Saturday, May 31, 2014

At the Rock Show

Sound pours from the speakers, passionate and full and bright, while the impossibly young audience mostly talk to each other over the music. 

I've parked myself in front of a pole, as usual, in an attempt to avoid blocking somebody shorter than me's view. As the song starts to really cook, though, the only guy taller than me, literally the only one, hunches his shoulders and shambles directly into my line of sight, eclipsing the stage with his enormous head.

Finally I tap him on the shoulder, "Sorry, man, but you are the one person who I can't see past."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

ADD After Spin Class

I stare at the identical lockers, the idiot beat of the dance music from class still pounding in my head. I cannot remember which one is mine, and I can't remember how the locks work, and I can't remember my four-digit combination.

I try this one, entering variations of the numbers I'm pretty sure I put in, to no avail, then that one, also with no luck. 

"You have to push 'C,' then the number, then the button with the little key on it," the woman sitting on the bench offers in an attempt to be helpful.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Construction Workers Here Are Usually Quite Polite

"Well, like today," she says as we discuss yet another aspect of the horrible shooting last Friday. "I was walking to work and this construction worker was like, 'Don't you have pretty curly hair!'

"It took me a second but then I thought, 'What the fuck, are you talking to a toddler?'

"But yes, in fact, he was actually talking to a toddler, and I just happened to be passing between them when he said something."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This is a Man's World

"I have to cross the street and walk on the other side every morning," my friend says as we wait for the train. "There's this guy that waits for me to walk by every morning so he can grunt at me."

"Grunt?" I say, incredulous, and she shrugs.

"I said to him, 'Leave me alone,' and he just called me a fucking bitch," she says, a little pissed, but mostly resigned.

Beneath a Different Tree

The grass breathes, the leaves above us split the sunlight into spangles that dazzle and fade. The woman that I love more than anything in the world rests her arm across my chest, and the earth beneath my back goes all the way down to the center of the earth.

I think, "It's such a nice day, and that woman who hanged herself will never see it."

But all I say is, "It's a nice day."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Anatomy of a Hanging

It almost looks like a campsite, under the tree where we saw it (not "her," not "him," at least, not anymore). The long, trailing branches of the tree created a sheltering bower that might have kept out last night's rain, while today, the investigative team (spilled from two medical examiner's vans, a couple of police cars, a park's truck) stand, speaking in low voices, clustered in the golden sunshine on grass so green it almost glows, beneath a simple, friendly, cloudless blue sky.

We pause for a moment in our morning walk through the park to try and make sense of the spectacle, but we can't quite do it, not enough information, even though all the pieces are there, if we can only put them together.

"There was a person in there," I say afterward to Katie as we walk along the cobblestone path deeper into the park, holding hands and enjoying our day, "but they didn't look like their feet were touching the ground."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

But I Can Never Remember Her Name

Her beautiful, dark brown, bald scalp shines, even under the fluorescent lights of the home furnishings store where she works. "It's been ages!" she exclaims, pulling Katie and me into her big, pillowy embrace.

We ask after her nephews (she dotes on them) and her plans for the Memorial Day weekend (working right through it), and aren't allowed to leave without another hug and a promise to come back in to see her.

"Always worth the price of admission, seeing her," I say as we step back out into the overcast Saturday afternoon and head home.

Shelter

The rain lets up just long enough for us to make it to the restaurant, chasing us indoors with an ill-tempered grumble of thunder before releasing another deluge.

The busser stops by the table to refill our glasses and, making small talk, comments on the downpour, and we vehemently agree that it is really coming down.

I think he's surprised at the intensity of our response, pleasantly so. He smiles, says something about hail falling in Brazil, I think, as another couple comes inside, shaking water off their umbrellas and hunched as if the sky is falling specifically on them. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cutter

"Do you have a knife on you?" the cop says.

"No, I don't use a knife," she replies. "I use razors."

"Well then do you have any razors?" he asks, exasperated.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

If They Can Ignore Spring, What Chance Have You Got?

"Look how clean the glass is!" my boss says of the freshly polished windows in her office. "They're practically invisible."

"It almost makes me not want to pull the shades," she says, struggling with the strings to lower the blinds, "but I don't want to, you know, be on display for everyone down on the street."

The city rushes by several stories below, heads down, ignoring the beautiful spring day, and I shrug, saying, "I don't think they care."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fudge Factory

"What the fudge!" my coworker says.

I turn my best "I'm listening" face to her.

