Tuesday, June 21, 2011


i found hot yoga off route 116 yesterday

thirteen dollars for the first class

the next six free

dollar for your towel, dollar for your bottle of water

mat free

the room was set to a hundred degrees 

while the walls were painted the color of fire 

and the carpet felt like the pediatrician's office

there were maybe eight of us

all watching him

the guy at the desk who signed me in

and during one of our "savasanas" 

he told a nice little story 

about starfish and the changing of the tides and how

some woman he met on the beach was able to bestow some sort of truth upon his grappling mind and now





he wore tiny, tiny shorts and at times

i could see his balls

i found my balance easy with my left leg up

knee to chest

thumb slowly to the top of the boobs 

pink face hot



yoga positions sound like a foreign language but they feel like home 

as soon as your breathing turns into rhythm

and in the mirror you see that your eyes are still on

glassy and focused

charged and lit up

lie down

palms up

internally de-paint myself

keep breathing

the class was over in ninety minutes and outside was cool and green and 

i rolled the volvo windows down all the way

guzzling water 

feeling new

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Backyard Which Happens To Be In Brooklyn

is the spot to go cry your eyes out

the spot to go puff puff pass out 

the spot to go kiss kiss breathe out

and you don't have to be cool 
and you don't have to sport
sweatshirts that stitch
your 'hood's names on their hoods
'cause while all the hipsters are staying up late
dripping money out their nose on their french bistro plates
flicking cigarettes on sidewalks on my block's corners
my backyard which happens to be in brooklyn
is dripping words from real mourners
and real mourners don't go to brooklyn
they come back to brooklyn
and they leave brooklyn
and they come back to brooklyn
but they definitely don't need to go to brooklyn
'cause you don't go where you're from
plus i'm sick of these cool kids
buying veggies at Met
and setting up stoop sales to help pay their rent
Where the slope starts to slope and the cobble stone ends
the gardens, the heights, and the hook don't pretend
to know which kids have seen it all change
So go write your novel, your blog, and your checks
While your girlfriend buys jeans and your boyfriend new kicks
I'll be in my backyard, which happens to be in brooklyn,
crying my eyes out and 
puff puff and passing out and 
kiss kiss and breathing out
until it's really time to move out.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Later in Life, Down the Line, Another Time, Some Other Day, Just Not Then

Only a 16 year old girl would make a decision to cheat on her boyfriend with the 17 year old neighborhood kid who wanted to come in while her parents weren't home to play Super Nintendo. Only a 16 year old girl would think he just wanted to play Super Nintendo. She liked playing Super Nintendo.

"You have Super Nintendo? I haven't played on that system in three years. You busy right now?"

Only a 16 year old girl would make a decision to seek out a friend's older sister's old paper (but not that old) on The Sound and the Fury and plagiarize the hell out of it. Only a 16 year old girl could sit comfortably in class and think not about the consequences but of what movie to rent this weekend with her boyfriend.

Only a 16 year old girl would make a decision to get on the F and ride it to 22nd Avenue-Bay Parkway only to wait for the B6 bus long enough to realize that, by now, her parents would be gone for work, and that she should just turn around, walk back up to the elevated train platform, and go back home. Only a 16 year old girl would be excited by Jerry Springer episodes and Chinese combination lunch specials.

Only a 16 year old girl would make a decision to smoke pot (not just a little, but a lot, and enough to exclaim "i think this is laced!" to the cool Park Slope boys who probably thought she smoked pot on the regular) and then go home to reveal it as her parents draped wet washcloths across her forehead bearing faces she couldn't read. Only a 16 year old girl would feel innocent in doing so.

Only a 16 year old girl would make a decision to cheat again on her boyfriend with the 17 year old cousin of her long-time family friend at her younger brother's Bar-Mitzvah under the desk in the Rabbi's office. Only a 16 year old girl would sneak off, nervously still holding the fork she was eating chicken with when he leaned over and said

"You wanna go somewhere?" 

All were stupid decisions that only a 16 year old girl would make. She thought there was plenty of time to make up for bad decisions with good decisions later in life, down the line,  another time, some other day, just not then.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Yo, This One Goes Out To My Mom.

