Monday, June 16, 2008

Wandering

With the heavy summer heat, a smothering blanket. With the acidic winter cold, a badger gnawing at exposed flesh. Probably, you can count the number of nice New York days on your hands. Combine spring and autumn and you’ll get a week and a half of mild, sunny weather. Total. And if you’re lucky, a couple of those days you’ll be off work.

I’m not about to risk it.

Today, I call out. All the flowers blossoming, I say my sinuses are killing me. All the pollen in the air, I have a major migraine. On the other end, The Boss sounds less than sympathetic. But in an office without windows, on a day this choice, can I blame him? And I’m totally full of shit. So can I blame him?

I take the subway into Manhattan. Because days like today, they’re worth more than fifteen bucks an hour.

A Helluva Sight.

In SoHo, I look at shops I can’t afford to shop at. I look at restaurants I can’t afford to eat at. I look at a homeless man with his rubbery prick in hand. Standing in front of a bougie boutique, pissing on a pile of garbage. I assume he’s homeless, being he isn’t housebroken.

Men in suits pass, say nothing. Students in bright purple t-shirts don’t even look. New York City, everybody fits in. And on a day this fine, nobody’s about to worry on account of a little urine.

The homeless man zips up, proceeds to root around in the trash for cans and bottles and assorted treasure. More power to him.

Northward Bound.

Moving slowly and without any real point. What they call a New York Walk is the exact opposite of this. New York Walks are for days too hot or days too cold or days when you have someplace to be. New York Walks are for most New York days. And today is anything but.

At Washington Square Park, old men play chess and smoke long brown cigarettes. A college kid sitting on concrete steps strums an acoustic guitar, collects loose change in an NYU hat. A wannabe bohemian. A well-fed artist.

Some man with no shirt offers me coke. Some girl with a long dress offers me salvation. To both, I politely decline.

The 1 train takes me to midtown where businessmen who don’t give half a shit about the weather push past tourists who don’t realize how they’ve lucked out. The businessmen, too into themselves to notice. The tourists, too into everything else.

Who Could Have Anyplace Better to Be?

Just inside Central Park, a man in a jury-rigged clown costume twists and folds balloon animals. Striped pajama pants, a plain white undershirt stretched over his gut. No makeup but a red foam nose. And at least a dozen children lined up. Waiting. They request giraffes and tigers and hippos that all look exactly alike.

I nod slightly to the clown. He winks and turns his attention back to the kiddies. If I had offspring, I wouldn’t let them within spitting distance of this guy. But lucky for me, I don’t have offspring. Lucky for my offspring.

Cherry blossoms and fresh green lawn. Toddlers stumble around like drunkards. Weeping willows and just opening daffodils. Kids lazily toss a baseball back and forth between bare hands. Bees and statues of important men on horses. Young ladies in bikinis sunbathe with raggedy paperbacks. Blackbirds and boulders. Men in shorts far too short jog with their iPods.

And I wonder, damn, shouldn’t these people be in school? Or at work…

Love is in the Air. Or Maybe Just Pollen.

A walkway shaded by trees, lined with artists busy sketching young couples. Most days, these guys would do back flips just to make eye contact with a passerby. But spring is for lovers. And with the Valentine’s Day hangover still thick as fog, no park-side doodler is without subject.

Heading north slowly, without any real point. I see a man kneel and remove a small, velvet box from his pocket. This all happens not fifteen feet away. Before he can get a word out, before he even opens his mouth, the woman with him screams. Oh my God, she says. Oh my God, oh my God, of course I will.

What I first want to say is, I give it a year, tops. Just to be funny. Just to be a dick. But I can’t. So I keep on strolling. Because today, it’s far too prime a day to be a total asshole.

And I don’t want to say I start misting up. Just that maybe my allergies are kicking in for real. So I move East. Out of the park and away from all the blossoming vegetation. Or away from all the puppy love. Whatever.

Time Keeps Moving. Too Far Sometimes.

Countless hi-rise apartment buildings and sushi restaurants. Upscale thrift stores and gourmet markets. To my left, the yard of a convalescence home is partitioned off by a tall fence of iron bars. A handful of elderlies hunched over in wheelchairs, propped on walkers with tennis ball-padded legs.

And up against the fence, an old man with paper skin and sagging jowls grips the bars with both hands. His gaze follows me until I’m no longer in his field of vision. Then he looks back to the street traffic.

Like an inmate whose only crime is age. But criminals can be paroled, pardoned. The old man, he’s only getting older. His prison’s only getting smaller and there will be no time off for good behavior. But at least he’s outside. On a day like today, that’s as much as anybody can ask.

Low Tide Blues.

When the sky goes pink I figure it’s getting toward happy hour. On Second Avenue there’s no shortage of bars offering the two for one but anything with an outdoor patio has a line like Splash Mountain. So I end up in a dark room with a warm glass of whiskey. But that’s alright.

Heading home I take the local train, making three stops for every one on the express line. I can use the sit. And the whiskey, dense in my belly, it fights off boredom. Sure, a forty-minute subway ride is milked for a solid hour. But that’s alright.

At home, my inbox is full of emails from The Boss. Listing assignments and meetings and important presentations that occurred. Nothing asking about my migraine. Listing projects and reports and everything I missed out on. Everything I missed out on. But that’s alright.

6 comments:

Ryan Imel said...

Brilliant writing. I first clicked over here from an ad on Facebook, and I've been saving your stuff for a time when I could sit and read. I knew that once I started I wouldn't be able to stop, and I was right.

Keep it up, I'm reading.

amy said...

i found your blog through facebook as well. i really enjoyed your short story. it's the perfect length to hold my attention, which will keep me coming back for more each week.

thanks!

Gerard said...

Ditto to facebook. Coming from New York myself, I think this really captures the essence of New York, especially the part about the wannabe bohemian :)

This was good, but I didn't like it as much as some of your other stuff, which is just ridiculously awesome.

Ryan said...

I'll second (err, fourth?) the facebook comment. I've been looking around here and you have some great stuff. I'll definitely be back.

shawna said...

I'm another one that saw a facebook ad, I adore Chuck Palahniuk and I couldn't resist. But I was pleasantly surprised that I cannot stop reading these short stories. Keep it up =)

Autumn Renae Rays said...

Again, well done. As someone who knows New York, you did a great job of capturing the many aspects- as many layers as an onion field.