Noticing New York

Some people notice the buildings. They look up, the backs of their necks wrinkling like old men’s foreheads, and they strain their eyes and get dizzy with vertigo. They notice the heads carved above the windowsills on lower Broadway. They notice the snazzy designs on the Flatiron and the dials on the elevators going from the lower tracks to the main concourse of Grand Central.

Some people notice other people. They notice the variations in skin color and, for the first time, stare at their arms encased in black coats and gloves and their chest wrapped in scarves and realize that on the crowded bus where the windows are all blocked they cannot see any reflections of themselves. They notice the possibility of their skin being any color at all; they could blend with any of the races siting around them or be a mix of any or all of them. They could be green or blue or polka-dotted and it wouldn’t matter in this moment.

Some people notice the reactions, the connections, the bizarre randomness of people finding one another in lines for coat checks, on street corners, inside corner delis, before entering a taxi, upon exiting an elevator.

Noticing everything in New York City is impossible. Noticing as much as possible is the constant, ultimate goal. It is a city evolving and living up to and through every stereotype it has ever had while building new and unique traditions for itself at the same time. Things are old and new, familiar and strange at the same time. There is a sense of having been everywhere before and seen everything, even as the unfamiliar shadows of taller buildings than those ever encountered before fill the streets and avenues. New York is a city of unnoticing lives being noticed by noticers.

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Forgotten Ground

There is nowhere in the city where people don’t put their feet inside of their shoes, their sticky, stinking shoes, with gum and grime and dog waste and spit of a thousand disgusting young men on the bottoms of their souls. No, that is not a mistake, in case you were wondering. I never make mistakes. I am deliberate a fault, each and every one of my fault lines is purposeful and is there to make you trip and fall and break your necks, the same necks you take such pains to make smooth with operations and suctions of various sorts and different kinds of nips and tucks and pulls and lifts, as if you can climb into an elevator and make time go back if you take it from the seventieth floor to the twentieth floor fast enough but what you forget is that the hand that you use to press the buttons will always look the same no matter what happens to the rest of you on the way.
The only places that are forgotten are misnamed thus because things that are forgotten are done so by accident, but these, these places are as purposeful and deliberate as each of the cracks I put in the sidewalks for you to slip and trip and pool your blood and life and your lifeblood in. The forgotten grounds are always remembered by those who live in them and wish they could forget about them and return to the places they came from, the places they used to live and that they fled from because they thought that they could come here, where everything is oh so much better because that’s what you tell them on your black boxes with people smiling so brightly with little white pearls replacing their teeth.
There are no forgotten grounds. There are only those neglected by the shoes of those who think that their souls are so much cleaner and that their behinds never let out a single spray of brown waste and that there is nothing but smooth plastic between their legs and that the pits between their arms smell of the sweetest perfume at all times. Those people don’t even really think that this is the truth but they wish it was so deeply that they try to make everyone else in the world believe that it is and it is there, in their minds and hearts, that the real forgotten wastelands of kindness and feeling and truth lie.

In Vancouver

The flight to Vancouver was long, long, long, but there were some interesting characters that my mom and I got to experience on the way. I’ll be writing about them eventually – unless I decide to hoard them in order to use them in some piece of fiction eventually.

Our first day was yesterday, and (incredibly) we dragged ourselves out for a full day of walking around and exploring the city.

Today my mom, my aunt, my brother and I walked around Vancouver some more. We went to Granville Island, this really cool inlet that has an arts university as well as an arts high school and is full of awesome young people. There’s a market there that looks like it came straight out of Disneyland – it’s too perfect and adorable. I loved it. There are also a couple dangerous stationary stores that I had a hard time tearing myself out of. I love that stuff way too much.

My hands are strangely slow and heavy as I write this, so I think that it’s time for me to fall back into bed. I got out of it a mere twelve hours ago, but a second day of walking around and a healthy dose of jet-lag is affecting me, clearly. Good night, people.

Sundays on the Bus [Flash Fiction – maybe a beginning to a longer short story?]

