Archive for January, 2009

at the coffee place

The coffee kid asks me what kind of jeans I like to see on a man. I’m not sure how to answer. I ask, “What are my options?”

Then a tall, narrow man with red stubble and a dockworker’s hat comes in. He pulls off the hat and orders a coffee. The kid hands him a cup and turns back to me. The man takes a sip and lets out a loud, unselfconscious sigh. His eyes are closed with satisfaction.

“Hey, I like to hear that, man,” says the kid. “Makes me feel like I made the coffee right.”

The tall man, he must be a regular, says, “Yeah, you’re good. The quality is a little more stochastic on the weekends.”

The kid looks confused. “I mean it’s more variable,” the man explains.

“Are you a math nerd?” I ask. The kid laughs, “Oh yeah, variables!”

I turn to the tall man, “No, I mean stochastic.” The tips of his ears go pink and he looks at the floor. Sheepish, caught showing off.

“Oh,” he says. “I’m a scientist.”


at home

A woman in a window across the street is cleaning house in her underwear.

down the block

The cold air is bitter and dry. There’s a man crouched down by the church parking lot, where a tribe of cats holds sway, either stalking the open ground, or perched like sentinels near the gate. The man is heavily bundled against the cold, but there’s something off about him, a raggedness. He is unkempt in a way that suggests hard times. He has been still, crouched for a long minute before he reaches his bare fingers under the bottom of the chain link fence. He waits. The cats approach, and seeing he has no food to offer, retreat. He waits. One of them rubs up against the fence and then passes by and licks the man’s fingers, a throwaway gesture as the cat moves on to perch on an old tire. The man turns to me, he has known all along I was watching. “They make me happy,” he says. “You know?”

in midtown

The snow has just begun to drift down from the sky. The workers are late for work, the tourists are huddling onto their buses. A company of police, in dress blues with tall white spats, makes their laughing way across town, carrying gilt-tipped flagpoles and regulation lunchboxes.

on the subway

Two boys, brothers, with creamed-coffee skin and halos of long kinky hair that’s just a shade darker. The older one plays guitar by the doors, the younger one sits on the bench and plays bongos, it’s a halfhearted rendition of “Norweigian Wood.” The younger one’s fingers are gifted, and he is languid. He takes off his glasses with one hand, tucking them into his shirt,  still tapping the beat with the other. The song ends far short of the coming stop. The tips are collected in a plastic bag. The train jerks across the bridge. The boy puts his drums aside and makes a fist, which he tries ambitiously to shove into his mouth.

He knows I’ve been watching him. I ask, “Does it fit?” He shakes his head. He tries again, compressing the fist first with his other hand and stretching his mouth to its limit. “Ouch,” he says softly to no one, pulling his hand away. “That hurt.” There is one final attempt, again falling short of success. The train slows into the station, and he slides out after his brother just as the doors are closing.