It didn't really matter what story was being read. It didn't really matter how many times we'd read it. What mattered were the soothing sounds of syllables leaving my mother's mouth late at night as I laid in bed smelling my wet hair's shampoo on my pillow. With the lights dim and my glass of water sitting still on the bedside table, I graciously let my mother's voice send me off to sleep each and every night. Sometimes my father would enter halfway through reading and practice his tai chi - his movements so slow and perfect it was like watching a visual interpretation of the story at hand. But it was really my mother's mouth I watched - her lipstick pink and faded from the long day - and whose reading voice rang so lovely in my little girl ears. She wasn't too loud and she wasn't too quiet. Stories were read just above a whisper and her body next to mine was warm and soft and she smelled of the lotion that she would rub on her hands before tucking me in. As she read to me, I would hold her hand and touch her wedding ring with my tiny fingers, twisting it around like a screw. She would look down at me in between paragraphs as if she knew something good were about to happen, but she must have been checking for closed eyes. I tried to keep them open for as long as I possibly could but their heaviness settled in way before I could reach the end of the story. It was just too comfortable laying there next to my mother in the scoop of her spoon. She made falling asleep very, very easy. And as a woman of 28 now, I have her to thank for that.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Passive-Aggressive E-Mail

When she tapped Send on the last cryptic e-mail she would ever write to the two of them, she refrained from re-reading.  The writing was ugly and its manner uglier.  She wouldn't talk about this with anyone.  There was no real reason to stew in its juice.  Instead she thought about crying.  In the bathroom, head against the stall.  Then she thought about something work-related.  Then back to crying.  She needed a door to slam but it was four o'clock in the middle of the week and she was at work.  The doors there didn't slam, they only slid.  She looked across her desk, her eyes stopping on the stapler.  She grabbed it, holding it like a heavy-tension hand-grip, stapling nothing, the quick repetition feeling nice, kind of like eating something you don't have to look at - say popcorn.  The staples ran out.  It was her intention.  She walked to the closet with the office supplies and got a new box.  Back at her desk, she loaded the stapler and set it down.  She looked at it for a long time and then looked away.  Their reply popped up all black and bold.  Her stomach went hollow, her eyes cast downward like a kid not so ready for their punishment.  She felt the regret get all up near her venom. Click.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pivotal Point

He had me making good decisions and in front of people.  He had me saying no, thank you to things that were bad for my health and he had me saying yes, please to things like DVR and hugs.  He was talking about all the things he needed to get done tomorrow but I was thinking about all the things I hated about his face.  It's so mean the way I can just write that.  He had me at a very pivotal point in my life.

I didn't like his folders and his pens.  I didn't like hearing AM radio every time he went into the bathroom.  I didn't like his cooking.  I didn't like his clean-up.  I didn't like his push-ups in the middle of the apartment. 

What I listened to was our silence once he was done talking. 

"I'm gonna go to bed," I said. 

"I'm gonna take a shower," he replied.  Great, I thought.  You go do that.  

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What's Left of the Memory of an Old Conversation

Tony, a boy in my class, compares me to an angel one night.  I'm under the covers in bed, wearing sweatpants and a waffle shirt, drinking the milk my dad just dropped off. 

"Stop gritting your teeth," my dad says before closing the door.

"I'm not," I kind of whine. 

I wait until I can hear his footsteps on the wood floor upstairs, crossing through the living room, past the kitchen, and into the den.  I pull the portable phone out from under my pillow. 

"Hey, sorry," I say.  "My dad is so annoying." 

Tony laughs. 

My room is dark except for a streetlamp out my window that has been serving as a nightlight for the past ten years.  It's why I don't need to keep the bathroom light on. 

Tony compares me to an angel and says "Girl you're like an angel." 

I laugh.  "No, I'm not."  And then - "How?"

"Please, you just are," he says.  "You know you are."

"Oh," I say. 

"Where do you live again?" he asks me. 

"Carroll Gardens." 

"Is that Park Slope?"

"No, it's Carroll Gardens."

"Your family rich?"

"Yeah right, I wish," I say.

"You should take the bus with me to my house tomorrow," Tony tells me. 

I don't want to go to Tony's house.  I imagine religious figurines in the form of magnets and lots of blessings everywhere.

"Hm, maybe.  I think I have plans with Leigh tomorrow."

"What're you ladies doing?"

"Oh I don't know.  Do you have AOL?  We go on AOL and like screw with people.  It's so funny."

Tony laughs.  "You're no angel, you're a little vixen."  I don't know what vixen means but I laugh along with him.

Someone picks up the phone.  They start speaking Spanish really, really fast.  Tony is nice and polite to them.

"I should go," he says.  "My uncle needs to make a call."

"Aw, okay," I say.  "Good night..."

"I wish I could give you a big hug and kiss right now baby," Tony whispers.

"You can do it in the hall tomorrow," I say.

We hang up.  I think about chocolate donuts and 90210.  I think about who Leigh and I will pretend to be in the chat rooms tomorrow.  I think about pants and how I want new ones.