"They're sending a shipment over here right now, and it's past five, and she fudging mentions it in passing?" she says, really getting worked up now. "People need to pull their fudging heads out!"

Monday, May 19, 2014

Slack MF

"Yeah, so, thanks for helping out," I say to my co-worker. A crucial person in our office has called in sick yet again when we were already short-handed, and no one is particularly pleased about it.

"Well, when she gets back, maybe I'll just give her half of my work," she says.

"That just means that half your work doesn't get done," I reply.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pregnancy Dreams

"And I see Sacha Baron Cohen and Amy Poehler walking down the street," our friend says, "but I can't remember his real name, so in my dream I keep calling him Borat."

Her husband leans in with smile, saying, "It isn't actually that interesting."

But I so seldom get to hear anyone else's dreams that I can't stop grinning. "No," I say, "this is great!"


Something to Do

Central Park luxuriates like a cat stretching out in a sunbeam: men strip off their shirts and women sprawl indolently across blankets wearing nothing but bikinis and sunglasses and thinking summery thoughts.

A man in too many clothes, carrying a large overstuffed trash bag full of what may be all of his worldly goods, makes a long, looping path around Sheep's Meadow, slowly passing by each scantily-clad woman, and quite clearly ogling each of them in turn, while still keeping something of a respectful distance. 

As he starts another turn around the 
Meadow, I point him out to Katie, who shrugs, saying, "It's not like he's got cable."

Friday, May 16, 2014

They Must be Flaring All the Time

"You have to tell me when you're mad at me," she says. It's starting to rain harder, and I hold the umbrella over her as we hurry down 7th Avenue. "I was just trying to make you laugh."

"I was trying not to let it bother me," I say, "but when you tell me my nostrils flare when I'm being pretentious, I take it personally."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Attention to Detail, Redux

He points to the circled numbers on the document. "You've got to read these before you give them to me."

"I'm sorry, it must have automatically numbered."

"Even if it did," he says, and though he's soft spoken, I can tell he's losing patience, "you still have to read it."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

But Only Almost

I picked the wrong train, and ended up sitting on the track for a half an hour while they re-routed the express trains in front of us. I could feel the impatience and frustration spark inside me like a fallen power line, surging and sending out sparks that I struggled to keep contained.

So when the "Showtime!" kids got on the train at 14th Street (and aren't we as a city supposed to be cracking down on these little nuisances? Can I make a citizen's arrest?) I was not in the most receptive of moods to their spastic quote-entertainment-unquote.

"Y'all suck," I say loudly as they begin their schpiel, and they seem to lose what little enthusiasm they had to begin with, making me almost feel sorry for them for a half-second.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Flex

I take off my shirt to start getting ready for bed and, like most nights, I stand in front of the mirror, looking at my body. I've lost some weight working out over the past few months, and I like looking at myself.

I run my hands over my belly, where that stubborn spare tire sits (more a bike tire now, but still), grab it and shake it a little. I imagine myself on a beach some months hence, shirtless and ripped, admired by people who probably won't actually be looking at me at all, and I unconsciously flex.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Spoilers

"It's a tie? What happens if it's a tie?" she says as the credits roll.

"Oh, I can't remember," I say airily.

"You're not allowed to read anything else if you can't answer my questions," she says, pouting.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Better With Age

"I got both your letters," Mom says. "I've really enjoyed them so much.

"As you wrote, some of your letters from when you were younger were... less nice," she continues, delicately referring to some rather nasty things I penned as an angry teenager, when I was full of hormones and self-righteousness.

"I've also noticed your handwriting has improved," she finishes, and I can hear the smile in her voice.

Party Planning

Nicola seems simultaneously frazzled, and entirely nonchalant about the baby shower that she put so much work into. The sandwiches she made, the flower arrangements, drinks, sweets, the cake that literally looks like a baby bursting forth from a buttercream vagina, complete with doll head and raspberry afterbirth, all speak of an obsessive level of detail. 

She leans up against the bar, drink in hand, and surveys her work.

"Well, the one woman gave me a look and asked if I thought the cake was 'appropriate,' but I just told her, 'Yeah, I think it is,'" she says, rolling her eyes in disdain.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Polite

Streets still slick with the day's rain and cherry blossom petals, pearly grey light in the sky, we take our time and walk the long way home from the train.

The construction workers have knocked off a little early, and seem to be at loose ends, standing beneath the awning at the site, smoking and chatting about nothing in low voices.

Visions of catcalls and stereotypes leer through my head, and I try not to grip Katie's hand any tighter as we walk past the gathered lot of them.

