Archive for October, 2009

on the block

I hear him and his buddy walking behind me first, joking about a hole in someone’s transmission. When they start to pass me, I look over to say hi, we’re passing too close not to.

The one of them stops short. He says, “Hey beautiful.”

I laugh, that’s what I always do. They start walking alongside me.

“How is it I’ve been around here all my life and I’ve never run into your pretty face before?”

“I don’t know, I’ve been living here four years. Maybe you just weren’t looking hard enough.”

The other one laughs. “Good answer,” he says.

“Well, beauty in the eye of the beholder, right? So how long you been beholdin’?”

I laugh again, I have no idea how to answer that.

He swings a hand through the air. “No, I’m just a joker, don’t mind me. Tell the truth I’m a little lonely, that’s all.” He looks at me with soft, honest eyes. He’s handsome in a stocky way. He smiles and I see that his each of his teeth is ringed in gold.

“I can’t really help you with that,” I say, “I’ve got a boyfriend.”

“Yeah, how long you had that problem?” His friend laughs, walking faster past us toward the corner, leaving some room.

“The problem of a boyfriend? Oh, a good while.”

“You know, you can work around that, nobody the worse for it.” He’s pushing me now, the eyes have gone sly.

We’ve gotten to my stoop, I open the iron gate. “I stick to the letter of the law on that one.”

“I used to be a lawyer,” he tells me, “didn’t last long.”

“No? Didn’t like it?”

“I just had attention issues.”

I wave a hand, encompassing the world. “That’s sort of the national diagnosis, isn’t it.”

“No,” he says, the gilded teeth flashing again. “Just too many beautiful women around.”


in the neighborhood

The afternoon light is bright and clear after days of a low grey sky. I take my camera out and walk my usual beat around the canal. The massive Paulownia trees that used to shade the empty lot at the end of my block have been torn down. I spend a while photographing their remnants, the stumps and branches still embedded in the rusty fence.

A couple approaches me, the man is wearing some kind of goggles. His hair is curly and springs out from under the goggle-strap. He starts talking. He asks which way to the big graveyard, and I point down the avenue, “It’s a long walk, though.”

“That’s ok, it gets rid of the stress.” The woman nods and pulls him by the hand, but he’s not done here, not at all. He reads my hoodie and asks, “What’s ‘wake up‘ is that a political thing?”

“No I just made it. Like, we should all wake up.” Before I’ve even finished he’s racing on, you have to imagine this, it’s unending, and utterly without inflection.

“Oh are you into Buddhism because I’ve been reading this guy who tells it all in stories about four animals and how you’re supposed to see your life like a movie and let it be in the past and that helps with the stress you know what I mean.” She tugs his arm again. “See here I go I’m not walking yet so it’s not helping with the stress and I guess we should go but I’m still talking.”

She’s tugging harder. She smiles at him, without frustration. She puts an arm on his shoulder and turns his body toward the avenue.

He’s wearing a varsity jacket, and when she pivots him around, I see that it’s got the name of my high school on the back. Not my year, I’m sure of it. I’d remember that.

at the bodega

The clerk is a small Muslim woman with a sheer scarf tossed around her neck and covering her head. She likes my red stripes.

“How do you do it? I do my daughter’s with food coloring.” She sweeps her hands across her brow and then down by her shoulders. “Her bangs, and then the ends. Other daughter wants blue, green. I do whatever they want.”

I’m imagining these bright peacocks hidden under veils. “Do they wear scarves?”

“No, not at all. That is their choice. I teach them what I want to teach them, what I believe. They have their own brains. They have to choose, or not choose. I can’t force them.”

She leans forward over the counter, smiles a little. “My son, he wants green hair too.” She slides one finger across the counter, a division. “I say no. There is a line.”

in midtown

The parking lot has a sign with pictures of employees who’ve worked there for 10,20,and 30 years. I’m trying to imagine what that’s like, when one of them gets out of a Range Rover and winks at me. I nod toward the sign. “Which one are you?

He points to a photo at the top of the sign. “Thirty  years, baby.”

“All that time,” I say.

“I like cars,” he shrugs. “And I get a no-show every other Friday.”

“A no-show. How do I get one those?”

“Stick around, baby. Stick around.”

I can’t quite parse the innuendo but it’s there in the low roll of his voice all the same.

in the neighborhood

Today everyone’s talking. The contractor wants to talk about my shoes. “They’re good for my back,” I tell him. “Usually I slouch.” I drop a shoulder forward to show him, and he taps it with one finger. “Bad habits,” is all he says.

The butcher likes my scarf. “Emergency purchase, the other day when it got cold all the sudden.” He smiles. “That’s the only way to shop.”

Out on the street, a little boy backs up against his mother’s legs and stares at me. “Your hair is red,” he says. He’s terrified.

at the polls

A young, burly guy tries to hand me a flyer. “I already voted,” I say.

“Did you vote for Bill,” he asks, holding up the flyer, his candidate smiling confidently on it.

“This is America,” I say, smiling. “I don’t have to tell you who I voted for.”

“You don’t have to, but c’mon. It’s me,” he says, hand over heart.

I’ve never seen him before in my life.