In this episode, the Emperor of Tender Hearts and Self-Pity rides in on his sad, gray horse. Hi ho.
April 27, 1995
A fun New York-y thing happened to me. I was on my way to work and because I’m working these crazy hours, it was midday and there weren’t many people on the subway platform. Near the center stairwell, waiting for the train, was a group of about 15 children with three or four teachers. They were around 6 years old, mixed races and genders. When I walked by, their conversations mashed together into a high-pitched buzz. Like tiny bees. I was annoyed because I wanted to read my paper so I started to walk off in a huff towards the end of the platform.
There was a sudden silence. They all turned to one of the teachers. She said something inaudible and they began singing Yellow Submarine in absolute perfect harmony. Their voices were sweet and angelic. It sounded like a choir but they were just children. No one voice was singing louder than the others. The acoustics in the subway were perfect. Their singing had a rich, full, echoy sound. Everyone standing around looked up from their reading material and stared. It was surreal. All those beautiful voices in that filthy setting.
They finished Yellow Submarine and began a song they were taught to sign. It was about how being here with their friends and singing makes them happy. There was a beautiful choreography of tiny hands, all moving in graceful unison. I started thinking of all those little children who were blown up in Oklahoma City last week. They’ll never see their friends or sing again. I started crying right in the middle of the subway platform. I had a suit and tie on and looked ridiculous. I was so embarrassed, but it made me happy that I live in New York, where crazy shit like this happens on a fairly regular basis.
May 1, 1995
The evening shift is killing me. I can’t sleep during the day. You can’t imagine how clean this apartment is. I’m a very clean person, you know? This morning, I ironed four shirts (medium starch) and scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom floors. You can’t use a sponge mop. Do you know who uses sponge mops? Lazy, wussy-pussy losers. You’ve got to get down on your hands and knees with a scrub brush and scrub that motherfucker until your knuckles and back hurt. I seriously think I’m losing my mind.
Ellis and Oswaldo are meeting a friend from college tonight for dinner. He became a teacher, taught all over the world but also had a secret life as “Miss Terry.” Get it? He’s HIV positive and can’t teach anymore. It’s only a matter of time.
Laura gave me a homework assignment. In one column, I’m supposed to list the things I like about the work I do and in another column I’m supposed to list the stuff I don’t like. I stared at a blank sheet of paper and couldn’t come up with any positives. I haven’t accomplished a damn thing. I’m going to spend rest of my life as an office drone. I want to seduce her, so I’d better make up some positive stuff. What is a good thing?
I remember sitting at that crappy presswood and tube steel table in that crappy apartment in Phoenix and writing a letter to Peggy about my Arizona adventures. The next morning, before dropping it in the mail, I reread it and was surprised at how good it was. A magic elf could’ve snuck in overnight and wrote it, but that didn’t happen. I wrote it. I thought it was my imagination but Peggy called the day she got it and said she passed it around the office and it made everyone laugh. She said, “You do know that you’re a writer, don’t you?” I got choked-up but she never knew, thank god. [Caveat: I’m not fishing for compliments or encouragement, all appearances to the contrary. I’m just regurgitating what’s in the binders.]
I accidentally/on purpose came across the studio shot of Karen. I couldn’t stand it anymore so I called the travel agency and they said she left four months ago. It made me wretch. I’ll never find her. To insure that never happens again, I took the photo outside and burned it. It was supposed to be cathartic but my memory didn’t go up in flames, like the metaphor promised it would. I still think about her.
There was an ad in the Village Voice personals by a girl who’s trapped in a corporate environment and looking for a writing partner. You have to call her voicemail and leave a message. I thought I’d fumfer if I spoke off the cuff so I typed-out a response:
The voicemail message (which cost me $2.50 to listen to) said she’s looking for a “very smart, very sexy man who can write who’s not intimidated by a very smart, very sexy woman who can write.” I hung up. I couldn’t do it. She’d see right through me. I think what I’m looking for is a wilted violet.
I forgot to wear a belt to work the other day so I went to H&M at lunch to buy one. Have you ever been to H&M? My first and last visit. Their target audience is 15-year old girls tweaked out on meth. It’s like being in da club at 2:30 a.m. All mirrors and loud, thumping, headache-inducing “music.” I was standing in the checkout queue having a brain aneurysm, looked up and across 42nd St. was a Gap. A nice, quiet, gentle Gap.
The view from my office. The days are getting shorter. Autumn is here.