REPORT A PROBLEM
Happy New Year. Happy 2006. On the slope now, the downward slide out of the decade. The years, they blend together now, could we be that old? When 1984 could just as easily have been 1994, to say nothing of 1974 or 2004? Those dreams we collected, countless, with nowhere to store them, did they simply slip away, lost to time? Or did we incorporate them into the fabric of everyday, the air we breathe, each step we take, each life lived. We walk out to Avenue B, Avenue A, then to 1st Avenue for the first of the year.
Woke early, watched him sleep, listened to his murmuring. Stayed in my jammies all day, watched the rain-soaked Rose Parade through waterlogged lenses. Didn't move from the bed. Later, he shared a memory that I'd never heard before: A fishing trip beside a lava-rock cliff, two friends named Llewelyn and Gordon Gordon. Then another, Big Island with Eddie, two men in wheelchairs, only one with use of his hands. Radical, he called it. Oh the roads he's traveled. This will be the continuation, new chapter, same book. Try to keep hold of the beginning, but forge on. Every which way.
Entering the outside world, 2006. Looks like rain from the 8th floor, drops into puddles on the open parking lot. Out on the street, my umbrella sprinkles with sleet. I put an open, black-gloved hand out, tiny balls of ice cover it. Scrunching ice underfoot. Miss the crosstown bus, try not to be upset. Enter the working year with grace and poise. (Not a resolution.) Say good morning and be rewarded. Walking into my tan and grey cubicle, I silently applaud myself for cleaning it out before the new year. The forest back to the sea. Open spaces, start afresh.
Amazing, I say. The freshness and wonder of youth. The fascination and easy manipulation of language. The tossing-off of words as if priceless and yet...nearly free. The poetry in it, the heart of her. Heart on her diaphanous sleeves. My stilted phrases, inability to construct a complete sentence. As if time is of the essence, as if my imagination hardened into cement, my sense of wonder converted into New York-style disbelief. As if words are inadequate, as if they'd never gotten me anywhere anyway. As if it wasn't my life's goal to get you to really know. What. I. Meant.
Must've been the Chinese food. Sketchy characters hobbled in and out of my dreams, half in shadow, half in light. Unknown faces with recognizable traits, only the blue-black haziness familiar. A long-ago girl walked next to me, then disappeared. Those dreams. Most are gone now, the way of realized fears. The fear unto itself, the shape of it. The new one appeared, replacing all minor fears. Now it has a name, but no rationale. Daily fear is replaced by disgust, disbelief. Too stupid to be afraid maybe, or maybe just too tired. Nothing to fear but fear itself. And rats.
Wait. Don't tell me. It's the first Friday in 2006, this is something. Even though it appears quiet, the temperature has dropped suddenly. The warm air leftover from yesterday has been pushed out, and just a little while ago - the sky looked like snow. Don't point the finger. I was just out, walking back from lunch, didn't take my hat, it was piercing. What does it mean? I don't wonder, but changes are afoot. Shift in the wind, voice out of the blue. It started somewhere in the morass of December, and it continues, unhurriedly. Posts falling into place. Lintel.
Crossing a body of water, a bay maybe, an inlet. Wearing shorts and a light jacket ("Kona jackets"they were called, bright flower print covered by a thin white nylon shell). Riding a small motor boat, the spray of salt on my face, endless sea beneath me. Lurking terror in my tiny-child heart, suppressed at the time, incubating. We camped on an island in the harbor, in tin shacks on sandy fields. Everything else is forgotten, aged photographs float to memory in bubbles. That we were young. With this family. Last I heard, they built a bridge to that island.
Burnt toast sometimes. Sometimes diesel fumes, sometimes rotting garbage. Smells filtering into my office for unknown reasons.
Burnt toast sometimes. Bacon frying on Sunday mornings, cigarette smoke, acetone, sometimes rotting garbage. Smells filtering into my apartment kitchen from the upstairs unit.
Dried piss. BO. Dog crap. Pizza being delivered, cabbage boiled to death by some old German lady. Laundry detergent and fabric softener from the second floor. Mary Jane smoke. Office in my clothes. Smells following me into my apartment, from the subway to the street, into the lobby, up the elevator into the hallway, three doors on the left.
It was unexpected. The sun rising from the East River, behind the power plant and housing complex. The red-orange glow startling; actual proof of the morning's beginning, evidence of a new day, originating from water and horizon. Untouched by human hands, our source connection. The same sun from my childhood, arising from another body of water, another latitude, another island. The same morning, different lifetimes. The city dwellers were surprised, crossing the street and waiting for the bus, everyone turned to see. This unusual occurrence of nature so direct, so alien in our manmade environment. Their faces illuminated in red.
Eyes full of wonder and pain. The hazy sky, the sun that always falls, unnoticed. Outside it's dark, day in, day out. Waking up to darkness, emerging once again, in darkness. What color is the sky? on days your head never lifts, you wonder. What color is the ground beneath you, the pain that sears through, the color of time passing with a whisper past your plugged-in ears. You list to one side to compensate. The sky at dawn, the spring that seems to arrive, mockingly. Tea grows cold, heart grows old. Like dimes and nickels, doesn't buy anything anymore.
