Siren Song

The Aged General heard it first.  When he was a boy, there had been stories told of such a thing, the kind of stories one whispers in the dark. Never in his long and illustrious career had he ever experienced one, but he was smart and quick  to understand. From the first note, he knew what was happening, and he jumped up to shout a warning and cover his ears. But his hands moved slowly, as if they were under water, and his voice lodged in his throat and came out as more of a strangled cry.  “It’s a si-“   was all he was able to manage – before the sound overwhelmed him.   Afterwards, no one was able to describe the exact melody.  A female voice, mournful, all could agree on that, a single voice sounding like multitudes of simultaneous voices.  The melody was unlike anything they had ever heard, with overlapping harmonic tones. The key was minor.  No, not minor, said the music theory experts, some sort of a variation on the Aeolian mode - no the Phrygian mode -  no, no

february 2019

“I have died many times,” Lanie said to me, listing offhand just a few of the experienced that changed her.   These were “before and after” moments, moments after which she grieved for the person she thought she would be, for the life she thought she would have, for the person she once was.   She had to “die” and then emerge as someone else. “That’s part of growing older,” she said to me.  Looking at Lanie, at this person whom I admire and respect so much, but whom I met only after the events that currently shaped her and brought her to my life, it was comforting somehow in my grief. So many different layers of grief.   It was difficult to see where one ended and the next began.   How to peel it apart to determine the provenance of this darkness versus that one.     We’ve had a rough time of it lately, I would say, thinking first of my friend whose simplicity of life choices I had found myself relying upon as a kind of barometer, until that simplicity blew up in her face and t

a saturday night

On my way to the city from Brooklyn on a Saturday night.   The energy is mild, but 8:30 is still early by New York standards and it’s summer. I walk past the girls on the platform in their short skirts and thick eyeliner;   their hair is beginning-of-the-night perfect.   They wait for the train, shifting their weight from foot to foot, radiating hope and desire. Maybe tonight will be the night. Maybe something will happen. Or at least, it will be fun. Their laughter is loud, nervous. Then I’m up the stairs and on to the sidewalk, back in the familiar buzz of the street.   The mom getting ice cream for her daughter, the couple walking from the restaurant to the bar. The night hasn’t really started yet.   Nearby, a driver in a car and a driver in cab play a game, mimicking each other as they tap lightly on their horns while waiting for the light to change. The driver of the car is in his 60s, but the delight on his face makes it clear what he looked like as a young boy.   Toot-toot!

grows in Brooklyn

“We got a tree!” Michael said when he first saw it, sticking his head way out the window of our living room to view the scraggly, adolescent thing below, just ten feet tall, it’s branches too thin, baking in the summer sun.   It didn’t look like the sort of tree that could necessarily survive the summer. When a new tree is planted in this city, it is beloved by the whole neighborhood. Trees are not taken for granted here, but are welcomed and tagged.    They are the subject of  sidewalk conversations with the neighbors and much inspection. And on one misty and drizzly day, when the world had that brown and blue hue particular to mid-summer,   we took it upon ourselves to put up a dog fence around our tree and plant some flowers under it.   That day, our neighborhood played a scene that could have been on Sesame Street. Next-door-Sue’s eyes got dewy when she saw us working in the rain, and she went upstairs and brought down some fertilizer from her apartment. Upstairs Tom sai

a different kind of loss

“They are parakeets,” the guard said. “Up in the tower? Yeah, those are parakeets.”             “Oh really?   I always thought it was parrots that lived in this cemetery.”             “You can tell the difference by the way their tail feathers are shaped.   If they’re pointed at the end, it’s a parakeet.   If the feathers are spread out like a fan, then it’s a parrot.   I should know.   My lady was a parakeet.”               “Yeah?” Zosia inched toward the exit.   The sun beat down on us  - exuberant, late-spring heat offering to furnish the sweltering summer to come.   Greenwood Cemetery was green and pink, abloom with flowers, heavy with bees and humidity.   It was hard to believe that just five weeks ago, Michael and I had trekked through this place in the monochrome of snow, clouds, and granite. I shaded my face with my hand.             “She’s buried over there.” The guard gestured over to a modestly sized catacomb near his booth.   Topped with a green copper roof and

autumn in the city

           Our weekend commenced with bold intentions that fizzled with the rain and the cold.   Instead we found ourselves doing domestic things; setting up the new internet, cleaning the kitchen. Then drinking coffee at the French restaurant across the street and looking up autumnal activities on our phones.               “We could go to the ocean park by the Rockaways,” I suggested.   “There will be sand dunes. We can walk in the rain and enjoy the melancholy.”             “Hmm.”   Michael contemplated this.   " I like the idea of going to a sad ocean park, but I don't know what we'd do there together. I won't be able to have my melancholy thoughts.”             “That’s not true!”              Michael looked at me.   “You do little dances and stuff."

Kid Stuff

I suppose I should preface all this to say I am not Another Girl in Greenpoint anymore.   I have become Another Girl Priced Out of Greenpoint , and have flown nine miles south, to a little birdhouse with Michael.   Moving in with someone is a very adult thing to do.  It’s a time for plans. And cutlery. Discussions about duvet covers, and the arrangement of books on bookcases.         I’m not sure how it started.   Maybe it started with the prevalence of sidewalk chalk in our neighborhood, used not to ironically point out some over-priced artisanal sale, but to naturally draw out a map to the buried treasure, under the outlines of a hopscotch court, right next to a giant star and a hippo-person.   This was chalk that we tread on every day through the spring and summer.      Or maybe the mosquitoes started it?   One night in early spring, the mosquitoes found the holes in our screens, buzzing and biting us awake   all night.   I sighed, ready to suffer through another summe