"Sylvie?" my younger brother calls out from the next room.


"Are you sleeping?"


"Who were you talking to?"

"No one."

"You shouldn't call dad annoying," he says.

"I didn't," I say.  "Shut up, go to sleep." 

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Frost & 401 Main

I once lived at 401 Main Street in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts.  It was a house built in 1896, once home to American poet Robert Frost who had taught English classes at Amherst College in the 20s and 30s.  I was a University of Massachusetts student studying English at the time so perhaps I was under somewhat of a literary spell but I swear the walls of this house were swallowing in real live yellow wallpaper.  Even on the most gorgeous and crisp of New England days - days where you could hear the splashing of a birdbath across the street - the house still managed to retain its stench of grief.  The radiators hissed like sick women when I walked in from the cold.  There was a pessimistic ferocity that filled open spaces as tiny as keyholes and it all felt very far from staged.  In fact, it felt downright natural.  Clearly Frost had lost a lot in this house and I, his modern day tenant, wondered what. 

The house was comprised of seven private bedrooms, one kitchen, one bathroom, one front stairway, one back stairway, one porch.  We were strangers to one another with the town being our sole commonality.  From the looks of it, we were very different folks and for the particularly private, it did stay this way.  It was communal living far from its finest but the rent was a number you could brag about and the bus route stopped right outside.  A few hundred yards behind the house was the Amherst Railroad Station; it only took a month to get used to the rattling, the fear of us all collapsing to the dirt in a heap, having to make conversation once outside.

Brian was tall with a nervous posture.  He was noticeably awkward, a bit off-kilter, and probably what you would call doofy.  His intellectual abilities were believably above average - he was always reading, began inevitably short conversations by telling you what he was reading - but when predisposed to social, communicative, and coordinated circumstance, he could never maneuver his way into a comfortable and breathe-easy place.  His eyes could never catch mine but I knew he liked me because he would slide Penguin classics under my door without so much as a knock.  One time I opened my door as he was walking into the bathroom and he frighteningly hurried in and slammed the door.  "I just wanted to thank you for Madame Bovary," I said.

Charlie was round like a ball with a red and raw face.  He looked like someone who secretly sat scratching and scratching in the dryness of his room.  He hung decorations on his door during holidays and offered to drop off individual rent checks on the first of each month.  Some of us liked that and some of us didn't but the offer always stood.  He cut a deal with our landlord to pay $100 less on rent by offering housekeeping services.  He vacuumed the hallway's carpet, shoveled snow off the pathway leading up to the house in the winter, disinfected the kitchen and bathroom when needed.  He brought plants into the common areas and kept them alive.  

Royce was always in his bathrobe.  He was a jittery fellow, excited by his pet birds, and would talk of mundane things as if they could rid of being mundane but, unfortunately, the mundane stayed where it was.  I was always kind, nodding along, but his sentences hung and died every time.  But there was a hop to Royce's step and I liked that.  He was buoyant by nature, light like his birds' feathers.  Once he knocked on our doors to ask permission to throw a dinner party in the kitchen.  He clapped his hands in prayer position when he asked, then showed all ten fingers when assuring us that there would be no mess.  I wondered who his friends were as I'd never seen or heard Royce with anybody in the house.  I walked into the kitchen around the time I thought the party might be breaking up and saw a melted ice bucket on the table sitting like a guest between the gin and tonic water.  Royce was wearing a tie and staring at a candle dripping its wax.  He looked like what you would look like if no one came to your dinner party.  I didn't ask him how his night went but I did taste the chicken scallopini.  It was delicious.

Amy was my age and fun like tie-dye.  It was a very good thing that we found each other in this house.  She found the parties with the bonfires and bands, collected vintage Strawberry Shortcake dolls, tried on her new clothes for me, and always had to tell me something.  "I have to tell you something, come to my room," she'd whisper fast.  She was tall and blond with a pretty face, light eyes, had a real knack for that hippie style.  She loved being outdoors; she loved being indoors.  She bopped and snapped to music, squealed at the ridiculousness of ridiculous situations, slept with the wrong boys and snarled at the right ones.  When it rained and we'd lie on each other's beds talking about all the things you talk about when you talk about love, I drew post-it notes in my head to keep her forever.  She talked a lot about moving out West and then she did.  That's when Alicia moved in.

