Tuesday, December 31, 2019


At a break in traffic, I dash across the street to the wash and fold laundry to pick up my shirts. The interior of the establishment is well lit against the gloomy night, like an Edward Hooper painting, and much like his most famous painting, a few figures stand in tableau at the counter, waiting to retrieve their clothes.

A couple stands outside, as well, chatting together in front of the window, and because the interior is full, I wonder at their relation to things - are they waiting outside for things to clear out inside, so that they, too, can go in for their laundry?

I hesitate for a moment, then pull open the door and go inside, checking from the corner of my eye for any indication that they believe they should go first, but they ignore me and continue to chat as I lay my claim ticket on the counter and greet the owner, who smiles.

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Last Place You Look

After I’ve been waiting for a good ten minutes, the woman from Venezuela comes back to try on the rain booties I brought out for her. Her daughter gives positive feedback to the various choices, and things seem to be proceeding smoothly, until the mother reaches for her phone to send a photo to her husband, and her phone is gone.

Some words are exchanged between the two ladies in rapid fire Spanish, and pockets are turned inside out, jackets are shaken and tossed aside, bags are dug through, but no luck, so the woman sends her daughter downstairs to check while she finishes up with me.

When the daughter comes back empty-handed, the woman dashes off to try and find it, while the daughter and I do another search, only to find it sitting under the woman’s bag.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Think About It

Five or six black guys get on the train, boisterous, passing a bottle of something in a paper bag back and forth between them, talking to each other, to the pretty girl sitting across the car from me, just generally taking over the vibe of the train.

Midway between stations, one of the guys sitting next to me reaches into the breast pocket of his jacket and pulls out a surprisingly long joint, which he strokes in that slightly fetishistic way of the true pot connoisseur before lighting it up and taking a deep hit.

His friend, sitting on the other side of me from his friend, reaches across me and taps the guy on the knee.

“Yo, you should think about that,” he says seriously.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Rising To The Occasion

After noticing the number of breath mints I keep in my little bin at work rapidly depleting without my taking any over the course of a week, I finally took action in the best way I could.

“Take as many as you want,” read the hot pink post-it I left in the container, “but please replace them!!!”

I didn’t mind people taking them, since I like to share, I just didn’t like not having any when I needed them, but honestly I only half-expected anybody to actually replace them.

But today, as I’m ringing up a customer, one of my co-workers stepped up and slapped a tin of mints on the counter next to me with a grin and wink, and then he walked away.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Tired All the Time

“I’m so tired that I feel drunk!” one my co-workers declares as he grabs another shoe off the shelf in the stock room.

Another co-worker, overhearing, interjects, “Oh, I hate it when I get that tired.”

“Thank god you guys said that,” I add. “I thought I was the only one."

Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Kind of Pep Talk

After the market closes, I find my friend standing in the darkened plaza of shuttered booths, smoking a cigarette with a blank look on her face.

“I hated everybody walking through the market, and everybody who bought stuff from me today, and Scott, I just can’t do it anymore,” she says, her voice dead, the ember of her cigarette steady in the darkness.

“Get your head in the fucking game,” another friend of ours explodes, gesturing with her own cig. “You’ve got six, six! days and you are not giving up."

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Icicle Teeth

After some benign chit-chat about the weather with a couple in the booth, the man says, “Yeah, it’ll be cold, but it’ll be clear.”

“I feel like there’s something maniacally cheerful about a brutally cold, clear day,” I say without thinking. “Like it’s grinning at you with icicle teeth.”

And as a wary, confused smile crosses his face, I hear what I said, and realize that I sometimes freak people out.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Indeterminate Shoes

“Scott, could you please tell me what size this shoe is?” my manager says, handing me one as he peers into the mouth of the other. 

It’s not an idle request, as the shoe has no identifying or explanatory marks on it - manufacturer, material, or, most importantly at this moment, size.

“It’s Schrodinger’s Shoe,” I say finally, after the two of us have exhausted our resources looking for anything to give us more information about what we should do with these shoes. “It exists in an indeterminate state, but you can only tell what size it is when you put it on."

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sunday Dogs

Katie stands in the kitchen eating egg drop soup while I sit at the counter eating a frozen dinner, both of us exhausted from a long day.

“I saw a lot of Sunday dogs today,” she says, “dogs in handbags, under people’s arms, lot’s of pugs, you know.”

“I knew exactly what you meant as soon as you said it,” I tell her, impressed.

