Friday, February 04, 2011


If anybody has reason to yell, it’s her, and she’s screaming into the receiver.
I hold it away from my ear.
It’s 8:30 on a Saturday night and I’m walking down cross streets and alleys, dodging traffic, and it’s cold, the wind whipping down the avenues of block buildings, the chill shaking my veins.
“What do we do?” She asks.
I’m mumbling.
Downtown New York is peaceful at night. People are everywhere, all scurrying by, giving the solemn streets of Wall St. life, passing by the churches that line Broadway, everyone’s head bowed to the cold wind as if solemnly, disappearing down the holes that lead to the subways.
I’m standing in front of Trinity Church. Orange lights glaze the dark brown façade. The steeple rises high.
“You need to calm down,” I’m yelling. “It does nobody good to panic in this situation. And you’re panicking.”
I pause for effect.
“We know how this will end. We know what will happen to him. This isn’t an unfinished story. And you don’t need to be afraid of it.”
She’s crying.
“Can you imagine his life?” She says. “Sitting in that facility, in those padded rooms. He was never crazy. He was never like them, inside that psychiatric ward.”
“But he’s in there now.”
“I don’t even know him anymore. This isn't him. I just wish, wish it would all be the same again. I wish we could start again. This is not how it should end.”
I’ve made my way towards World Trade.
Ground Zero is fenced off and harsh fluorescent construction lights flood the landscape. The sound of heavy machinery echoes through the hollowed out shell of what once used to be the Twin Towers.
And some fifty stories up, a welder works on beams for the new World Trade, the half-finished skeleton of the reborn skyscraper glowing with soft orange lights from within, the strung-up construction lights of workers on the floors inside, building up.
This is where souls must sleep at, and where lives are being reclaimed at.
“Calm down. And understand it will all be better soon. This isn’t the end. This was never supposed to be how it ends.”

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nine Ten

New York, New York, New York.
Boom, Boom, Bam.
She's smiling at me with her eyes and I have vertigo because of it.
It's getting dark outside and it's warm inside, with her. And I’m sweating now.
Maybe sweating it all out.
Sitting, rain like shards of glass slashing against the window, and she asks me if I want a drink, smiling.
Boom, Boom, and suddenly I’ve had another and my phone is ringing. The doctor is on the other end.
I miss the call, deliberately.
And I missed the next call, deliberately.
I don't care. I don't want to pick it up. And she is rubbing the back of her hand on my shoulder. My phone was miles away in interest. But then again she is also miles away from my interest.
I’m trying to articulate that opinion to her, the break-up as it were, as the phone rings again after some time and it rings and rings and I finally look and it's not the doctor, but him, and I don't mind talking to him.
“I need to take this call,” I say, pretending it’s important, walking out of the room.
He slurs as he talks.
He's been drinking again and it's only 4 in the afternoon.
Then again, I’m no saint.
"5 o'clock somewhere," he says, more or less the signature slogan of a career alcoholic. "Join for a round. Or five. Tomorrow won't be that great a day, anyways. We can afford a hangover."
His voice is raspy. But his invitation is wrapped in sinister appeal. And five rounds seem perfect.
Besides, I don’t think I’ll be staying around her anymore.
I walk outside and it feels like the death of the universe just happened. The sky is dark, ugly and smeared on the horizon, the air chokes me, the smells sour in the mega city. There is no breeze, no wind in the trees, there are no sounds, just dampness from the just-happened shower. A car coughs by, spiting exhaust, and I cough.
She starts calling me as soon as I leave, craving for me to come back.
“I thought you wanted to talk about us."
“Whatever,” I mumble.
In the bar he and I drink and meet a banker and he is drunk and keeps handing me business cards. He says he's getting out of business soon. He asks if I want his business. He laughs. He thinks it’s funny. And then he looks at his watch and notices it's ten past 9, and he's already late. The babysitter can’t stay past 9:30.
I wave goodbye.
To my left, at a bar stool that is a little shorter than mine, my friend raises his glass and toasts, "to the economy," and we both gulp. His next toast is to our hangovers.