Alicia was easy like scrambled eggs.  She and I bonded over simple pleasures:  coffee in paper cups, reading near waterfalls, blowing smoke, a lyric.  She was creative and liked artsy things like string and fabric and ornate cake decoration.  There was some gray in her hair; an obvious old soul.  Some days we would take the back roads, driving past tobacco barns and potato fields to get to the Montague Bookmill, a used bookstore housed in an 1842 gristmill, set on the banks of the Sawmill River.  We peered out paned windows and sat across from one another eating brie, apricot jam and marinated apple sandwiches while we read good sentences out loud.  It wasn't quite Summer yet but it sure felt like it with Alicia.  I drew more post-it notes in my head.

Zane was old, too old to be living in this house, and he hated all of us.  He would leave his room to smoke cigarettes on the porch and I knew he was unhappy.  We shared a wall and he would bang on them when he heard me having conversations with people.  The only time he spoke more than a grunt to me was the day I moved out.  I was carrying heavy boxes but he stopped me in the hallway anyway.  "You're leaving," he didn't ask, more like stated.  "I am, I am," I said.  "No more noise from me, don't you worry," I joked.  He didn't laugh, I didn't expect him to.  "Where are you going?" he asked, surprising me.  "Back to Brooklyn," I said.  "Brooklyn, huh?  That's where you're from?  I love Brooklyn," he said.  He looked ready to converse and I wanted to shout "Now?!" but I was carrying these boxes and I had to go, it was getting late.  "Take care, Zane," I said.  "Yeah, yeah" was his reply.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Buffalo Colony

Before the birds stirred our Labrador from sleep and before the sun even stood a chance at drying up the dew and certainly before our parents could ask if we had brushed teeth that day, we were up and out, slamming our screen doors, kicking up kickstands, and riding with our butts in the air for no more than seven seconds to each other's cracked and peeling front porches.  Max and I knew to knock softly on doors, but still hadn't learned to refrain from turning knobs.  No one got mad though.  It was summertime in the Catskills and there wasn't much to be angry about.

In Zack's bungalow, we would cut up thick slabs of cheddar and watch it melt all over English muffins in the toaster oven.  We ate them right away, the hot cheese burning our tongues, breathing out the word "hot" with our mouths wide open, our baby teeth orange with goo.  We played Slap Jack at the kitchen table until our hands burned like our tongues and then we said out loud "Now whaddya wanna do?"

Our bungalows had personalities that sat around a semicircular drive that we called the horseshoe.  It was lined with double rows of trees; twin grassy fields sat still in its middle, but we knew which one was better for what.  One field tended to flood faster and so it was in this field that we followed Ethan, our friend with a net, who was always looking to catch grass frogs after a hard rain.  Ethan reminded us not to run and to be quiet.  We listened to him because we really wanted to find a frog.  The other field was more flat and had fewer upraised roots which made pop fly baseballs a lot easier to run after.  One field got more sun.  One field had a stretch of moss that felt nice for cartwheels. 

Daniel was a little older and he woke up later than us.  He would jump off his porch, wearing basketball shorts and a do-rag, his headphones lopsided, his mouth spitting Ol' Dirty Bastard lyrics faster than I could make out.  I knew he liked it raw, that's about it.  He was kind of gorgeous in that disrespectful way boys can be and every morning I looked forward to it.  He was also tall and would purposefully tower over me, jokingly calling himself "the Latin lover," saying it with an embellished but real accent that made Zack, Max, and Ethan laugh while I stumbled backwards, choking a little bit on my innocence. 

There was an old casino building outside of the horseshoe that we would go to when we got tired of being outside.  It was a good place to go when it got dark and the temperature dropped and we got too loud for other families who were trying to settle in for the night.  It felt haunted when you were alone and familiar when you were with someone else.  It smelled old like dust.  Our parents would drop off old books and board games they thought we could use but mainly we just sat around a rotting picnic table telling "Yo Mama" jokes, saying curse words, and snacking on something good from someone's house.  Sometimes we would ride our bikes inside, trying to make good skid marks on the wood.  There was also a way to get up onto the ceiling's rafters so that we could swing and jump off, point and laugh, get splinters. 

It was like we owned the place.  We kind of did.  

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ransacking Jill

The words don't come all that easily to me.  They don't arrive like lids on jars in factories.  Lid on jar, pop!  Lid on jar, pop!  One after another.  The words don't come to me like that.   

But Jared calls me up one night and says he's a few blocks away and can he crash for the night.  His girlfriend had another abortion; he doesn't need to talk about it.  I tell him the couch is his.  In fact, the couch was his - at one point.  He shows up in sweatpants but we immediately shut the door behind us and go to Deity, an old church turned bar on a busy Brooklyn avenue.  I like taking friends here, being amongst falsification for an hour or two, sitting twisted on dirty red leather while the real twisting of good things turned bad things prevail without my permission.  

