Archive for January, 2010

on the subway

Somebody must have cast a spell. Everyone here is sleeping.

at the deli

I come here a few mornings a week. The clerk knows my face. Today I’m waiting for a bagel to be trussed, and my phone rings. I have a brief, breathless logistical conversation and then hang up. The clerk looks up and asks me how I’m doing today.

I decide to be honest, he’s just witnessed the flurry on the phone. “I’m a little frazzled,” I tell him. “How are you?”

“I’m fine, thanks,” he says, and looks out the window.

I wait until his attention strays back to me. “Would you have told me if you weren’t?”

He’s confused. “I’m fine,” he says again, smiling.

“I know, but if you weren’t fine, would you have told me that?”

He laughs at me, it’s a laugh I’ve seen before, the one he reserves for the florid and broken section-8 housing residents from around the corner who count out their pennies for coffee. “Of course not,” he says, still smiling, “I wouldn’t tell you that.”


in a restaurant

One of our friends is late to breakfast. She calls and tells us to order something for her, anything. We pick out one of those fancy dishes with eggs.

“How do you want the eggs,” the waiter asks. He’s got a melodious middle eastern accent. I could listen to him all day.

But this is difficult. Eggs are something you can get wrong. He’s waiting. Finally, he says, “Is it a man or a woman who’s coming?”

“A woman.”

“A woman? Ok, then it’s poached. You wait, you’ll see. I’m right.”

He was.

on the subway

It was just like this. A girl on the last page of her book, murmuring the words aloud, I can read her lips only because I know it by heart: it eluded us then, but that’s no matter. Next to her, a woman with a tiny Hebrew bible is mouthing the words of her devotion as fast as an auctioneer. At the other end of the car, there’s a man with thin, unruly hair. He’s slumped over as though he were drunk, or sleeping, one shoulder lower than the other, listing, his chin collapsed to his chest. He’s staring at his open, empty palm in his lap, tapping it lightly with his index finger.