The doctor calls again around 9 a.m. when I'm slightly hung-over and working it off.
I've come to suspect early calls as harbingers of terrible news, and I hate when I'm right. She says that she had already tried calling yesterday. She tells me that my father is ill. She sounds somber. I hate when doctors sound somber, uncaring.
Medicine isn’t bureaucracy.
It makes her sound so lifeless, so cold, so devoid of anything.
I make a joke but it doesn't feel like a joke. It feels like I just said something wrong, or that I've just done something I should be ashamed of. It was really a bad joke, too, I think.
She doesn’t laugh. I'm talking to a zombie. Why would it be a laughing matter, anyways? Even across the distance, connected only by wires and radio signals, I can tell she doesn't even smile at me, or the joke, and I think that this really all is a joke, the whole damn situation.
"When can you visit him?" Her question is sharp.
I sigh loudly and it crackles over the speaker.
Maybe the sun is suddenly cloaked by streaking clouds and everything is grey. There is something inherently wrong, something rotten to the core with the environment all around me, and I'm not at ease. It's too early to not be at ease.
My head is throbbing and I'm fumbling with an aspirin bottle, the child-proof top anyways.
I ask what is wrong. The diagnosis is the same as it has been for years: he’s suffered another mental lapse, a relapse, and has been admitted into what boils down to an asylum and that I should be advised that he can’t stay there long because she knows he is medically able to quit being mental and as such the hospital cannot treat him. Drugs don’t help. And maybe she doesn’t want to help.
I laugh it all off, and it's a nervous laugh, and tell her I’ll be there as soon as possible, and she hangs up on me.
The cap pops off but the pills don't really give any relief.

The next day I'm thinking about calling the whole thing off, the whole grand affair I’m having with the girl, and I'm laying it out to him, the whole sad strategy to do so, and he's selflessly, longingly trying to reconcile the relationship because, as he puts it, "he hates to see a girl as pretty as a painting cry."
"It's not like she's holding a torch guiding us to freedom in this crisis," I say.
"She doesn't need to. You should hold your own torch."
"I passed that torch a long time ago, right after I used it to burn bridges."
I'm drinking a bourbon coke and the ice has melted but beads of cold perspiration still gather and drip from the glass and I put the glass to my forehead to cool my burning mind and I feel as a bead tickles and glides down my face, catching on my eyelash and the rim of my eye, then runs down my cheek as I blink it away.
"Weren't there good times?"
"Of course there were good times."
"Don't forget."
"I won't forget."
"Never forget."
"I won't forget."
"Don't forget."
There are sirens outside, rushing past.
I go to her apartment.
She asks if I want to come in.
I don't want to go, but it's getting dark outside and it's warm inside.
"I don't care where we do it.”
I guess things fall apart so quickly. I don't think she registers the end as I explain it to her. Maybe she's surprised. I half expect her to say, "Well this is out of the blue," because it is, on my end, because I didn't even see it coming until it was too late. Now it's kind of too late, and it's getting late, and I tell her it's getting late and I mutter my statement, my parting words, and tell her I really need to go. And I stand there, for a second, as it all crumbles.
She doesn't cry.
Of course I don't cry.
The TV is on behind her and the main character is in Miami and the character puts on sunglasses in one scene because it's sunny out and there is a pristine pale-turquoise sky, to use Crayola box terminology.
I think that tomorrow the weather man says it will rain. I grin at the irony. What is it that the Roman mantra says, "Great rains most typically occur after great battles."
This conversation is a battle, I think as she stares at me coldly.
The clouds are there. It was glittering sun today, like the sun on TV reflecting off the buildings and concrete. The main character adjusts her sun glasses.
Above a plane roars by. We hear it even inside.
Her phone rings. She doesn't answer. The TV cuts to a commercial.
Somewhere in the middle of it all we are a charred relationship, the two of us.
“Besides, I need to go to the hospital.”
I don’t go to the hospital that day, though.
I wake up early the next morning.
Cold sweat, nightmares, tossing and shaking through my sleep.
When bad dreams are on your mind, something is generally imminent.
The dream stays with me through the morning.
In the dream I'm somewhere, in some city, filled with lights and music. And the sky is falling, shards of glass-like rain slashing and splintering on the concert. Then there are the screams. The music turns into the distant sound of bagpipes. When did the Scottish get blended into the trip to the afterlife?
My throat tickles and I think I'm getting sick and I go get salt water to gargle. It's ten minutes after 9 in the morning and I won't be making work any time soon so I call in sick.
I need to go to the doctor.

