Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Blue Door...continued (part 3)

If it hadn't been for the slightest of wind Richard would not have noticed the mist of rain now falling. His head was bent, his eyes following the ground in front of him, his mind someplace else entirely.

"Hey mister, you got a quarter?" The boy asked. He couldn't have been more than eleven, walking across the street with a crew of children a head taller and most likely a year or two older.

"Huh?" Richard looked up confused, his eyes refocused when he turned his head to follow the blur from which the voice came.

"You got a quarter?" The boy asked again.

"No. Do you?" Richard responded. A smile, his first that day, stretched out his jaw like a comforting yawn. He inhaled deeply, finally noticing the dots of precipitation on his glasses.

The boy smiled back, sheepishly, but kept walking. There was no use in pursuit.

Richard watched as the boy quickened his pace, catching up with the group heading into the park.

"Hello, Mr. Lemon." Ms. Grace said smiling. Her eyes remained on Richard while she brought what appeared to be a cup of tea up to her mouth.

"Ms. Grace...It's starting to rain." Richard held his hand up and looked skyward.

"Little rain never melted anyone." The old woman said and took another sip. She looked up from her mug and smiled.
"You in for the evening...I saw your wife this morning. Right after you left, she had Rebel out for a walk. Didn't get a chance to say hello...I guess the poor dog was in a rush." She said.

"Yes, in for the evening...the weekend...I'm sorry about Marta, she's had a lot on her mind lately. Trying to finish up a paper..." Richard trailed off.

Ms. Grace smiled. "I was just happy to see her outside getting some fresh air. The dog was sure happy."

"Good, that's good." Richard responded. His smile seemed a bit cracked now. Ms. Grace had seen this look before. She new his mind was in limbo. He hesitated with her and with the idea of going inside his own house.

Like a clap of thunder, far off in the distance, Rebel's bark ached to penetrate the blue door.

"Well, someones happy you're home." Ms. Grace winked and smiled.

Richard hung his head down for a second, letting out a deep sigh. "You know...that door is five feet away, but it feels farther. I don't's hard to explain"

"No need for explaining. Now get inside before it really starts to pour." With one final pull from her mug of tea, Ms. Grace rose and spun around to go inside.

Richard pulled the house keys from his pocket and unlocked the blue door.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Blue Door...continued (part 2)

Marta is relieved when she sees Ms. Grace gone from her stoop. She hurries, though Rebel is not quite finished getting his daily news, sniffing and marking anything that he can stretch his hind leg to.

A busy morning, the street is filtering one car after another through the green light, leaving Marta to grow ever more anxious to cross, until she spots Ms. Grace in a third floor window. A watering can in hand, she’s feeding the Christmas cactus that sits off center in her watching window.


“These are buy one get one free.” The cashier says smiling, pointing at the listing for boxed oatmeal on the receipt.

“Oh…really? That’s okay, I just need the one.” Marta responds nervously.

“You sure? You don’t have someone you can give the extra box to? Maybe the old person who watches out their window, keeping an eye on things in your neighborhood. We all have someone like that.” She says.

“Thank you, but I don’t want to hold up the line.” Marta says, looking back and smiling at the people who are growing more agitated by the minute.

“Well, if you change your mind, you have until the end of the sale. Just take your receipt to the customers service…” Marta snatches the receipt from the cashier, nods her head in understanding and walks out of the store. She has no intention of going back in to redeem her extra box of oatmeal. She crumples the receipt and tosses it into a trash can.


The cars have slowed. The light is red once again. Marta looks up one final time to the third floor window. Now empty.

“Come, Rebel.” Marta pats her leg twice, a signal for the dog to cross.

Rebel sits at the bottom of the stoop, the leash slack as Marta unlocks the blue door.

“Come on girl.” Rebel takes his command slowly.

Finally inside, the leash is unhooked. The dog heads for his water bowl. She takes a few laps before finding her spot on the rug under Marta’s desk. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Blue Door

Marta is drinking her first cup of coffee of the day. Her husband is preparing to leave for work. He will trudge up hill the 1.7 miles to work wearing his Eddie Bauer earth tones and sensible Bass walking shoes. His name is Richard. Not much is said as he pours the remainder of his coffee into the sink, petting the dog’s head once before throwing his brown leather satchel over his right shoulder.