Hard to keep up sometimes. Sometimes you wake up with no idea, then walk outside and wonder where the rain came from. Sometimes you're caught off guard, then realize it's mist on your face, covering your black coat, making heavy your hair. No umbrella, but no backtracking, no time. You hate to miss anything, and hate to feel that way. And some days you actually feel forward progress, you mark time and realize, relieved, movement has been made, positive. No measurable steps, but a different tone of voice, coupled with what can almost be described as a sensation of hope.
Hard to describe sounds from the kitchen. Gnawing? Sawing? Tiny animals chopping apples on the counter? Brown furry creatures eating through wood, through drywall, dancing on countertops, making their bathroom behind the microwave. Always in the wee hours, they hide from the light. To and fro they go, laughing inaudibly. To upset them, turn a light on, plug their entrance with tin foil, only makes them louder, more belligerent. Not so cute, these city mice, they tell all their friends, and hopefully, you pray, not their bigger cousins. My dad chased a mouse around his bedroom once, overturning furniture, laughing.
Last night we put out black glue traps and mousetraps baited with peanut butter. G found their doorway, marked it with an arc of boric acid; skittering prints ran through the white powder. Looks like they were dancing in it, G said. Blocked their entry and exit points, we woke at midnight to the sound of an angry mouse wielding a metal bar, banging on the pipes. Clanging and clanging, no way out of the walls. The fridge is silent, did they eat those pipes too, we wonder, the orange juice only medium cold. Now it's war: them or us.
No sleep at all last night. Our kitchen mouse banging around at the stroke of midnight (a nursery rhyme?). Then the rain, or lack thereof. The heaviness, pressing us into the bed, awaiting relief. Window wide open, unreasonable warmth on a Friday night, all the neighborhood out, singing in the streets. But not us. We waited, tossing and turning under the pressure. Around 3am, a flash of lightning whitens the sky, minutes later thunder. A few raindrops fall. I lay awake with eyes wide open, scanning the window for lightning. Finally, 4:35am, the rain begins. Immediately, I drift into sleep.
Hopefully this story has ended. On Sunday afternoon we moved the oven and refrigerator, went out in the frigid cold in search of steel wool to plug the holes near the floorboard. Cleaned and plastered, hammered and glued, tried to close all possible tiny entryways. Slept soundly last night; did you hear anything? I didn't, but I was out like a light, because of the night before. In the morning, I dreamed of a bus trip, going somewhere...with someone...then it was time to get out, with overstuffed bags I couldn't carry, wondering, in dream fashion, in dream time, no conclusion.
I'm saying it secretly, only a whisper, so you can't hold me to it.
I'm glad winter is back today.
It's been warm, unseasonably, unreasonably, warm. 60 degrees in January in New York, whoever heard of such a thing. It skews everything, makes the island feel off balance. Now that my skin and my blood have thickened, I want winter to be winter, I want to feel the slap of cold in the morning, I want to be awakened stepping outside after a long, dull day of work. Pull my coat around me, my suit of armor in the darkness.
I should have known when I saw it, the bus approaching slowly, staying in the distance, easing up to the curb at a snail's pace. I shouldn't have gotten on. But I did. The bus crept forward in silence; I sat in the middle and stared at the backs of dark-clothed riders. No one moved to get off. No stops were made. Bus of the damned, I thought, and I'm being held prisoner. The bus inched on in the darkness, my chest constricted, breath shortened, fear overtook reason. I signaled to get off, but no bell sounded. I rang again.
Youth is. The luxury of analyzing. Of taking apart, deconstructing personalities until only pieces remain, incomplete. Age is. The realization, clichÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â©d perhaps, that it's the family's fault. Or, more precisely, always the mother's fault. And the resignation that none of it matters anyway. The petty, self-absorbed classmates from childhood grow up to be petty, self-absorbed adults. But more dangerous in later years, reproducing and raising human beings in their image. And none of it matters anyway; fate and the cards you're dealt, et cetera. And the difficulty in envisioning the future, tomorrow even. Hope is tricky. Planning seems a risk.
Some kind of deal was made. Perhaps I was aware, in a sideways, denial, don't-look-and-it-won't-hurt kind of way. Yet. I bought a frilly shirt, a kind I've never worn, and had to stay up all night, first with a persistent mouse, busy constructing a Trojan horse under the cupboards, then because of our newly absent neighbor's alarm, buzzing loudly, all night. Much banging on his metal, dented, falling off the hinges front door. Wednesday night, sacrificed to the gods of You Asked for an Apartment in a Great Location in Manhattan, but Weren't Specific Enough.
January is flying by, under the guise of spring-like days. The sun actually warm today, walking in midtown with Teddi, how pleasant it is, she said, leaning against her cane, avoiding the uneven terrain. Yes, I agreed. Tiny cold lunch in a crowded cafÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â©, heading back on Lexington Avenue, laughing, I thought, yes, much better. Amid the bustle of crowds whirring by us, we ambled along, in no hurry, back to work, back to our desks for a few more hours. Everyone loves a Friday. Add sun and warmth in January, and winter passes in a heartbeat. New York Minute.
