less crowded than usual, people just stay in their conversations and reading their newspapers like no one even smells it.

At the next stop, I flee the rampaging odor to the next car, where I find three young men shoveling what looks like rice and chicken and beans out of aluminum take out containers and into their faces. The smell of food, just normal take-out from some bodega, while usually unwelcome, smells like manna after the catastrophe in the other car, and I settle into a seat directly across from them with a smile and a sigh.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Fitness

I’m sitting on a park bench, staring up into the trees as the breeze riffles absentmindedly through the leaves. Periodically, shorts-clad fitness enthusiasts run through the plaza, or pause to do stretches at the foot of the Prison Ships Martyr’s monument, or push ups, or leg lifts.

Of course they do this on the plaza where underneath are interred the bones of literally over a hundred thousand people who died centuries ago, and of course everyone dies and no amount of stretches or running or breathing exercises or cold exposures or anything else is going to prevent that.

I had a point, but I guess I’ve already made it, so that’s the end of that.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Mobius Train

The subway running parallel to us on the bridge goes slightly faster than we do, and the windows slowly cycle past us.

No one in the other car looks up this time, so I watch the riders in the other car in anonymity as they pass: readers, sleepers, people with headphones on, people standing and chatting like figures from a silent movie.

I get the peculiar feeling that I am outside the world, looking in, but that the train I’m looking into is actually my own, the one I’m in right now. For a brief vertiginous second, the universe twists around itself, and I am watching for my own eyes to meet mine, peering out from the train, watching for me.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Leafy Privilege

The tree in front of the church isn’t dead yet, but it’s certainly not looking in the bloom of youth. Its leaves are thin and sparse, its branches stark and spindly against the streetlights, and even in the fog that sits on Brooklyn like a wet blanket tonight, ribboned plastic bags snarled in the limbs stir in invisible breezes like ghosts floating through the aether.

But the bags get me thinking, so I start to look for them in the other, healthier trees as I walk down the street through the mist, and I notice: the healthier trees are lush with leaves, thick and robust of limb, and free of bags, completely.

I wonder, do the healthy trees have something that allows them to free themselves of the errant plastic bags that still litter the streets, or are they healthy because they are free of plastic bags?

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Helpful

The synthesizers at the expo are laid out on the tables like every kid's dream of Christmas, with blinking, cheerful lights and fun little screens, but this particular one I'm playing with is really giving me trouble. I feel the anxiety mounting in me as I twiddle knobs and plug in routers and push buttons, only to be rewarded with ugly, rasping electric howls or (worse) utter silence.

Finally, I turn to the guy in the cool black t-shirt with the fashionable mustache and the slightly bored expression and say, "Hey, I'm not really sure how this works."

His bored expression disappears at the prospect of talking about something he loves, and his eyes light up as he comes over and says, "Yeah, actually it's really fun!"

The Peace In-Between

The L train is notoriously unreliable on the weekends, so, with a feeling of almost reckless abandon, I walk past the subway station and down 8th Avenue to 14th Street to take the crosstown bus.

Once onboard I notice at once the disadvantages: the train is two stops, but with traffic, stoplights, and people getting on and off, we crawl along the surface while I imagine beneath us the subways hurtling through the darkness at double speed.

But after my initial impatience passes, something else happens, and the slower pace begins to feel more civilized. I find myself enjoying the lights of the shops, the couples strolling down the sidewalks, the black and yellow cabs weaving in and out of traffic like sharks, and I feel much more connected to my city than down in her guts, shuttling along, blindly worming through the city without going through the places in-between.

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Silent Treatment

It’s not the same squirrel; it couldn’t possibly be the same squirrel, in a different part of the park, in a park with hundreds (maybe thousands) of squirrels, there is no way that this squirrel sitting on his haunches by the path, munching away on something in his paws, is the same squirrel as the one I talked to the other day.

Still, as I’m walking by, I say, “I dropped an apple core by one of the trees back there. I bet if you’re quick, you can get it before anybody else.”

He doesn’t make eye contact, and he doesn’t stop munching, even when I pass within a couple of feet of him - he just stares stonily ahead like I’m not even there.

Desert Lessons

The top floor of this building where I’m delivering a check seems to have been designed as an afterthought, like a greenhouse plopped atop a normal building.

