Tag: long read

Curiosity Killed The Cat, But Satisfaction Brought Him Back (More Jaded)

“Do you know what poisons cows?” He asked.

A plastic bag was rustling between the long limbs of an old, wrinkled tree stump. Two paper coffee cups tumbled down the street, their plastic lids clinking against the worn and grey gravel of a bubble gum strewn sidewalk in New York. Urban tumbleweeds sifting between cars, bodies, half-opened trash bags and brown dry grass never to see Spring again.

“What?” I said, not really listening. I was too focused on the fauna fouling around us.

A valley of ash without the eyes or pity of TJ Eckleburg, the machinations of New York City they never write about in the movies. Grime, industry and man conglomerated into one. The wind had picked up, the bags rustled louder, cups clinked faster, and I thought there was a kind of music to the pollution of a city.

“The cow.” He repeated calmly. “You know what poisons them?”

I shook my head and he nodded wisely to himself,  shifting slightly against his cane which made his thousand year old Puerto-Rican bones groan. A while passed and he said nothing, stood leaning against the earth with the patience of trees.

“What poisons cows,” I asked absently, and his mustache twitched like cat whiskers, as if the question startled him awake. He smacked his lips, a bad habit he’d retained after years of chewing tobacco.

“The cow.” He repeated, again  calmly. “Do you know what poisons them?”

“No, Mingo. What poisons the cows?”

We were leaning on concrete slabs just steep enough to take a seat in, meandering the morning in fifty cent cigarettes and a small bottle of Jameson tucked safely in a brown paper bag. Me, looking too deeply into everyday scenery, and Mingo’s lively little eyes glinting grey, gazing out to Third Avenue the way a farmer does his crop.

He had the patience only age can teach- the still, sturdy, wise air of witnessing and being a part of decay. Wise and old, or old enough to seem wise; I couldn’t tell. An old man can say just about whatever he wants and get an absolute veneration from me. Remnants of my inner Catholic I’ve yet to snuff out: respecting elders and thinking too highly of them, feeling overwhelmed by guilt if I didn’t. Or possibly I trusted experience more than anything, because the hardness of life is also a teacher. And from what I’ve seen, we don’t learn as much from happiness as we do from the scars of healing.

“Esperanza, is a plant. They eat it, and then,” He ran his index finger along his neck, a universal sign, clicking his teeth. The little calf was done.

I felt a stubborn, humid heat smoldering my skin. It was close to 10AM but the day didn’t seem to want to start. Sunlight lingered on the horizon and yawned across the fruit cart vendors temples, slouched between the children across the avenue who’d stopped jumping and found more interest staring at their own feet. Lazy, dingy rays dragged between the plastic lids nestling in the gutter, crawled along the sidewalk and halfway up the 99 Cent and bodega storefronts. Then, just near the top, seemed to wince and suddenly retreat, giving up on ever moving on with the day. The morning was a low, dull Monday: fat, bloated, and sitting on itself, waiting.

But for what?

“Why do they eat it,” I asked. “If it’s poison.” And Mingo shrugged.

Esperanza is a flower, bright and beautiful with yellow petals. And Esperanza is also hope, just as bright and ruinous. I couldn’t decide which he meant, what he was referring to: the toxins or definition. And as I wondered this, Mingo dug his shoes into the sidewalk and began to show his roots.

“I killed somebody once,” He said unexpectedly. “Coz’ of a woman.”

He was calm, not sad or entirely delighted. Not resentful, or proud, but with the air of a man that’s lived, and in living, was reflective of what he had done. I lack the grace to remain kind in cruel situations, but a hot heart for the coldest matters. Mingo had purposefully either confided in me as a friend, or turned the sanctuary of our corner into his personal confession booth. And in either scenario I couldn’t think of what to say, so chose to remain silent and sip the bottle of Jameson as if he’d just commented on the weather. I preferred to come off as indifferent than commit to either condoning or forgiving him, listened as a cars exhaust coughed awkwardly down the road.

“You got a girl?” He asked after a while.

Down the street, a gilded goddesses hips swayed toward us, and she reminded me of a girl I reminded myself to forget. Gray eyes with dark, somber lips; the kind of face easy to compliment and hard to miss-remember. I was staring and I didn’t care, and the longer I dared the sooner I realized that familiar was just wistful thinking. She didn’t look anything like her. Her face, the angles, the sighs were all wrong. She didn’t have the unhappiness riddled along the creases of her cheeks, she didn’t hold me like a gasp for air while crying at the sight of her hand or freckled forearm.

She passed us swiftly, her heels clicking behind her like a round of applause, and swooped around the corner. Mingo slapped his lips again, and the girl I had almost remembered was gone.

“Yeah,” I said to Mingo, and I heard the sound of his neck creaking a nod.