In college, we dated the same girl, so we talk about her a lot.  Jill.  Her roommate was also named Jill but that Jill wasn't nearly as hot as our Jill.  Our Jill wore sorority letters on her ass, took bong hits  between classes, gave us blow jobs during football games.  But as our beer bottles empty, we find the mutual gripes with her, of which there are plenty (some real, some not so real) and then decide she was awful. 

"Jill was desperate, always needing to be coddled, you know?"

"She was a fake, man.  She sucked."

"That voice."

"Bitch was all drama."

We concoct a different girl so that we can ransack her for our liking.  It feels good because we are in a church-bar drinking beer.  The patterns in the stained glass bleed and swirl.  Now the words can come easily just like Jill did. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Work We Do (Or The Work He Does.)

our world is an overgrown garden of work and verbs.   

take.  explain.  choose.  clean.  find.  swat.  put.  pay.  plan.  dump.  fix.

except the work and the verbs strike him at night like a hammer to the head.

he is licking his lips for them soon after his belly rumbles; he is filled with nails.

as he dreams, his fingers twitch, so i give him a pencil like a bottle.

when the tape measure slithers, then snaps, he is up like that. 

he is up in the morning slurping sawdust and swallowing inches, brushing up on simple math, and shampooing with screws.  how he finds time to catch up with the day's ruler i will never know.

come lunch time, he is clamping down on wood before picking up strippers.

he drives.  me crazy.  i can level with him though. 

i call for the 6" torpedo.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nicer Men

My wife is friends with the man who limps around the neighborhood on crutches.  His hair is peppered and stringy and he has those "I'll cut you and make you bleed blood" eyes.  I'm not fond of him but he has been this man for years and years.  We see him on the same blocks - across from the park; in front of the bank; by the discount store.  At dawn, when we jog in turtlenecks, he is there.  At 4am, when we are drunk and breathing in bread smells, he is there.  His crutches are small for his body; he is also dirty.  And unlike that other guy at the train station who sits in his wheelchair with his prosthetic leg on his lap, asking for my money, and smoking the ends of used cigarettes while nicer men acknowledge his haircut, this man just limps.

"That man is Richard," she tells me.  "The walking is good therapy for his legs."  

I don't think this to be true but my wife likes to make simple sense of things.  It is this way because of that. 

"What's wrong with his legs?  He's had those crutches for years."

My wife tells me that I'm missing the point.  "What difference does it make?  Walking is good therapy, period.  You should walk more."

I think my wife has missed the point entirely.  "I think if you need crutches, you should stay off your legs."

She says something sarcastic like "Thanks, doc" and then goes to stand on our stoop with her mug of coffee like she's the only one home. 

The next day, before entering the train station, I try to stand casually by the man with the leg.

"Morning," I say.  He nods.  Then remembers to shake his paper cup.

"Sorry, I don't have..." my voice trails off into shared air.  "What happened to your leg?" is what I think to say next.

"Diabetes," he says.  "Lost it five years go.  I have this fake leg here, but it ain't easy to walk.  Good walk would do me some good."

I say something like "Sure, I bet" but it is not before someone else approaches him, with offerings of a cigarette, and he is now thanking them, fiddling with a matchbook.  I skip stairs two at a time to catch the train.

A couple of days later, my wife and I pass Richard on the street. 

"Hi there," my wife says.

"Oh, hello," Richard replies.

I let his eyes rape me for a second, and then I pipe in.  "What would you say to a wheelchair?"

"A wheelchair?  They're too much," he says.

"I know someone who could use your crutches, and he happens to have a wheelchair he's sick to death of."

My wife stares in horror at me.  "Who do you know?" she spits.

"The guy who sits at the train station," I say.  "We're friends."  I throw it in there. 

Richard looks interested.

"I bet he's there now.  We'll walk with you."

My wife and I walk; Richard limps, and it is unclear, probably to everyone, why I am doing this.  But I am doing this. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Red Flag

I like to spend my time thinking up little ways to change my life. I do this for the benefit of my future self; I do this for kicks.  You speak to me, seriously, but still I sit here coming up with plans. Tomorrow will be different. I will be someone who speaks slowly, and wears barrettes. I will finish books in the bathroom, refrain from straightening bedsheets, use elbow grease when I've gone and burnt a pan. 

"You're a changed woman," you'll say. "And you did it just like that."

"Just like that," I'll respond.

In January, when we use two fingers to push the dimmer down on the kitchen lights, I'll read you my resolutions, written in pencil. 

