Friday, June 18, 2021

Mark 5:1-8

The woman on the train is yelling in Spanish, so the object of her distress isn't completely clear to me, though I catch words - demonio, puta, Dios, Jesus - that indicate to me that, whatever the cause, it's not anything I'm going to be able to see or address. She slams her bag on the subway bench next to me, but I am resolutely not giving any energy to her or whatever invisible denizens of the darkness she believes are tormenting her, so I keep reading my book until she quiets down.

Another woman across the aisle tries to help, and speaks very gently to her in Spanish, but this seems to rile her up, and she goes on another loud, angry, frightened rant until she is crying, weeping in rage and fear. 

We reach a subway stop, and without hurrying or drawing attention to myself, I stand, exit the subway car, and quickstep over to the next car, where I easily find a seat, sit, open my book, and continue reading without anyone yelling in my ear.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Picnic

Another plane looking smaller than a grain of rice passes far, far overhead through the heart-stealing blue, and Katie and I lay back on the blanket in the middle of the Great Lawn in Prospect Park, lazily speculating on its origin and destination.

"Europe, headed to China, maybe?" Katie says.

"Or maybe the Middle East, Dubai or something, headed north," I reply, though she remains unconvinced.

The beautiful, smooth, impossibly tan young couple on a blanket several yards over on the next hill start to make out, and jazz drifts over the lawn; a dog runs, some kids yell, and the sun slowly falls behind the trees.

Monday, June 14, 2021

AITA?

"Yeah, we're a little low on sizes for running shoes because everybody got out of lockdown like, 'Oh I gotta get in shape,'" waving my hands in faux panic.

"Yeah," she says, laughing uncomfortably. 

"Cool, lemme go see if I can grab you a seven-and-a-half, my name's Scott, I'll be right back," I say cheerfully,

It only occurs to me halfway to the stockroom that what I said might literally have been what she just went through, and that I may, in fact, be the asshole.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Yucking Someone Else's Yum

I'm super excited to bring out the boots she asked for, but when I get there, she says, "Nah," hooking a thumb over her shoulder to the woman next to her, "she said they looked stupid."

The "she" in question watches as I bring out other choices with head cocked and eyes showing all the trust and empathy of an angry parrot. With the same expression she says, "Well they'd look stupid for me, but maybe on you they'd look cute."

I decide to act like I don't hear her and bring out another pair, "Tell me what you think of these."

Friday, June 11, 2021

Hard Worker

I speak to my manager (a Caribbean woman who I've known for a while) about a former boss of hers, and she seems to think pretty highly of her.

"She's not up here," she describes, waving her hands up above her head to indicate some distant, removed realm of boss-dom divorced from the rest of us. "She always helped out, worked on the floor, worked hard."

"She worked so hard," she adds thoughtfully, "I sometimes forgot she was white."

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Emotional Height

"I want you to know," Katie says seriously, "I don't think I'm taller than you."

"It's just that my feelings are all the way up to here," she adds, raising her hand a foot or so above her head.

"No, I've seen it happen," I say, agreeing.

"And when I'm mad," her eyes flashing, "I don't care how tall I am."

Priorities

The bedroom is dark when I arrive home mid-afternoon just ahead of the rain rolling in. I turn on the lights, expecting to see the cat in her accustomed place on the bed, but to my surprise, she's nowhere to be found.

Later, as I'm working on the computer, my roommate comes out of his room. Without prompting, he says, "If you're looking for the cat, she's hanging out with the air-conditioning in my room, and she's not coming out."

Monday, June 7, 2021

Feet

"No, it hurts me," she points at the arch where the strap cuts across her instep, "right there."

The papery skin of her feet is dry and cracked, mapped with bluish veins, her toes (nails carefully enameled bright red) contorted toward one another by years of torturously tight, beautiful shoes that she can never wear again. It hurts just to look at them, and I involuntarily imagine someone caring for her enough to rub them with lotion, massaging them tenderly until they are relaxed and soft. the toes straight, the skin smooth.

"I'm sure it does," I say gently, and ease the sandal off.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

No Takers?

Guy rummages through the rustling plastic bags and trash with which he's filled his backpack until finally, at the peak of his frenzy, he announces, "Shit!" loudly enough for the entire train to turn his direction, then punches the bench next to him hard, making a resounding crack.

He catches a woman a few seats down watching him and this enrages him for some reason. "What?" he demands, ready for an attack, an argument, a fight, hoping for someone upon whom to vent his rage.

She shakes her head then looks away, and he contents himself with muttering "Shit," over and over under his breath in a disappointed voice.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Panhandler

I'm a block away when I spot him - the shambling gait, the slumped shoulders, the silhouette straight out of a Romero movie that I know is waiting for me.

He stops for a moment, poised in the shadows, before walking my way, and when he reaches me, I know what will happen.

Sure enough: "You spare a quarter or sumthin' so I can get sumthin' to eat," all slurred together, eyes hooded and dull, but before he even gets the sentence out he has already passed me and moved on to the next. All the sincerity has been burned out of him, and now its just a numbers game, getting what he needs, one pedestrian at a time.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Honesty

As I set the shoes down in front of her, she says the words all of us dread: "Actually, I already bought these online, but I wanted to see if I got the right size, so this is smaller."

We look at her foot in the shoe (a sandal with a raised edge around the footbed), and I tell her bluntly, "Your toes are sticking out over the edge. It's too small."

She thanks me, leaves without buying anything, and I gather up the shoes and head to the back, and when a co-worker asks me how it went, I answer honestly, "Well, she didn't waste too much of my time."

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Schrodinger's Intersection

Two delivery guys on electric bikes arrive at the four-way stop at the same time, one going east, the other going south. They neither of them stop, instead edging out into the intersection on a collision course in a game of Delivery-Guy-Chicken until they are forced to stop or hit one another.

Which they do, i.e., stop, leaving them both out in the middle of the road, and posed with a dilemma. They must go; they cannot go; politeness would dictate that one of them let the other go first, but neither will give way to the other and show weakness, leaving them there, eyeing each other with a mix of exasperation and menace, and I zip past them on my scooter before the question is resolved, so for all I know they may there still, until their bikes' batteries run out of juice. 

Time Travel

"Well, I definitely have the hyper-focus thing," I told Katie the other day as we discussed the symptoms of, and sort-of half-jokingly self-diagnosed ourselves with, Attention Deficit Disorder.

"Do you really, though?" she asked with gentle skepticism, probably remembering the many times when focus was not the operative word for my spacey, light-as-air connection to the real world as I daydreamed through the day while my life degenerated into chaos (also a symptom).

Today, as I'm reading, really getting into it, imagining in vivid detail the lives and adventures of the characters, a loud voice speaking outside the booth startles me back into awareness, making me jump. I look at the clock and realize that I have no idea what's been going on around me for the last five minutes, and I do a quick scan of my surroundings, just to be safe and make sure that someone hasn't stolen my pants or something.