Strange, the debris our hearts seem to build even after years of street cleaning. Odd, how songs still sound the same but lose meaning once outgrown. The plastic bag still rustled between the limbs of an old and wrinkled tree, and a car horn’s scream got louder, but sounded just a little farther off. The wind died down, the cups sat silently in the gutter, and I thought there was a kind of music to the pollution of a human being.

“Never killed anybody for her though,” I added, and Mingo laughed, ominously.

“You might,” He said.

I clipped my cigarette and said goodbye.

Two Is A Crowd, Episode III (aka How To Swim)

I can’t dance, I said.
And she said ‘It’s like swimming’
But I can’t do that either.
‘Because you get nervous, I bet.’

Because there’s so much under you
hell, monsters, angels, saints,
the deliman you stole two croissants from,
hell, hell, hell, hell, no floor, no life, no source
no footing, no knowing, nothing steady and

She hadn’t said a word.

‘What you can’t touch you do not understand,
so you panic. You can’t live when you can’t stand,
or feel. Couldn’t believe what won’t touch,
couldn’t be sure of what you can’t know.’

I nodded and hadn’t said a word.

‘Do you know what the secret to swimming is?’

I shook my head, but before Anna could answer,
a man came and swept her dainty hand in his.
Striding towards the dance floor with her in tow,
limp and swaying. I watched them sway their waist
and rhythms and bend and fold until they disappeared among the flow
sure and unhinged, let the strangers body press
direct

each sway wile her thing and pale arms flayed straight into the air,
buoyed to the earth by his hands along.

“Well?” Asked Sam. And I nodded.

“It’s letting go.”

Two Is A Crowd (Episode I)

It was five minutes before a bad day at work was almost over when I felt my pocket buzz, and before I even read it I knew it would have something to do with sex.  I should have gone home and ordered pizza the way I planned, but, I wanted to see them. Even if their text didn’t have a place or time to meet, just a train station and vague mention to what might happen phrased like a warning, Meant as an enticement. Succeeding in both.

Took a midnight train to forfeit soon as I logged into Instagram and saw how much fun other people were having. Punched my ticket at the deli in a $9 bottle of rum before the 1 train rolled in, and I roared in ready because Spotify had a playlist I hated ready for me.

Seventeen stops later, seventh Avenue opened up to me in swank high rises and suavely slacked strides clicking towards the distant turn-lights of neon bar signs. Overtly overdressed mademoiselles applauding down the avenue, distracting my attention with their contoured faces and purposely painted high cheekbones. New York is a terrible place to be unsure of where you’re going, with blackened windows at every bar and bouncers bishoping lines make everywhere seem like the place you should be.

They didn’t provide an exact address, so I thought actually finding Sam and Anna would be a mild goose chase; a red herring they text me to be annoying and their idea of funny. But as I exited Bleeker Street subway station to nobody, and my texts received no answer, I leaned against a lamp post. Annoyed and a little anxious to review the test she/he/they sent me, some clue I could Mapquest or decipher.

In a hidden seventh avenue lies a street
and Steppenwolf; some beast astray
that finds no home or joy in Greenwhich
or world that is strange
and incomprehensible to him.

Drunk texts after 1AM with “intellectuals” are annoying like this. Throwing a book reference with where we might have met is bush league, and I did leave my apartment thirty minutes after I said… yet. Something. Hard to label what in the aftermath that doesn’t come off as stupid. A certain taste in the air, the way the crowd of people on Bleeker moved and wavered between my cigarette smoke. I felt a scent, and like a psychic or lunatic I found myself heading in a  direction purely guided by instinct.

I would find them, I thought. Or I wouldn’t, and have a drink anyway. That’s what I thought as I wandered into The Slaughtered Lamb. A neat little dive bar quartered to a corner near sixth avenue where the streets get all whacky in Greenwich Village.

No bouncer at the door and a newly drawn sign “Welcoming Lost Souls To Oblivion…and $9 Cocktails. For Madmen Only.”

I made my way in.

Jingle Bell Blues (aka All I Want For Christmas Is You…To Shush)

A part of me likes to socialize for the sole purpose of disliking it. A self prophecy or flagellation, depending on the mood I’m in. Instead of rotting at home between four walls and the endless void of myself, I could grab my coat and finally answer someone I only left on read as a power move. Boys are cute and men make for better conversation, but in the end I like to think the games I play are less because I’m a bitch and more because I’m just window shopping.

Most guys still get angry at the fact, but then again I guess most guys never worked in retail.

“Can I buy you a drink?” He says, a little nervous but hiding it well.

“I hope so. This dress doesn’t come with a wallet.” I said, not disclosing the fifty dollars I have stashed in my bra because mama taught me well.

I like my loneliness throughout the year but then November starts turning the bend into Christmas- “cuddle weather” or “cuffing season,” depending on where you stand, culturally. Then all those days I spent alone bird watching in Central Park, or drinking enough wine to want to practice yoga poses at home, they start feeling less and less fulfilling when the holidays rolls around. Those wide, dead eyed Macy’s-Holiday-Sale ads glaring from the side of buses and subway platforms. A generic couple or family staring at you, actors actually, complete strangers that still manage to give you the impression like you’re missing out on something.