One smiles, a big toothy grin, nods to my wife, and she smiles back, both so polite I half expect him to tip his hardhat, like a real proper gent.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

She's Wants to Help

"Okay," I say to our receptionist. "This is the last question, and then I'll let you go: if you don't know where the cell phones for new employees are kept, and you don't know how to activate them, is there at least, maybe, like, an inventory list or something? Somewhere?"

"No," she says sadly.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Running to Stand Still

"And your focus begins...now!" The muscular gentleman with the intense, fanatical gaze on the screen begins a sequence of jumps and squats and picking up heavy things and putting them back down again, while I struggle to keep up.

My heart pounds, skin drips sweat, as I bend over and stand up again, over and over, running in place and lifting weights, "crunching abs" and "flexing the core."

I am losing weight, fighting time, exhausted, muscles burning, but I take some consolation in the knowledge that, no matter what, at some point, the video is going to stop.

Down to Earth

"You'll get an email, confirming your order, which goes to you and Gary," she says, explaining the supply process for the office to which I really ought to be paying attention, but this chair I'm sitting in is fascinating me.

It's orange plastic on a black metal frame, wide base both front-to-back and side-to-side, and it's very stable, like freakishly so. I'm used to tipping back in my chair, balancing on the two back legs, mitigating the boredom of everyday work (or school when I did it as a kid) with the occasional gut-dropping panic of almost falling back, and affecting a certain nonchalance with my unconventional sitting style.

But this chair, it won't tip back except with the application of quite a bit of force, and then it immediately tips back down to earth four-legs-square in a most irritating fashion, no matter what I seem to do, ruining the whole effect.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Prideful Knifework

Cilantro, green and fragrant, chopped fine, and then pungent onions and jalapeƱo, ditto. The clip of metal on wood, chopping away, and her keys in the lock as she arrives home.

"You never chop as hard as when you're making guacamole," she says, coming into the kitchen. "You take such pride in your work."

Sunday, May 4, 2014

All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray

"He's actually a long-haired German Shepherd," she replies, "and I'm training him to be a good citizen so he can visit sick people in the hospital."

"Working dogs need jobs," I say, trotting out my standard phrase as we continue across the street..

"Yes," she says, nodding agreement, "but he really likes to herd, anything that runs, really, so we sometimes get yelled at by parents in the park."

I imagine this 110 pound furry giant, a catcher-in-the-rye in Prospect Park, body checking toddlers and nipping gently at young children as they streak through the meadow in maddening abandon, driving a dog to distraction in the traditional way that all lambs do in the spring.

Not Even Close

Shannon seems to regret having started a conversation with us as much as we regret her continuing it, but she can't quite figure out how to extract herself, probably due to the fact that she's just this side of blackout drunk.

"You guys should really have kids," she says, having known us for less than five minutes. "I mean just bite the bullet and realize that you're almost 40...."

Katie interrupts, smiling at me (I always like being mistaken for younger): "Well actually, he's over 40."

Friday, May 2, 2014

Street Portrait

He's huge, even bigger next to the two slight women he's accompanying, but he's one of those triangular guys who tapers down from broad shoulders to these skinny little legs squeezed into skinny jeans. His mullet is a work of art, fluffed and expertly coiffed above, trailing down from dark black to bleached orange at the tips which fan across his broad, sweatshirt covered back. Out from underneath the sweatshirt peek the tails of a Hawaiian shirt, and, for all his obvious muscle, he walks a bit like a duck, which undercuts his good looks and muscularity.

He and his companions discuss (in, perhaps, Portugese?) something of some import, judging by his tone, but he sounds like he's storing all his words in his cheeks, and the words sound like they're pushing out through the rest of his words to get out, all thick and glutenous, but he seems to speak cautiously and with consideration, not at all the musclehead he appears, as he duckwalks down the street.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Beltane

After yesterday's deluge, I feel waterlogged and beaten down, like a newborn plant, sprouting fresh from thawing earth, that just got the shit kicked out of it by a storm.

So I have to psyche myself up to go outside, despite everyone coming in from lunch saying how glorious and mild it is outside.

When I finally do make it out, it is everything I'd been told, and I practically float through the sunshine, soaking in light and air that seems to be breathing me, rather than the other way around.

The smokers in the courtyard eye my smiling visage warily, but they're out there for the same reason I am, reveling in a beautiful day, sucking in smoke with gusto, flicking their butts to the pavement with a little extra verve, a little more pep.