"Leaving room for amendments?" is what you say.

"Leaving no room for mistakes" is what I say.

You pop a cork.  "Red flag, baby.  Red flag."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


"If you had to give up your hands or your feet," she asked him, "which would you give up?"

"Hands," he answered. "Hands down, hands."

"That makes sense," she said. 

And without thinking she added,  "Your handwriting is shit."

And without waiting she said, "I'd give up my feet."

"Because you write," he said. 

"Because I write," she nodded.

He bought her an electric keyboard when he noticed how often she played air piano when they listened to music together. Her small fingers stretching for the octaves - the correct ones, too - always going so far as to throw in a glissando. She could be such a show-off sometimes. Her lips tucking in, her nose scrunching up, acting like a rocker with an actual fan base.

During her workday, he let himself into her apartment and assembled it.

"You bought me a keyboard."

He shrugged like it was nothing.

"Don't shrug like it's nothing," she said.

He shrugged again.

"I should be writing, not playing."

"Do both."


She signed up for piano lessons with a woman named Gretchen Hutton. Gretchen lived in a brownstone with tall parlor floor windows and heavy oriental carpets slung over mahogany banisters.  Twin baby grands sat back to back in the middle of the house like they belonged there. 

"For duets," Gretchen said.  "Go on, sit down. This one over here."

Her butt slid on the bench.  It felt slippery and windexed. 

"What do you want from the piano?"

She thought for three seconds.  "To write more."

Gretchen liked that.  "Play me something."

She played the first movement of Clementi's Sonatina in C Major before Gretchen stopped her with a wave of a stubby No.2 pencil. 

"You have very fast fingers," Gretchen commented.

"I know. Thanks," she said.

"You played that very, very fast." 

 Her right foot retracted from the pedals just as her posture dropped.

"Do you understand what you're playing?" Gretchen asked.

She hesitated.  She wanted to know the answer to this question very badly.

"There is a purpose to music just like there is a purpose to writing."

That seemed correct.  "What is the purpose then?" she asked.

Gretchen didn't say anything. 

"It's good that you're here," she said.  "Now take it from the top."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Handwritten Notes

When she was a teenager, it was nothing out of the ordinary to wake up to the drilling of street construction.  She could never find it once awake (what was being drilled) and so she said her Hi's and Morning's in sweatpants and the leftovers of last night's attitude, the day already feeling confused and hard.

As such, the monotonous sounds of dirty labor always left her reminded of morning.  Morning meant the run of a vacuum.  The bolting and unbolting of the basement door's lock.  The cleaning out of a closet.  Old board games falling off shelves.  She woke up feeling like things needed to be done, and now.  There was more homework.  More errands.  People to see, and now.  Now.  She did not like it but it was how it went.  

Standing up at the kitchen's counter top, buttering a toasted bialy while Al Roker got muted on the news, she would get hit with the sun lasers of window light hours after the dog had already been zapped. Taken care of and evenly breathing on a wood floor.  She wanted back to bed, too.  Carrying her bialy on a paper towel, crumbs slipping, stepping softly on wood, no one will know.  They were out getting their things done.

Oh, but a note.  It was handwritten.  Found a great table on Warren Street.  A woman is holding it for me.  Getting an oil change but will be back.  I want to take you there.  Go ahead and unload the dishwasher in the meantime.  Someone called for you.  A boy. 

Those were the handwritten notes.  Because they collected too much scrap paper beneath the counter, it was hard to pull the drawer out at times.  The papers were gentle, passive aggressive reminders of the algebra problems she cried over.  Her tears dripping on numbers.  Blurred numbers now.  Reaching for more scrap, she hoped to never live in a handwritten note house again.  Post-its for one kind of note.  Loose leaf for another.  Backs of fliers for another.   Index cards.   Gah.

As a twenty something year-old, maybe the notes were called for.   This was a family and their schedule happened to be up and running.  That was how it went.  To the next thing, to the next place, to the next person.  They would read the note.  They would crumple the note.  It was just paper and it was nothing to cry over. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Very Catty

I am small for a cat and will admit it openly.  Yes, perhaps I am the size of lifeless, dead-to-me animal toys for babies but thankfully prettier and thankfully real.  I get it.  It’s funny because we all look like we could be friends.  Maybe we’re friends!  Maybe I’m home at night talking smack with bull over there.  It’s funny because I look confused.  I am confused!  Whose are these?  Weirdo for saving them.  Ah yes, and it’s funny because I failed to see it coming.  Good one.  I’m a cat.  I don’t follow these things.  I’m this close to wiping the herd out with a Smap! of my paw so as not to lose my window for comedic cat timing.  An infantile pet set-up.  You can laugh and blow your smoke now.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Lately she'd been feeling like peas.  Not the juicy, sweet and homegrown kind.  The over-boiled, mushy and yuck kind.  The boring and bland kind.  The ones that she'd dragged through ketchup as a kid to mask that taste of green kind.  Yes, she'd been feeling like peas and, in predictable fashion, she was beginning to come up short for new costume.  