It’s as hot as a greenhouse, too, especially today, with the sun beating down through the glass walls while I sweat, waiting for an elevator.

The woman waiting with me sees me take a drink from the water bottle hanging off my bag and remarks, “Ah, smart.”

“I grew up in a desert,” I say, “you always carry water."

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Don’t Call Me Buddy, Pal

The park is cool in the shade, and I’m reading and eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when I feel eyes on me.

I look and, standing on the bench, about a foot from my hand, is a squirrel with a slightly ratty tail and an absolute absence of fear.

“Buddy, this isn’t for you,” I say, as kindly as I can, not wanting to violate his trust by shouting, but of course all he recognizes is tone, so he takes it as an invitation to come closer.

“Listen to me, man, I’m not giving you any, so you gotta get outta here,” I say a little more forcefully, gesturing sort of generally out to the rest of the park, but he just cocks his head, lifts up one paw as if to move even closer, and chitters quietly at me, like we’re having a mild disagreement and he just needs to convince of the reasonableness of his position before he can take possession of my sandwich.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Etiquette

The new subway poles sprout singly from the floor until about halfway up, where they split in two, only to rejoin at the top. This creates twice as many places to hold onto for standing commuters in crowded trains, while taking up less space than two poles.

Except for this guy, who gets on the train and, instead of just leaning on the pole (a cardinal sin in subway etiquette in any case), loops his arm through the duo pole and then leans against both poles, including the one onto which I’m holding.

I try to control my breathing, try not to hate this small, balding, man as he scrolls through his phone, but I do shift my hand so that my (extremely hard and pointy) knuckle digs into his shoulder, and he stands up, startled, while I am suddenly very interested by the subway ad directly above his head.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Three’s Company

The three boisterous ladies are almost out the door of the doctor’s office when one of them stops with her hand on the door, holding it just before it closes all the way.

I can hear her out in the hall as she starts to hum in a rough voice, a tune that I almost recognize, then she sings it, “Da-da-dada-da-daaahhh..., how’s that song go..., ‘Come and knock on our doooor....’”

“That’s who you look like!” she suddenly shouts in triumph, opening the door all the way and pointing at me. “Jack Tripper!"

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Caught

The tall, well-built, handsome man turns around and signs “I love you” while mouthing the words to his wife and baby before walking away. The three women working the booths around ours follow him with starry-eyes and then turn to each other.

“Oh my god, did you see him, I was just....,” one of them starts.

“Ladies, ladies,” I say, mock-reprovingly, and they all start to giggle.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Bringing People Together

“I used to have these framed butterflies, they were called ‘Butterflies of Peru’,” one of the women says. “But I want to replace it because I gave it to my best friend.”

Her friend looks up with tears in her eyes from where she’s perusing some of Katie’s sculptures and the woman says, looking at her, “Yeah, because they’re that special to me, I wanted you to have them.”

Now they’re both crying a little, and hugging in my booth, and I guess I must have gotten a little something in my eye, because I’m tearing up a little too.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Eye In The Sky

He's two park benches away, his shirt off, nonchalantly reading a book in one hand with his other arm draped casually over the back of the bench, his dark brown skin gleaming in the sun.

She sits next to him, one bench over, clearly with him but completely different in attitude: her face a screwed-up mask of grief, her shoulders slumped, hands holding her head like she’s keeping it from bursting, or shattering.

He tries to ignore her as she starts to cry, her angry, accusatory tears ripping out of her in hacking sobs, but finally he concedes to whatever trauma she’s going through with a perfunctory, “Shhh, sh.”

After I finish lunch, I walk to the center of the plaza that the benches frame, and look up at the huge column that is the focal point of the park, and there, many stories above, perched on top, is a bird that I can clearly make out to be a hawk, its stooped shoulders brooding over the unknowable dramas far below.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Line of Sight

If you look down the length of the subway car, you can see through a window in the door into the next car, and so on down the line, a series of long rooms lit in yellow light filled with bored looking people sitting on opposite walls and standing holding shiny metal poles to keep from falling down.

I’m watching a woman in the next car read a book. She’s got short hair and is stylishly dressed, and I wonder what I would look like were she to look up and see me seeing her.

The train goes around a curve, and my line of sight down the cars bends away, leaving only my reflection in the window to swim from the shadows into view.