Monday, September 22, 2014

Sunday Looks

The thin tined comb pulled hairs tight against his scalp, cutting through pomade. A new blade glided down the side of his face and around its contours and curves, revealing smooth skin. He buttoned his solid white collared shirt and tucked it into khakis, pulled the laces of his brown leather shoes taut and tied a knot. To be seen was inevitable and he wanted people to see the easy precision in his execution of all things, including his Sunday ensemble.

Next door, another man slowly rose from a comfy couch and reached for a pair of sweat socks he'd brought downstairs that morning. He put on the socks and stretched, arms in the air impossibly attempting to connect fingertips with the ceiling. He felt a little light headed and sat back down to put on his beat up old sneakers. His left hand stroked his head's oily hair and he realized he looked like a guy who'd just rolled out of bed, though he'd been awake for hours.

These men noticed each other as they left their houses. One stepped out for a walk with no particular place to go. The other had errands and a friend to meet for coffee. They made eye contact and nodded simultaneously in silence, and went about their days. The city absorbed them both, they lived in partnership with its mechanisms, leaning on each other and everyone else. They were free.

Monday, September 8, 2014

On the Bridge

He drove along at a comfortable pace until he reached the Tappan Zee Bridge, where traffic came to a complete stop. The sun shone the day's last rays as he sat flipping radio channels, the car idling. After a while people shut down their engines and stepped out of their cars and stood on the bridge. Some leaned against their vehicles and others walked around on the bridge.

In the other direction cars continued to move. The bridge vibrated and shook.

As one and two and three hours passed, he became restless. For a while he was back in the car with the radio on scrolling a.m. stations, looking for news about an accident (or anything else) south of the bridge that would cause the standstill, but he came up empty. He was tired and wanted to get back on the road toward Philly – he had a ways to go yet and time was not on his side. He decided to ask a guy in the next lane over if he knew what was going on.

"Excuse me."

The guy, a burly white man perhaps thirty years old, sweaty, looked up from where he sat against the driver's side wheel of his Ford pick up. "What's up?"

"Any idea why we're stopped?"

The guy shrugged. And stared.

"Alright then." He turned back to his own car, sat up on the hood.

Two more hours passed, slowly. Vibrations started to bother him. Lack of information bothered him. Some people relieved themselves off to the side, and that bothered him. He relieved himself in an empty Gatorade bottle while crouching uncomfortably in the backseat of his car. Luckily he only had to pee.

Some people seemed like they had become friends with others in neighboring cars. Their attitudes seemed to say "we can't do anything about this, we're stuck, so let's chat it up and laugh and joke around."

He felt bad for families with little kids. He heard some kids crying and it made him feel kinda crazy – he wished he could do something to help them but couldn't think of anything he could offer.

The only person he'd spoken with was the burly guy. He thought of trying to become friends with him just to have something to do, but when he looked over in the guy's direction, he didn't like the look on his face. It seemed like the guy was staring at him with a mean sort of look. He stared back. This went on for a few minutes before he found himself getting angry and decided to do something about it.

"What's up man?"

The burly guy seemed surprised. "Nothing. What's up with you?"

"Why you looking at me like that, chief?"

The burly man stood up. "What the fuck you talkin' about, man?"

"What am I talkin' about? What are you talkin' about? Fuck you, man."

"Son, I'll throw you right off this bridge if you say that again. You best just shut your mouth and mind your own business."

Now they stood in each other's faces, the rage having built up within each of them. Their chests were about an inch apart. If either of them were to make a move, things would get ugly pretty quickly….

Just then he heard someone cheering from up ahead. He and the burly man turned to look. People were getting back into their cars. Traffic was starting to move.

He looked back at the burly man and said, "Sorry about that. I don't know what got into me."

The burly man nodded and got into his truck.

He walked back to his car and wondered what had just happened. It was like he'd been possessed for a few minutes, like something crept up inside and made him want to explode. He chalked it up to nerves, the frustration of being stranded on the bridge. The rest of his drive to Philly was uneventful.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Just a Cup of Coffee

The dogs in the painting hanging from the north wall of Joseph's apartment looked down on Garret and Joseph. The sun shone through the apartment's front windows as the hands of Joseph's grandfather's old clock struck Ten.

"What's going on today?" asked Garret.

Joseph lay on a beaten up, very comfy leather loveseat. "Let's go to a diner."

"Now?"

"Yeah."

"Aramingo?"

"Nah."

"Acropolis?"

"It closed."

"Oh yeah, I forgot. Bummer."

"Huge bummer."

"Hmm. Spring Garden Restaurant?"

"I was just there."

"Mugshot?"

"The coffee shop?"

"No, the diner on York."

"Haven't been yet."

"Let's check it out."

Joseph shook his head. "I don't feel like trying a new place."

"We could bike to South Philly. Oregon, Broad, Melrose, Penrose…."

"Penrose? You crazy? I love it, but dude we're in Fishtown. You realize how far that is?"

Garret threw his hands into the air. "Okay, I give up. Pick one or let's just hang here."

"Let's go to Aramingo."

"Dude, that's the first one I said."

Fifteen minutes later, a white haired waitress stood before them in a shirt a little too tight and a little too low cut. The decade could've been any of the last six – nobody there would know the difference.

"Eggs over easy, bacon, potatoes, white toast, small stack on the side. Coffee, small orange juice, water please."

The waitress seemed to absorb Garret's order. She looked at Joseph.

"Coffee, black."

"That's it?" asked the waitress.

"Yeah, Joe, that's it?" Garret prodded, surprised.

"Yes please."

The waitress traipsed away from their table and checked in on another.

"Whadja wanna come to a diner for if all you want is coffee? We coulda made coffee at your apartment."

"Dunno. I just wanted to get out."

The walls around them listened on as they spoke of nothing important. The world and all of its problems, those of the '50s and the aughts and those of today, were far away and almost unreal. People in booths and at tables around them touched their forks to plates of scrapple and chipped beef and waffles and looked at each other and talked about family and friends and their dreams.

Garret and Joseph finished up and rode back to Joseph's apartment and didn't do much for the rest of the day. They weren't hungover or jaded or depressed, but content to just be. Joseph looked for a while at the painting of dogs on his wall. He'd never noticed a faint smile on the face of a sitting beagle.