Monday, May 19, 2014

Fishamble Street

He walked. He walked for hours, the city wasn't big enough for the streets he needed to walk. He looked for faces, familiar faces, her face. Her face in a crowd of faces, but he never did find it, and not seeing it he walked until he found a face he did know. He walked until he couldn't recognize his own face anymore, staring back at him in the reflection of the plate-glass windows. Butcher shop, book shop, tailor shop, pub. Butcher shop, tailor shop, shoe shop, bookies. Tailor, butcher, tailor, pub. Coffee shop, charity shop, bakery, pub. Camden Street, Fade Street, Cork Street, Butcher's Lane. Bride Street, Montague Street, Hatch street, home. Home eventually. Home at last.

He saw unbelievable things, car accidents and police investigations and a glamorous Italian couple dancing tangos on the street. He saw a beautiful woman once slap herself full-tilt across her own face, her own face as she stood there all alone. She held nothing back. She was dressed in a silk cream dress and looked like a city hall bride, with no groom to be found. Held her purse in the other hand and she slapped herself again. He got caught in flash floods and lovers' arguments and once came across a live crab no bigger than his own palm scrambling helplessly down Fishamble Street in the general direction of the river but he left it there, not knowing what else to do. He walked until his feet hurt and his brain reeled and then he sat down and then he walked some more.

He had a family, somewhere. Wasn't that right? He had a wife, he had children? He had a cold dinner waiting for him on a plate somewhere? How did it come to this? How did it ever come to this?

Monday, May 12, 2014

You'll know...

How will you know?
You'll know because you won't care anymore.

How will you know?
You'll know because all your food will taste the same.

How will you know?
You'll know from the looks they give you.

How will you know?
You'll know from the dreams that wake you up at 4:00.

How will you know?
You'll know because they'll let you know.

How will you know?
You'll know because of the smell.

How will you know?
You'll know because of the speed it takes.

How will you know?
You'll know because you won't know anything else.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Always in Love

He stared at her, not comprehending the enormity of what she had said. Still trying to figure out what just happened. She sat at an angle to him, smiling but a little wary, poised over her cinnamon bagel and strawberry jam. Black coffee and orange peel. Behind her rain against the window. The radio in French. He stared at her and suddenly he was gone. Just gone. Fallen back into a place he thought he'd forgotten.

The chess club on Thompson Street, steaming glasses of tea and opaque glances. The Ukrainian egg shop off 2nd Avenue. Postcards of Marlon Brando and Jasper Johns taped to the wall above his desk. He was young and he was always in love. Secrets traded on the fire escape outside. Endless subway journeys up and down the West Side, the 1, the 2, the 3. She was a Julliard ballerina, she told him, but she dropped out early. Grew up in Maine and mother from Minsk. Russian eyes and an impossibly long neck. She lived on a diet of apples and cigarettes and if she had asked him to go with her, he would have. He wouldn't have thought twice. If she had asked him to go with her, he would. Her kitchen. Riverside Drive, unmade bed still damp from the hours before. Tea and lemon, bare feet along the linoleum. Knife in hand. He threw it in the air, they never took their eyes from each other. He threw it in the air, didn't know where it would land.

He came back. The radio on, the rain against the window. He came back. She was still smiling, but the wariness had set in, and he knew he would never see her there again. So this. Now, this. Now her. He stared at her, uncomprehending.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Whose Face?

He sits across from me, a real-life mid-life crisis sitting in the bar where I once sat and wrote a story about a mid-life crisis, strangely enough. Back before I knew the city well enough to be prescient. Back when I was too young to know what I was talking about. The fingernail-red walls haven't changed. The unforgiving afternoon sunlight reflecting off the shop windows across the street. He stares at me and I squint back at him, we talk and we laugh and he shakes a little from the spine to the shoulders to the belly, and he tells me we're walking in the same shoes, that I just don't know it yet. He tells me I'll get there. I flinch and we laugh and I hope he's wrong. This man is not afraid of anything, won't let anything stop him on his path towards burning it all down.

So. You go to sleep one man and wake up another, you've said that already. So you become the man you never thought you'd be, and used to hold in contempt. You've said that, too. So you write in charming and opaque ways about driving West in Chevy Novas, about begging on the outside of motel room doors, about gunshots and whispers and pleas, but mostly you just patrol the limits of the farm from well inside the fence. And who would blame you? So you wake up holding shame and desire in equal balance, I suppose that's how it works. Holding shame and desire in equal balance but mostly just frozen and ridiculous at six o'clock in the morning. Suddenly. This face, whose face is this?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Car I Could Drive

Here's what I want. 

I want a car that I could drive West to the ocean, a blue Nova would be ideal. I want a Rand McNally Road Atlas and a shoe-box full of tapes. I want to drive from Chicago to Seattle, 80 to 25 to 90, I want five days where nobody knows where I am and nobody cares where I am. I want back that wind-storm in Wyoming one more time, which scared and thrilled me so much in the summer of 1977. I was 10 and I was terrified.

I want my dad to be OK, I want my sister to be OK, I want my Mom not to be scared. I want to do well by my students, I want to do a good job (and not just a good enough job) with this work that I never should have started but that I can no longer walk away from. I want my kids not to worry what's going to happen to them, I want my wife not to worry what's going to happen to them either.

I want you to be OK, most of all. It's's not going to get easier, and eventually you get tired.