It was the time of the month.  It was the time of the month to pick fights left and right, up and down, or preferably pushing straight through bellies with her double-edged mouth sword.  It also happened to be the day of the week, the one hour at which she normally would've been seated uncomfortably, working hard to look relaxed, on one of those futons for low-budget professional people.  A floral one.  Or one with very abstract, pointy shapes.  Squiggles.  A nine year-old's comforter in the 80's.  Unisex.  The time of the month, the time in the day.  

She'd quit her therapist almost sixteen days ago.  It was a rash decision on her part, she knew that, but after doing a search for her Chinese therapist's name on Facebook, after actually finding it, after actually reading it, after actually comparing her "How black are you?" quiz results with hers only to discover the exact same score (Hood Figure), she had to end it.  So she lied and said she was feeling pretty good about life - things were going well! - and also might have to cut back on certain expenses because her rent had just gone up.  Lying just came natural.

Maybe it was her fault for wanting to know more about this woman - this woman who wore nicer clothes than she did, who preferred cash over checks, who ended each session with "So long!" as the door kind of slammed shut - but it was this woman's fault for not knowing about privacy settings.  And for sometimes staring at her without blinking. For jotting the wrong details down while she spoke.  Not her fault - her fault.


Sunday, September 6, 2009


Billy had too much gel in his hair when I answered the door.  He was wearing a tie and holding his backpack like a briefcase.  He smelled of Doritos and dirty things, apologized if he was interrupting dinner.

"I'd like a moment with your mother," he said.

"My mom?" I asked. "Why?"

"Or your father," he said. "Whoever is home at the present time." He was looking over my shoulder. He seemed to be on the clock.

I snapped my gum. "Ma!" I yelled, without taking my eyes off him.  Then: "Why do you look like that?"

My mom came to the door, sighed hello to Billy, and told me to go finish my math problems. 

"Good evening," he began. "Lovely weather, isn't it?"

My mom waved to Sam, the old man who sits across the street.  "Things good?" she called out.

"I'm selling school supplies for school, Mrs. Flatow. Would you care to peruse the catalog?" He was already kneeling down, unzipping his pack. His hair grossly shined.

"Billy, what is this - I've got -- "

"Mrs. Flatow.  As you know, I am a classmate of your daughter's.  Additionally, I am someone who sits diagonally across from her desk. I know what she has. I know what she lacks."

My mom turned around to look at me. I pretended to solve problems on scrap paper.

Billy continued in a whisper. "Tonight's homework is all about measuring angles and it is my educated guess that Sylvie has no idea what she is doing because she is without a protractor.  Mrs. Flatow, a protractor is a tool that measures angles. The red and black crossbar need to be lined up with the vertex of the angle. The vertex is the point where the two rays of an angle meet -- "

"Are you doing homework without a protractor?" she asked.

"I don't need one," I replied.

"She needs one," Billy shot.

I watched Billy conduct business with my mother. I watched three dollars leave her front jean pocket and I watched Billy thank her for her time.  

The next day, after my homework was finished, Billy and I sat on the curb's corner throwing pebbles at pigeons. He had bought us blue raspberry airheads, my favorite. His hair was dry and tousled, his fingernails forever dirty.

Every time I got a pigeon to fly away, not just flutter, Billy would look at me and smile. 


Across the street, Sam would shake his head but not say a word.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sari and Paige

Sari and Paige were on gruesome weekday diets. Nothing for breakfast (easy), cigarettes and coffees at 2pm (lunch break), raisin nut bars at 4:30pm (after some serious writing), olive oily, fruit salads for dinner (scarf). One Saturday night, early in the morning, they sat side by side on Paige's couch witnessing the very worst of infomercials and clenching their tummy fat with even fatter fingers.
"I once ate an entire pizza - in bed - only to reach - eyes closed - for the last slice - forty minutes into a dream. And I knew what I was doing. Did I ever tell you that? I am nasty," Sari said.
"When I have sex with my legs up, I totally gross myself out," Paige offered.