“It’s supposed to rain.” She says.

“Maybe I should take the car, but it doesn’t look like rain.” He responds dully.

“Whatever you want.” She says without looking up or seeming to care.

“I’ll see you later.” He says, waiting for a response.

The blue door shuts behind Richard. Marta looks up to say goodbye, but she is too late.

Marta stares at the blue door. Sitting in front of her laptop doing research for a paper, she has barely touched the now cold toast with butter, cinnamon and sugar. Her second cup of coffee, sits hot, far too close to the edge of the desk. Her lips, thin, drawn and in a perpetual frown. Her cheeks, deflated, almost sallow. Her eyes, bloodshot.

The dog pushes its cold wet nose against Marta’s dangling hand. When she doesn’t respond, it walks to the blue door and stares back at her. She lets out a small yelp, sniffing and scratching, trying to get her attention.

Marta wakes from her concentration. She has no desire to walk the dog, but the fresh air will do her good.

Seeing Marta rise, the dog now sits quietly wagging her tail. Her eyes follow Marta around, watching as she puts on shoes, scarf, coat, and hat.

One more gulp of coffee before hooking the leash up to the dog’s collar.

Marta opens the blue door. The dog springs out.

“Rebel!” Marta yells.

The dog freezes in place, slightly dancing as Marta locks the blue door.

The next door neighbor, Ms. Grace is sitting quietly in front of her own door. A pack of reds with a  beat up orange lighter sit beside her. Her salt and pepper hair, straight as straw and cut short, splays out from under a very old knit hat. She’s wearing her dead husbands black and white flannel coat, the one with the paint stains. It still smells of his favorite cigars. The grocery list she gave him, the day of his stroke, still sits folded in the left pocket.

The old woman looks at Marta and smiles, but Marta’s turns her back quickly, pretending not to notice.

“Come on, Reb.” She says, standing at the curb looking both ways, waiting for the traffic to part.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rabbit Fur Coat

The time for the market could be afforded. I slipped out at half past lunch into the frigid January air. Under cover of building overhang and parking garage, a wonder of what the sun might feel like flushed my cheeks. The sting of 35 degrees stung thighs enrobed in brown corduroy.

The market wasn’t mobbed, but a bit flustered with shoppers and those who garner mid-day meals from salad bars.

A small sack of oranges, strawberry jam, dark chocolate, bread, capers, some smoked salmon.

The reusable sack was placed on the belt before anything else. 15 items or less. It moved with purpose, quietly.

The cashier girl wasn’t familiar. Her golden locks, that of the boxed variety, hinging on mullet status, was bundled in the store’s uniform and what appeared to be her own red sweatshirt. She wore Jordache jeans. Her glasses looked a bit euro, in that mod/young/hip sort of way, at least for this particular market in this part of town.

The surrounding neighborhoods are peppered with Russians. The females, especially easy to spot. They dress as if ready to hit the clubs at any given moment.

 “How are you?” She asked, pulling the first items barcode over the scanner. I detected the accent I was expecting, but she spoke English well.

“Good, thanks.” I responded brightly.

Each item was held delicately while being placed in front of the scanner. Then each item was delicately placed in the reusable bag.

The final item was placed into the bag when I noticed it, the fur coat. It was not unexpected, but a happy surprise that reminded me of Rabbit Fur Coat, sung by Jenny Lewis.

“$30.14.” She said.

I handed her $31.00. While she banged open change into their compartments I allowed my mind to wonder for a bit. I retreated to the moment I first heard Rabbit Fur Coat. I started to warm up to the fuzzy quiet of that memory.

“Thank you and have a nice day.” She said while handing me receipt and change.

“Thanks, you too.” I said.

I felt a final flush of heat from an overhead heater before walking out to my car.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

From My Window

The Toyota looked brown under the glare. Early morning sun trickled down the alley street between the Hungarian Catholic church and the row homes on North Belnord across from Patterson Park. People were waking, starting coffee, rubbing the sleep from their eyes. Frying eggs in pajama bottoms. Inhaling fresh ink and newsprint.