High lights

There's something about the Kentucky air.
It's sweet as I step off the plane, and suddenly I'm back home.
That's how it ends.
The 8 p.m. from LaGuardia, flight 3033, U.S. Airways, is 10 minutes late -- 30 minutes early by LaGuardia standards -- the stewardess happy to be back. She's from Louisville because she pronounces "LOOVUL" properly on the intercom.
I wait to check my voice mails. It's nothing pressing I need to do, not at this time at least.
As I gather my luggage a group of girls make a rush to get out first, from the back, and they look impossibly tan, and one has sunglasses on, in the night, and I reach into my pocket for my phone then, because I'm pushed farther down the queue, and fumbling to listen to my voicemail I'm surprised to hear it's Ray and she's back from Europe as of yesterday, and she says she knows I'm probably tired, and fed up with nightlife after New Yorl, and probably broke, but it was a ridiculous trip in Europe -- one she needed a few drinks after -- and we could review it all later, but I should come out tonight, again, because she was with friends and all of my friends wanted me out.
My mouth is parched and suddenly I want water.
The kids look too impossibly tan, they really do, racing out as the stewardess opens the air lock. Nobody cares about skin cancer any more.
We walk down the tunnel and into the terminal and I always have that feeling that I forgot something, left something back there.
Outside the stars shimmer, and it's surprising because I'm used to the light pollution of the mega-city.
It's not raining, but in central Ohio, before our descent, I looked out the window and saw thunder clouds built like cities flashing lightening and spewing rain down on the ground below, cars like ants in perfect little lines making their way through the storm with their headlights like little eyes.
I'm not worried about the weather. It's too damn humid and showers would be savior to my sweaty brow.
In LaGuardia things moved fast for the first time I had been through there. That hustle makes for a sweaty plane ride.
In the early night we took off from New York, and I think it was a little more humid there,actually.
The plane lifted, the wings catching a current, rising in the evening sky. Sunset was on the right side, the window opposite of me alight in an orange glow.
Lifting past Manhattan, the high lights of the city, I saw her apartment, or maybe the building next to it, or the general cluster of buildings in that area in which she lived. Then again I forgot what the facade of her building looked like and I didn't really know what I was looking for and I didn't really know if I would find hers specifically, and I guess it wasn't important because I thought of her none-the-less. I missed her right there, feeling like my life was a little more vacant as we flew over and away, higher and faster, and faster and higher into the clouds until her building was gone. The high lights faded.
I laid back and my wondering wandered and I thought that everything in the past seems to move faster and faster until you forget, and then it's gone. My memories are clouded. So I thought about her a little harder.
Manhattan is nice at night and it was a mooney night that night in the high lights when we first met, her and I. That's what I remember without even trying.
And if memory serves me well, she complained that she couldn't get a tan that summer because of the constant rain.
That's how it started.
There was just something in the air.
I think I smiled then like I smiled en-route to Louisville, Kentucky, the 3033, 8 p.m., out of New York.
In my car I switch the ignition, speed away from the parking structure. Alone on the highway, eyes adjust to lower lights of smaller civilization.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


She texts me if I ran shirtless, I said, "Sure," just to get things a little hot.
No less than 45 seconds later I text back if she's shirtless, to keep the heat on, but she writes, "no," and that she's on the train, and she says, "But I am panty-less," followed by, "Seriously, I didn't pack them."
She claims she forgot.
I text, "hmmm," And don't know what to say, and refrain, or choke, or cough, or grin, or panic, or tense up. But she doesn't know.
"I don't mind." I say it without thinking. It comes out wrong, but seems true enough.
I don't get an instant reply so I throw my phone down, mutter, "tough," maybe said the wrong stuff.
She writes, "ha."
Simple, too simple, really, but a reply non-the-less.
I forget what I reply next, still it's nothing about sex.
Then the breakthrough: "I really like you."
I fumble the answer, draft a text, then erase, than do the same three more times. Normally I'm more tightly laced, I think.
I tell her I agree, simply.
"The train is moving too slow," she says, the conversation suddenly shifting.
I say: "Let's talk more about the things you didn't pack."
There is no response
Pick-up lines are a talent in which I lack.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Broken TV

Broken everything.
It's 85 degrees outside and the AC won't kick on.
My computer blew two days ago.
The signal fades on my phone.
My tooth brush is old.
My contact prescription is wrong.
I see blurry everything, struggle to adjust my vision.
The office never sent my check from last week.
Ants invade my bathroom.
The milk was expired.
My car is almost out of gas.
Gas is too expensive anyways.
I'm driving to the airport.
To pick you up.
The sunset looks beautiful.
The car windows are down.
My hair is a mess.
I'm smiling.
I look in the rear view mirror and realize I'm smiling.
For no reason.
I had no idea I was smiling.
Or because I'm driving to the airport to pick you up and, suddenly, everything in my life seems so perfect, and there's nothing to worry about, and it all seems so put together.
I can't stop smiling.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Stupid thoughts