They knew exactly where the closest White Castle was. They were dressed up, having polished off their night's romp at a friend's birthday party, club-style. They click-clacked their heels all the way down Atlantic, past chichi bridal shops and African crafts stores, past sweaty men in their wife beaters, sitting on their short steps, liking their asses in Arabic.
The castle's white and pointy glow sprayed out like an oriental fan as they approached the drive-thru window, slowly, as if they had just been a couple of passers-by.
"One sack."
"Yeah, me too, one sack."
They ordered and the kid behind the window slid their meat under the steel. Then they walked to the curb and sat down like a couple of exhausted hookers, hot grease from the bags' bottoms shining their knees. Their fatty fingers punctured marshmallow buns. Pickles slipped. Cheese squished. Mustard dripped. Mouths never closing, they breathed in the meatiness and did not look at each other once.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Things He Brought.

He brought his food processor to her apartment two months after they started dating. The food processor made her happy. It was a kitchen item she had always needed, always wanted, and this one came to her, for free. He carried it up the stairs with a strong forearm. She liked that he shared his things. He was such a good boy.

Chopping, shredding, and mixing: verbs of her past now, and this certainly was no blender. Interchangeable blades! No liquid necessary! For a while she felt married. Married to this versatile appliance that could do anything to her food, whether she liked it or not. She carried home fruit, just fruit, in brown paper bags - two arms wrapped around the ones she'd always admired but never bought, like mangoes and melons, pineapples and papaya, starfruit and guava - concocting morning juice blends and then keeping them cold in glass pitchers to marvel at its color. Threw wooden spoons in there for effect. Sipping from small cups, saying "Ahhh" to the walls. Soon enough she was real comfortable. She began grinding her meats. Beating her farm eggs. Slapping around cake batter like she was born to do it.

He brought his rice cooker to her apartment four months after they started dating. The rice cooker made her happy. It was a kitchen appliance she always needed, always wanted, and this one came to her, for free. He carried it up the stairs with a strong forearm. She liked that he shared his things. He was such a good boy.

Watching the stove, making sure the rice did not stick, did not burn, and all the rules she'd heard over the years, like "never stir" and "boil the water first." She threw it out the window. Rice cooker, yo! Never pay attention again. A whopping 95% of Japanese kitchens use them, did she know that? One day she even made a beef stew in her rice cooker. She set it to "warm" and it cooked at 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Thank you to the cookbook he carried in his other hand devoted entirely to dishes prepared in a rice cooker. When the rice was done the cooker would beep like Beep! Smiling through exciting Mets innings on TV. Strike him out, take your time, rice is ready.

He brought his snow cone maker to her apartment six months after they started dating. The snow cone maker made her happy. It was a kitchen appliance she always needed, always wanted, and this one came to her, for free. He carried it up the stairs with a strong forearm. She liked that he shared his things. He was such a good boy.

"Snow cone maker!" she screamed in his ears. "These exist? Like, they make these in real life?" Yes. They sure did. This was no 1979 Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine where one stupid ice cube magically transformed into some Kool-Aid dessert. Oh, no. This was the real thing. Red and retro with a stainless steel blade. No assembly required and scratch resistant. Slushies 24/7 from now on. That was the rule. Bad day? Slushie time. PMS? Have a slushie. Can't sleep? A slushie is like a glass of warm milk. She promised.

He brought himself over to her apartment eight months after they started dating. He made her happy. He was someone she always needed, always wanted, and this one came to her, for free. He carried himself up the stairs, his strong arms swinging. She liked that he shared his things. He was such a good boy.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

To Strolling, Thanks For Everything

The photo does not say it but they are fasting. It is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, but they are nowhere near a synagogue. Alright, they are somewhat near a synagogue but it is also a Wednesday weekday work day and so they make the decision as four familial folks to stroll off their sins. There is no art to sinning but there most certainly is an art to strolling.

Their sins they keep to themselves.

The French were the ones to first grasp the cultural significance of strolling. In the 1800's, Paris was reinvented to reveal the wide avenue, the boulevard-transformed-street, and a lot more light. The man-about-town began to idle. He may have looked un peu stupide but he was a walking suit of awareness and, in the same moments, still inquisitive.

Strolling likes to define this family. They are cool Jews. (See: Sunglasses. See: His Expression.) Humanistic. Fallible. Goal-setting. Introspective. They are celebrating self-forgiveness. They are tidying up, making room for the new. It is happening very quietly and that is good. Where they will stroll to next, it is undecided. The next street, the next neighborhood. Their lives will happen one way or another but first things first: they will not wait to be somewhere else and they will not wait to have arrived.

They are hungry but sometimes that is not such a bad thing.