Rupert took the bus to work on Sundays. He didn’t have to; the divorce had gone through pretty smoothly and he’d gotten to keep the car, which he drove the rest of the week. Monday through Friday, the bus was packed with loud teenagers going to school and busy businessmen and businesswomen who put him on edge. For a guy who worked six days a week, including Sundays, Rupert considered himself to be pretty relaxed, and the tense atmosphere on the bus every morning made him feel unnecessarily stressed.

But Sundays were special. On Sundays, nobody else in his line of work went to the office. He worked in Finance, at a Big Corporation where he made a Nice Living. He never explained to people anything beyond this, because he’d learned that his job-description made their eyes wander and their mouths open in embarrassing yawns. He didn’t begrudge them. He knew that not everyone found beauty in what appeared at first glance to be monotonous number-crunching.

Three years after the divorce, Rupert had to admit to himself that he also took the bus to work on Sundays because of the chance to see Her. She was taller than him, more giraffe than woman, with a wide mouth, high cheekbones and soft brown eyes. She had a small boy – Rupert saw him grow from a newborn baby to a large toddler of three – and She took him to the big park near Rupert’s office to watch other people flying kites. Rupert toyed with the idea of mysteriously gifting them both with a kite one day, but he never quite worked up the nerve to do it.

He wondered sometimes, especially during the dreary winters when She and her son rode the bus far less often, whether he was obsessed. He didn’t think he was creepy; he never stared at Her inappropriately and never offered Her son any candy. But he kept taking the bus every single Sunday, rain or shine, in the hopes of speaking to Her, even accidentally. He sometimes dreamed of criminals hijacking the vehicle or getting into a dramatic crash so that he’d have an excuse to perform a heroic act for which She’d be so grateful that She’d speak to him. Then he remember his puny arms and his ever-growing paunch and sadly realized that in the event of an emergency, it would probably be Her who would rescue him.

The Later Bus – A Rantle

RANTLE: A newfangled word, invented by a slightly ignorant writer, RANTLE means a rant that is also a ramble, specifically of the kind that is told (or written) in story form.

“There’s only one seat left,” the bus driver warned me. I looked quickly at my watch. I had time to spare, but not enough to take the chance of waiting for the next bus. I climbed up the steep steps and give the bus driver a few bills.

“Two ways, please,” I asked politely. I’m always polite to bus drivers. So many people are mean to them – abrupt and impatient and assuming, and I hate that. I know what it’s like to service people in one capacity or another, and every job like that is made better by nice people.

I got the change from the driver, thanked him and took my ticket from the little machine that spit the little pieces of paper out. As always, I wasn’t sure if the ticket was stuck or if I simply wasn’t pulling hard enough. I tugged at the ticket for another few seconds and it gave way. I tucked it it my wallet for the return journey.

The driver started backing up from the pick-up spot so that he could leave. The central bus-station always feels like an airport in that way – the bus is just like the plane, taxiing to the takeoff point and then setting off from the station and into the city streets until it reaches the highway where it goes up to full speed.

I looked down the aisle and began to walk, looking for the promised seat that was supposed to be left. I though I saw it, but then realized that there was a small girl sitting next to the window. I continued on until I realized that the one seat was being occupied by someone’s extremely large bag. Darn. I should have waited for the next bus. I ended up sitting on the steps near the back door.

The bus was hot and stuffy, and so much the worse where I was sitting. I didn’t have a window or a vent, just a solid door in front of me, two small trashcans next to me and the step behind me that led up to the aisle. I was sweating within minutes. Not the most pleasant experience in the world, I’ll grant you. As I said, I should have waited for the next bus to come.

I took my mp3 player out of my bag and chose a suitably amusing, energetic and yet disturbing band to listen to while I played one of the stupid games on the player to pass the time. My choice must have been a good one since the ride seemed to be over relatively quickly, although my skirt kept sticking to my knees and I had to shift constantly to be comfortable on the hard steps.

Getting off the bus should have been a wonderful experience – emerging from the musty, dusty space into real air. But, as luck would have it, today has been much hotter and more humid than the weekend was, and so when I got off the bus first I felt as if I’d dunked myself into a fetid and stagnant pool of hot water. Within moments, I was sweating worse than ever.