“Put your pants on!” yelled the young black woman to the middle-aged white man.

He was begging, pleading for her to come back to the car.

“Put your god damned pants on!” She yelled again.

“Come back to the car.” He pleaded.

The young woman walked back to the car, careful to avoid his grip. They were both under some sort of intoxicated spell.

The man struggled to pull up his pants with one hand as he tried to hold the young woman's arm.

“I want my money! Give me my money!” She yelled.

“I don’t have it with me. Get in the car and we’ll go get it.” He said.

“I’m not going anywhere with you!” She yelled.

The man was still struggling with his pants.

“Put your god damned pants on!” She yelled once again.

Both doors of the car were ajar. The man finally had his pants up. The woman pulling from his grasp, ran down North Belnord.

It looked as if he wanted to follow, but his state did not allow. Nor did his bare feet, which had gone unnoticed up until now.

The man stumbled back to the car and sat in the drivers seat. Fumbling under the seat for some time before he pulled out a glass bottle filled with brown liquor. He crouched and took a sip, screwed the lid back on and replaced the bottle beneath the seat.

The passenger door still ajar.

The woman appeared once more. The man pulled himself from the drivers seat and tried to grab her arm. Successful, he forced her back into the car and slammed the door.

“I don’t have the money here. We’ll have to go get it.” He said.

They drove off.

I stood staring out the window. A feeling of disbelief. Another car turned the corner and drove  past. The fog was lifted.

Monday, January 11, 2010


His anxiety was picking up speed, whirling around in his head. The traffic lights, pedestrians, steady drivers looking on, avoiding, ignoring.

What was that thing in the middle of the intersection? “What the hell is that!” I recall saying to myself as I turned down the radio and observed.

My eyes intent on dissecting this thing. It was black with an appendage poofing in the cool, exhausted city air. The moon, full and high, bright against it’s midnight blue canvas. Stars percolating amidst the late autumn smog.

I scanned. Traffic light, cars…a black man, homeless, mentally ill, hesitant. A look of worry shrouding him. Wrapped up in some sort of emotional cyclone. This thing was his charge. Like a frightened animal, his steps reflecting the feeling of loss. He moved ever so slowly towards this thing.

I was mesmerized. I was worried. I was caught up in this steady moment. The traffic light seemed to be distracted as well. It was still red and the activity in the middle of it all was standing still. No car moved. Each person viewing this humble circumstance hovered on the brink of this distraction. Rooting for the man. We were all holding our breath.

The man, now rushed the thing, taking the poofed appendage by the hand. We could all make it out more clearly. It was a jacket. A poofy black jacket. His winter coat, one would suspect. He held the imaginary hand and walked it to the other side of the street, dragging the torso along the asphalt.

I turned up my radio. A mix of emotions. Giddy with laughter and agitated by the poetry lost when the hand stopped flashing and the light turned green.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Morning Glory

The sun outside was as bright as the quiet inside. Floors above the street below, the Chelsea Savoy in late Spring.

My accomplice in long weekend was waking as I stood staring, mesmerized by her. A black woman in her mid-forties almost dancing, shoulders back, chin-up, proud, on the bubble-gum dappled sidewalk below. She seemed to be in no real hurry, but she looked as if she was going someplace specific.

She wore a long white t-shirt, over sized with a v-neck. It was stained. She wore clear jelly shoes. Her hair, not very long, but tied back with skews of fringe panicking about atop her head.

She disappeared after a while, but I held my gaze on the farthest of spots until someone coming from the opposite direction, a man with a full suit, briefcase and hat strode by on his way to the subway. He rounded the entrance and skipped down the stairs.

There were trees on rooftops and birds. The sky was sheer blue, not a hint of clouds. The sun reflected and angled its way back down to the street.

My eyes hungry, I saw the woman reappear. In her hand an orange creamsicle, half eaten. Her gaze and intentions loomed over this icy prize. There was nothing and no one else, not the strangers on the street or the voices in her head to distract her.

Again, I watched until I could no longer see.