Driving through the forest and there is snow on the ground, powdering everything.
I'm listening to the Violent Femmes "Blister in the Sun" and I think that it's a summer song and it's weird to have a summer song playing with snow on the ground.
I'm heading towards work and it's early and the sun is already above the white hills and the light glistens on every snow-covered tree.
The landscape looks good dressed in white.
I have the heat blowing on my hands to get them warm.
I'm thinking about drinking.
I'm in Germany on one of the most amazing adventures of my life and I'm thinking about drinking.
I shake my head, swallow a sour taste from my mouth.
"I'm such an idiot," I say to nobody in the empty car.
The snow looks beautiful in the alien landscape, and it's terrible I want to be somewhere else.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Science Hill

My phone rings and I ignore it.
It's the first thunder storm of the season, and I feel like I'm watching rain for the very first time, captivated.
There is one big, fat cloud -- a purple, blue and scarlet blob -- applying darkness to the world, drifting slowly and cloaking the sun. I watch it from a hill miles from its epicenter, a hill still soaked in sunlight.
Science Hill isn't being rained on.
I stare at the opposite scene with mortal amusement, and she walks up and says it's beautiful.
"Isn't it?"
I don't take my eyes away, annoyed that she's suddenly broken my solitude.
"Cold air pushing warm currents, all invisible," she says. "Oxygen and hydrogen mixing a trillion times over, forming tiny drops. And that can sometimes lead to a flood. So much of such tiny things."
We're quiet, staring, like in a museum at a portrait, the smudges of clouds the colors, the downpour the brush strokes.
It's Science Hill's Science Day, and there are a lot of people with an understanding of things beyond my understanding, talking about things beyond me.
They serve champagne and I tell her that I like the champagne.
I'm dressed as the best I think I am, blue suit, Hilfiger, darker blue tie, DKNY, brown shoes, shined, and she just grins at me with a smile that could easily beat all of it, handing me a drink from a shimmering silver tray beside us.
"Have some more."
There is electricity in the dank air.
Maybe protons and neutrons collide between us, but I don't feel them, lost in my own clouded thoughts.
We are talking about nothing suddenly, her and I, and I can't focus, focusing only on a text I got earlier with three simple, stupid words: "It's not good."
And I don't feel good, spiritually. Science Day on Science Hill may as well be a washout, for me. I'm done with today.
We talk more about nothing: informalities that are so much formalities that they are insignificant.
I stare at the rain and think that I wish it would just pour on me, drown me, wash me away, flood my mind and submerge everything in my mind.
She mentions that she's still paying for her PhD, and that the recession isn't helping, adding something or another about a student loan bill that just passed the Senate.
"I don't trust Senators," she explains.
"Can't trust everyone," I add with cynical emphasis
My phone rings and I ignore it, and she realizes that I'm ignoring her and she walks away after quick informal goodbyes.
I'm alone in a crowd of scientists, but it doesn't last long.
He begins talking to me, suddenly, about his work, how he's been recognized for his work, and how his work is changing.
He's the chairman of the science board.
"Politics, though, isn't my strong point," he says.
I mention that humans are naturally disposed to politics.
He explains that ideas are so hard to sell, for people to grasp.
"I have something new," he says, his grey eyes wild with a deep excitement. "Something extraordinary."
"When will you unveil it? Today?"
"Later," he says. "Always later."
At Science Hill the next big thing is always tomorrow, he says, and I'm thinking about tomorrow, not today, a wasted day.
I have eight missed calls, and I sigh, ignoring the voice mails.
I wonder if the scientists ever wonder about the human side of things. It's not always abstract. Today I screwed up and paid a consequence as a result and today I feel the storm building up and can only imagine how it will end. I'm surrounded by smart people, a lot of people. I want one of them to explain to me what to do.
Somebody gives them bad news, too.
At Science Day they announce that funding for Science Hill has been cut and, suddenly, it's raining on everybody.
I smile, actually, as misery suddenly has company, and, finally, I've found it at this party.
"That's what this Great Recession has done for us," one person states.
Then it turns into academic analysis, as it always does here.
"Economics is cyclical," he explains. "We'll get through it."
And he's standing next to me telling me the greatness of economics as a natural science, a cyclical science, something that has ebb and flow, or is seasonal, like a bountiful summer to cold winter. He smiles as he talks, his grey eyes and hair shimmer with the analysis. Maybe I forget, for a second, about the emotional weight of the natural process economics has on life, and look at it from an abstract way.
"Phoenix rises and falls, then again," he concludes.
His words ring in my ear, and I've finally unsorted the knotted rope of my problems.
Then there is another ringing.
Wires spark and satellites send an array of radio signals through the nothingness that is the atmosphere and a transmitter tower collects them and distributes them and the device in my pocket accepts them and my phone erupts, all in a split second.
The phone whines and vibrates, and I ignore it.
"Won't you get it?" He asks.
"It's just the same person who has been trying to get a hold of me all day," I say. "And I've had a bad day."
"Call them tomorrow," he says. "It's a new day."
Then he walks away.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sedentary Traveler