Now I had a choice. Either I could wait for another bus to take me two stops – about half a mile if that – or I could walk the distance. Despite the heat and the humidity in the air that made me feel as if I were walking through soup, I decided to walk. I looked at my watch again as I pulled my book out. Too early – I should have waited for the next bus. There was nothing I could do about it anymore, though. So I opened my book and began to walk. As usual, I didn’t collide with anyone or anything, which is to the good, but I also had a hard time enjoying the short walk because of the sun falling on my exposed arms and heating my black skirt and tank top so much that it felt as if they were burning onto me permanently.

It took me barely ten minutes to reach my destination – early, as I’d thought. Much too early. I couldn’t find a bench that had trees shading it and took a walk up to a park and then back down to the street, searching for a good place to sit in vein. I realized I was thirsty, so I went into a well-conditioned super-market to buy a bottle of water. I often wish that there were public drinking fountains here, like there are in much of Italy. Then I wouldn’t have to pay for water that is almost the same as tap water, except that the industry that makes the bottles that hold it are ruining the environment. But I digress. I bought the water and wished I could stay in the supermarket and continue enjoying the cold air that was being pumped from somewhere unseen. I was on the verge of asking the clerk behind the counter if there was a place I could sit for a few minutes there, but then realized that the man would say that there wasn’t and would shoo me out. Instead of dealing with the humiliation and unpleasentness of that, I just payed and left.

I finally found a shady spot, took out my computer, and typed up my account of the last two hours. The moral of the story? Yes, I should have taken the later bus.

Dawn and Dog

Dawn’s alarm clock rang at three in the morning, the witching hour. Rubbing her eyes, she sat up, blearily trying to see whether or not her dog, Tuft, was lying on the bed. Putting her glasses on, Dawn determined he wasn’t, so she kicked the covers back violently and got out of bed.

“Tuft! Here, Tuft!” she called as she pulled on a dressing gown and shoved her feet into old, battered brown slippers. The medium sized mutt came running into the room, his tongue lolling, and began to sniff her frantically. Dawn bent down to pet him, and said, in the kind of voice usually reserved for babies, “Walk? Want to go for a walk? There’s a good boy!”

Five minutes later, she’d exchanged her slippers for flip-flops, and was walking down 45th Street, Tuft pulling at his leash. It wasn’t cold, exactly, but there was a dampness in the air, and Dawn could smell the air coming off the river. She walked slowly, letting Tuft sniff out this lamp-post and that car, and held her small can of mace tightly in her other hand. You couldn’t be too careful, that’s what her mother always said.

It was at the corner of 45th and and 9th that it happened. Tuft stopped, growling, and Dawn stopped too. Once before, Tuft had saved her from interrupting a drug-deal that had been going down in the middle of Central Park in broad daylight. Dawn didn’t know how he did it, but the dog was something special. She looked around now for the source of whatever it was that was making Tuft nervous. The streets were almost deserted though. A lone truck was trundling down 9th Avenue, but it was moving away from her. 45th Street appeared empty both in front and behind her. “What do you see, Tuft?” she murmured to him. “What do you smell?”

The dog was looking straight up, and his nose was wriggling furiously. He stood up on his hind legs and pawed the air. He growled as he fell back to the ground and then did it again. Dawn had never seen him act like this. She looked up, too.

“What the…?”

An object was floating high above her. It looked like a badly put together Lego space-ship. But it couldn’t be a space-ship… could it? As she watched, lights winked on and off on different parts of the misshapen thing. Suddenly, a spotlight went on and blinded her, framing her and Tuft in its beam. She winked hard, trying to adjust herself to the sudden light and to see something through it. But it was impossible, there was no way she could see past it. Shielding her eyes, she knelt down, leaning over Tuft and hugging him. He was still growling.

“What is it what is it what is it what is it?” she muttered. “This can’t be, this is like a bad science fiction movie, this is ridiculous, this is-” but she couldn’t think of anything else to say. She fell silent, shaking with fear now, and bent her head over the dog, breathing in his scent, which as gross as it was – and, amazingly, a corner of her mind was rational enough to think to itself that Tuft needed a bath – the smell felt more real than anything she’d just seen.