“I made up the term myself,” she replies proudly.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Voice

“I feel like there’s not enough oxygen tonight,” I tell my co-worker after I can barely summon the energy to climb the stairs in the stockroom, and he nods sadly.

“It’s like we’re on Everest,” he says, “but we’ve run out of oxygen tanks in sight of the summit.”

And of course it’s the fact that it’s the Christmas season that’s making us tired, and we’re all working too hard and not sleeping enough, but what I don’t say out loud is how I just remembered when I was training for the Five Boro Bike Tour, the first time. I would ride up these long hills, feeling tired, feeling drained, all the time not knowing that there was a giant tumor in my leg siphoning off all my energy, but as soon as I think of this, I instantly feel a thousand percent better, because even though I may be exhausted, it’s probably not a tumor.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Putting the Christmas in PTSD

We watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” while eating Chinese food and then, after that’s done, while prepping more of Katie’s work to go into the booth tomorrow. Outside, it’s bucketing down rain. 

Apparently, during some of the more emotional scenes, Jimmy Stewart was abreacting from his own traumatic experiences during WWII. When looked at in this way, the movies seems less heartwarming and more terrifying.

Friday, December 13, 2019

How Would You Know?

I’m late to work, across the street from my job, waiting for the light to change, watching the traffic fill up the intersection.

With a wave of his hand, the traffic cop conjures the cars to a standstill to let the lanes empty, and I take the opportunity to cross against the light.

But just as I’m almost across the intersection, he urges them back into motion, and I have to run the last few steps to make the curb, with an eager car passing inches from heels.

I wonder for a brief moment if I made it, and if I didn’t - would I know?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Looking Out For Me, redux

Katie’s suggestion that I use the Uber Eats coupon she left in the booth to get some food ends in failure after their geolocation algorithm is only able to place me somewhere in Union Square Park, but I’m still hungry.

I’ve resigned myself to just being a little hungry when the next customer comes in and, after a pleasant conversation, decides to buy a lovely Sunset Moth in a glass cube.

I’m almost finished ringing her up when a strange expression crosses her face. “I’ve got a vegan muffin I’m not going to eat,” she says, "do you want it?"

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Looking Out For Me

Despite my meditation on the train ride in, despite my attempts to elevate my thoughts, surround myself with white light, despite my attempts to deny it, I just don’t feel positive today. A small nucleus of unease at the base of my breast bone, right under my solar plexus, tells me that something is wrong, and my brain, faithful servant that it is, salutes and knuckles down to the task of presenting everything that is or might be wrong in my life to justify this feeling.

When I get to work, though, before I even check in with my manager, a customer approaches me, and it turns out I’ve helped her before, and a little spark of joy kindles in my chest.

“Scott,” she says seriously, “I came in to check on you during the holiday season, to see if you’re still alive."

Friday, December 6, 2019

I Know Them Feels

They let dogs in my store. One of them walks by, and, as it passes, a woman sitting on a couch waiting for someone to bring her shoes sees the dog right after it passes, and stretches out her hand longingly, like someone reaching out dramatically for a passing ship upon which her lover sails for distant shores, never to return.

She catches me watching her and sits up straighter, only barely attempting to conceal her unrequited love for a passing dog.

“You must know my wife,” I say seriously with a nod.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

She’s Your Problem

One of the other vendors we’re friendly with leaves her booth across the aisle at the market and comes to talk to me.

“I know that crazy bitch is going to come back and talk to me,” she says, referring to a customer who has been coming around to all our booths and being a little obnoxious this evening (“Oh this stuff is so expensive,” she said loudly about Katie’s work, stuff like that).

“The thing is, I know her, I went to high school with her,” she continues.

Sure enough, just that moment she appears in front of our friend’s booth, and I tell our friend, “If she spots you and comes over here, you’re taking her back to your booth, okay?"

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A Little Extra

“Take as much time as you need,” I hear the manager say to my friend at work when I come into the stockroom.

“It’s just been so crazy lately,” she says, exhaustion in her voice.

Later, when I see her walking through the halls, both of us carrying stacks of shoe boxes, I give her a smile and we bump shoulders (since both of our hands are full) in our customary greeting.

She still looks a little sad, though, so I stop and give her another gentle shoulder bump, saying, “That one’s for free."

Sunday, December 1, 2019

How Did She Know?

We’re prepping the registers before the store opens when the phone at the cash wrap rings.

My co-worker and I look at each other, then he says, “Could you get it?”

As he retreats I shrug and pick up the phone, saying, “Good morning, thanks for calling _______, how can I help?”

There’s a pause, and then a voice on the other end asks, “Is this Scott?"