“This is nice,” I said. “How many other pretty girls have you brought here?”

It’s all bullshit, and I know I go right back to being bad all by my merry self once January comes around. But who doesn’t like a nice looking stud or vixen to grab you by the waist, pull you close and make you feel wanted once the ball drops on New Years? I sure as hell do.

“Its my first time here,” He said. But the way the bartender doesn’t even glance my way makes me believe otherwise.

“Let’s dance,” I said, fully aware that he doesn’t like to.

“Hell yeah,” He replied, smiling softly. In a way that almost makes me start to like him. “I’ve been practicing.”

So I’ll be gone til’ November and when December comes, I submit to carefully worded invitations laced with subtle flirts and sexually charged emoji’s. A couple drinks in Mulberry’s or High Bridge with another yuppie that thinks he either has me figured it out or has it all together. Throw the dust off my social withdrawal and take my place in a song, dance in the hysteria of a mob bouncing to a base and dissolving into a sea of other people. Move my hips in a rhythm that begins to feel instinctive, almost natural, and that despite myself feels good and on the fringes of having a good time. A place where words or thoughts or how stupid he looks in that ascot are no longer necessary.

“You have gotten better.” And he has. It’s the most honest thing I’d said to him the entire night.

“I was tired of you making me fun of me,” He said, trying to laugh.

Then I could bring him home, sleep sound and full of thoughts, and sentences, and sometimes bodies, other than my own. Happy, or at least, on the verge of some semblance of it. Him hopping through the hoops and traps I lay behind me. My conscience feeling awful for it every time he lands the fall. Then Christmas comes and he gets me something stupid and sweet like a yoga mat or blue rose, and then I wake up to hate myself for being so mean and a hypocrite.

“Then you definitely should not have worn that thing around your neck,” I said.

Or I could sit outside of it all as an observer and reinforce my prejudices, safe behind the looking glass of a bell jar. Convicted of my convictions and incapable of seeing the other side of the coin. Say Fuck-You to Macy’s the next time I see her, grow out my underarm hair and make an Instagram entirely dedicated to The Makings Of A Cat Lady and Drunk Yoga. Isolated and un-reproachable, impossible to hold the mildest of conversations with until he goes to the bathroom and comes back without the ascot because I can be that cruel. And as I’m emotionally ostracized and lie about having to work early because his eyes start looking a little angry, I can wander off home. Alone but a little glad- proud and the champion of my own misery.

“You’re kind of a bitch, you know that?” He said.

But I guess he never worked in retail.

My Baby Takes The Morning Train, When Uber Pool Is Too Expensive (aka I’d Quit Tomorrow If Sheena Asked Me To Stay)

It was early morning, around six thirty AM I think. That un-Godly hour when men in construction work boots march soul-less towards the MTA, and a handful of office workers with long commutes start their day before the sun will. When transit is slow and sluggish, quiet besides the scuffle of winter coats and urban foliage stirring awake. Early birds and no worms.

I slouched off of the 39 Bus hungover as the moon on the horizon, dragging my feet towards Nine To Five with my body in tow. Hungry, because I’d ate too late last night. Angry at another schedule I couldn’t skip, because rent’s a bitch and cheesesteaks don’t grow on trees. Calling out was out of the question, and I didn’t have any sick days left anyway. Between the bus fares, nephews, and bottles of rum lining my recycling bin, I needed the money. But not desperately. Enough to get me out of bed when I’d rather be somewhere else.

Not a unique feeling, I noticed, as I watched a couple stop on the corner. He was about my height, not much more handsome with a handful of grays around his cobble-colored hair. She was all legs, nick-knacks dangling from her wrists, ears, neck, jacket, boots, lips; everywhere. Hands just barely held, calm and comfortable as they lazily rushed towards their obligations as the rest of us. They hit the corner and slowed, spoke some four to five words or syllables I tried my hardest to listen in on (all I could make out was ‘Don’t—this weekend—‘) and kissed each other on the cheek goodbye.

She clicked on toward the subway, he stood and stared at her go for a while. I stood there watching while he was wrestling with something. An idea maybe, words or feelings he should have shown or let shed. Or maybe he was throwing in the towel on the rat race, would have rather run down the block and take her by the hand back down where they came from. Board up the windows and lock the door at home, let the rent and bills pile up, spend all day listening to quiet comfort of her soft breathing on his chest, and the nick-knacks dangling off the dressers and coffee tables.

Then a car honked, he looked at his cell, and marched towards the 9 bus to work instead. He needed the money too, I guess, or couldn’t manage to break the habit. I looked at the 9 bus, marched towards the liquor store I knew would be open in an hour, and called The Boss on my cell.

Because I couldn’t either.