Archive for July, 2008

on the subway

A thin boy with bony cheeks, reading a small paperback. He stares at the page and then smiles, contented, like he’s seen the face of an old friend there. He tips the book and I can see that it’s filled with a list of names and tabulated numbers. Where some of the numbers would be are question marks. At the top it says, “ELEMENTARY PARTICLES.” After a while he flips ahead and lights on another page, “THE RICHTER EARTHQUAKE SCALE.” He has friends there too.


at the butcher’s

He’s young, the butcher, already bald, with eyes that are a little sad. It must have been his father’s shop once, or his uncle’s. His hands have an intimacy with the countertops, he has been back there his whole life. He works with knives, he works with death, although he doesn’t think of it that way. And the thing is he’s got the sweetest voice, low and gentle and full of something that sounds like love, but can’t possibly be. When you need someone to tell you that everything is going to be okay, it’s his voice you want, shhh honey it’s all gonna work out fine.

at the grocery store

I catch the manager watching hungrily as the checkout girl bends down to pick up a dropped coin. He and I stare at each other a moment. I would like it to be okay for him to appreciate her, but it isn’t, because he is the boss and you can tell by his face he uses that for what he can. Something, this or else the heat, leaves me nauseous.

by the bodega

He was small, with narrow sloped shoulders and ratty hair. He wore a dirty black t-shirt, dusty jeans. He could have been anybody around here, working construction on one of the new monoliths or helping out in some unzoned light manufacturing outfit by the canal. The thing about him was how he clutched a thick roll of cash in one fist, and walked toward the bodega like a zombie: lurching, slow, staring without comprehension.

on the subway

Two brown-haired girls in identical dresses, a couple of sizes apart. The older one’s hair is straight and her face plain, with a downward turn at the corner of her brown eyes. The younger one has a halo of curls, a face like a heart, and eyes the color of wet slate. She spins around the pole while her sister watches mournfully from her proper seat. It will always be like this between them.