Tuft began to bark now, trembling in her arms. Dawn heard what sounded like an echoing bark, as if in answer, and the spotlight went off. The darkness blinded her now as much as the light had at first. She looked at Tuft and then looked up at the floating thing, and then back down at Tuft. He was still growling and barking alternately, and she realized he was trembling with anger, not fear. It was as if a dog had come into his territory and had threatened him.

Looking up again, Dawn watched as the space-ship, or whatever it was, floated a little way down 9th Avenue. Tuft was now wagging his tail and his hackles were going down. He licked Dawn’s face, but she kept looking up, watching the thing hover onward. Tuft barked again, and Dawn, surprised by the loud noise right in her ear looked at him. When she looked back into the sky, there was nothing there.

For the second time that night, she said “What the…?”

**

When Dawn got to work at five, she picked up one of the newspapers that had been delivered to the convenience store that she owned. There wasn’t anything in it about tests on flying crafts done in Manhattan or about strange blimps being sent into the sky around three in the morning. There wasn’t even some splashy article about how the alien-nuts were warning everyone that there would be ETs coming to earth one of these days. Nothing out of the ordinary whatsoever.

Dawn threw the newspaper down, opened the locks on the door, and went inside. She turned on all the lights immediately and looked around, making sure there was nothing weird lurking in the room. Finally, as she set up the till and began counting the money that had been in it over the night, she decided to shrug the whole thing off.

“New York,” she said aloud to the empty store. “Anything can happen, right?”

Eavesdropping

The owl sat on its regular midnight perch, on the beam that hung between the garage door and the overhanging roof. It was quite roomy there, and she liked having its nest so close by, in the very corner, where there was space right inside the corner of the roof.

She was just about to hoot softly and then fly out to catch little rodents by the tail when she was interrupted mid-hoot by a pair of loud voices that erupted in the middle of the driveway in front of her.

“You did NOT just say that!”

“What? You think you’re the only one allowed to be mean? I know how to be mean too, you know.”

“I’m not mean, you jerk-wad! How can you even say that to me?”

“‘Cause it’s true! You’re stuck up and mean, and you know what? I can stand it when you do it to me, but not when you start ragging on my best friends, too. They don’t get to see you like I do, so they don’t get that it’s just how you are.”

“Oh, what, so because they don’t get to see me naked then they don’t know the real me? Are you suggesting they all come over and we have a big party together?”

“WHAT? When did I ever say that? Where the hell is your head, Angela?”

“And what’s all this about you being okay with me being mean to you, anyway? I’m not mean to you!”

The owl in the eaves of the house cocked her head. The voices changed tones. The whiny, female-smelling one sounded muffled, and the deep-voiced male-smelling one made cooing noises that reminded the owl of the noises she made over her eggs.

“I love you, but don’t you see that you’re going to isolate me from everyone else if you keep behaving like a stuck up bitch with them? I’m not saying you ARE one. I’m just saying you act like it, honey.”

“B-b-but your friends make me nervous, and ever since we moved to this stupid city it’s been all about your friends, and don’t you think I miss mine to bits? It’s not like you were super nice to them or anything…”

“I made an effort and you know it. It was hard when they kept sizing me up with their eyes, checking if I was hot enough for they angelic Angela.”

“Well, they were protective of me. What can I do? All your friends want to do is talk to you. It’s like I’m just a painting on the wall in the room. They stare at me sometimes and then go right back to talking to you about the Diamondbacks or the Razorbacks or whatever that team is called.”

“If you stopped acting like an ice princess, and if you stopped being so cold, maybe they’ll be nicer to you, hmm? They don’t always talk about sports, you know.”

The owl, getting bored with the human jabber and the ensuing wet noises as they did that strange thing humans do with their mouths, decided to get going. She spread her wings and leaped from the eaves, wings spreading out to her sides. She dove and then flew upwards, scanning the neighborhood for some delicious little critters to snap in her beak.

“Wow, did you see that?”

“An owl! I’ve never seen one before! Oh my gosh, that’s amazing!”

“What a beauty, hmm?”

“Yeah, so beautiful…”