Crossing a street, you are suddenly reminded of your parents, gone for so long now that they are only a whisper of a memory. Your mother with her bright red lipstick, all you recall is her laughter, infrequent, but bubbling like water into your consciousness. Not enough time, you knew nothing about her. But your father, heartbreak weighing down his very existence, you wish he were still here, still somewhere on this earth, with all means of communication now, you should be able to speak to him. You should be able reach him, to tell him everything. Tell them both.
I forget too. How much words mean, even a few. Just the right ones, if chosen and stated with good intentions. What a difference they can make, from sadness to joy in a breath. We're all too familiar with the opposite dynamic, how only a few badly chosen words make a horrible impact. But those happen, sometimes without choice, without warning. But the good ones. I forget too. We should all remember and exercise this privilege. Go tell a friend, tell an acquaintance, say something nice. What a difference it makes. Choose well, and go forth armed with good words.
Not much brain power today. It will be difficult to get to 100 words. (that's 14.) I want to get this behind me so I can do something else, something that requires no exertion on my part. Here's a book right next to me, someone guaranteed I'll love it. Hmmm. I hate those guarantees, they always prove wrong. One of my very best friends recommends movies to me that are never my cup of tea. I always qualify my recommendationsÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€my tastes run a little to the strange. The dark, the surreal, the unknown. The mainstream is beyond me. Much.
Scroll down the days. 100 words to mark each one; is there any more to it than that? The only imprint left on the memory of the past few months is thisÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€not even actual paperÃƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€but mere representations of it. Words that don't even exist in an actual format, not even words in print on paper, but only their phantom, floating in front of me. With the point of a finger, flick of a wrist, gone, vanished, no trace. Reflection of everyday life, the everyman's day in day out without a shoulder to lean on. "Virtual"they call it.
Facts are facts, except when they're a little on the less factual side, right? I mean, spoken words are merely breath with sound, are they not? Actions have a wider footprint, a longer shelf life, more foot-up-the-ass impact. Usually. Unless we're talking about one of those really clever wordsmiths, the kind so adept at language and subtlety that they can amputate their listener's left pinkie finger with just a sentence. Oh, hang around for a few years, and there goes your very necessary opposable thumb; stick around for a lifetime and wham!Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬â€you're just a torso with nowhere to go.
All right. I'm over it. And I don't care if she isn't.
in a sweet Southern twang is still fuck you. But as I mentioned earlier, I'm over it. Because in New York
also mean fuck you. Along with the more conventional "fuck you very much.-
It's that kind of day, I thought, passing 2 guys killing each other on 47th street. A business-suited exec punches a taxi on 50th street. By that time I have to laugh. After all, it's a beautiful bitter cold day and I'm in New York, nowhere else.
TGI...in a not so sunny place, so happy to hear from you. Seeing people tonight, drinking caffeinated tea, putting all the pieces together.
In the future we will scan the skies for signs
we will feel
Knowing the difference
means paying attention now
Year of the dog. Hair of the dog. Old dog new tricks. New tricks old dog. Dog tired. Raining cats and dogs. Dog day afternoon. Three dog night. Dogtown. Dog bite. Bite the hand that feeds. Feed the fire. Fanning the flames. Out of the frying pan. Into the wok.
I'm waiting for your answer. By phone or by fax, email or snail. So many options now, I left messages on your home phone and cell phone, and dropped you a text message. What's left, smoke signals? Waving my arms in the air, sign language, mental telepathy? Perhaps I should take your absence of answer as your reply, your silence as your response. That's what I'll do. Refrain from another attempt, hold myself back, look at my phone only to check the time.
They loved you there,
that's the key, that's what secures you to them instead of to me.
I didn't want to say anything, the whole thing was beginning to bore me. But facts are facts: we have a whole family of mice living in our walls. What started in the kitchen has moved into the living room and the heater in the bedroom. Then there is the continuing mystery of our disappearing neighbor, whose presence I feel is directly connected to our mouse problem. We should put all of our furniture on wheels; I can no longer count on two hands how many times we've rearranged. G wants to see one of them, just once. Not me.
I need a break, a vacation, maybe that's all it is. Maybe it's just January. Even though the winter has been most un-winter like, what with balmy days and sunlight on my brief lunch-hour journey, it's still the feeling that my wheels are stuck in snow, spinning on the ice. No forward progress, just looking into the distance with anticipation. Desiring change but unable to enact it. Not even talking about it anymore, not even thinking it. Just a dulled perception, a vague sense that this isn't all there is, that something comes after, something will follow in the spring.
Say Goodbye, January. Say Goodbye to memorable celebrations, warm and toasty holiday cheer, say goodbye to winter in the northeast. In the past, February was a cruel month. Short and horrid, winter always its worst, dragging on, digging deep. Not this year. February will be spring (thank you Global Warming), February will be flowers blooming and sun shining on city footsteps. February will be storing away the heavy coat for good, walking distances just for pure enjoyment. February will be waking up to light instead of dark, with hope for the new day that awaits. All roads lead to spring.
The Tip Jar