"Whale hunting, sometimes," He says. "And I've made an igloo. There are no nights in summer, no days in winter. All-night parties in the snow. The girls sometimes where bikini tops."
"Lush life."
"Lifeless, lushless," he sighs, drinks.
I tell him he's the first Eskimo I've met, that you never really think you'll meet an Eskimo, that I totally pictured Eskimos different,, and I'm in the middle of a mojito saying a variety of other politically incorrect things when she comes out of nowhere, yelling, smiling, saying we haven't seen each other in months.
More like years, I correct.
She's beaming with fake interest in me, all parts of her, and we proceed through classic "I missed you" formalities and she finishes by saying that she's just come back from London.
"Our little project has really taken off like a bottle rocket," she says describing a non-governmental organization she helped build there. "We're helping funnel food, radios, and diapers to Haiti now."
"That's amazing," I say. "Why diapers?"
"They're a mother's best friend."
"You wouldn't know."
"Men don't know."
I want to tell her something along the lines of "duh" and be really harsh about it when he adds, "I've never thought of that, either."
He's gazing at all the parts of her that are beaming, longingly. She seems annoyed by it, glances with ice cold eyes, and excuses herself, to make a phone call, "to London."
She says it with an air of superiority, and I'm flustered for a second, then tell myself I haven't done anything for Haiti lately.
Our waitress -- brown eyes shimmering, grinning at me with a certain lust behind her features -- asks if we need anything else, then lays down the check.
Maybe she's just doing it for a tip, I think.
And besides, I'm not interested. I'm talking to an Eskimo who says he'd love to go to Budapest, and nothing could be more interesting as he sketches on a napkin, pushing a boat out into the sea with a felt-tip pen the waiter gave him to sign the bill.
"There's nothing up there, for you to see," he says, meaning Alaska. "Budapest -- If I had wind pushing me, I would go to Budapest."
I'm entertained by the sudden culture quirk in his vocabulary.
"What does it look like?" Alaska I mean.
"Flat. No depth."
"I hear Budapest has nice architecture."
And he tells me something about its Western and Eastern European roots, and Turkish influence, or something he may have seen on the Discovery Channel, and I'm not really listening as the gorgeous waitress with brown eyes drops a pen and picks it up again.
It's only a momentary lapse.
As he draws I notice that it's a sail boat, not a canoe, or something native to his Eskimo tradition. I want to ask why a sailboat, and not a canoe, than think about political correctness and how I should be cognizant of such. It's so hard to be correct today.
"Where is it sailing to," I ask.
"Nowhere," he laughs, showing off bad teeth. "There's no wind!"
I'd been sitting at the bar with him for a few hours and the music that's playing has no rhythm and we were full on food so the beers didn't get us as buzzed as we'd like, so we leave.
Putting on my jacket I tell him how I just got a postcard from my brother, written from Paris, with love. It outlined how much he hated Paris. It was so superficial, he said. There was no depth, it was like so many other cities.
"Tourist pit," he said.
No layers to discover.
"I saw something on Paris on TV," he says.
Outside there is no wind. I can't immediately hail a cab.
"I think we may be going nowhere, fast, for a while," I say.
"Typical," he adds. "You can't really get away from it, I suppose."
His face twists with the irony, almost.
I laugh at the popcorn-opera reading of it all, the sedintary bore of it all.