being watched

The graffiti on the tile wall, at eye level with anyone using the urinal, has been expanded twice in the last week, from a drawing of an eye to a drawing of an eye with two letters added (“eye” C U), to a drawing of an eye with four letters added (“eye” C U P N). Clever. The recessed lights in the club’s bathroom, indirect and overbright, oddly remind me of the lights in the storeroom of the dress shop my mom worked in at the mall. When I was a kid, that’s where I would sit and watch Muppet Babies on Saturday mornings on the tiny black and white TV that usually sat on our kitchen counter.

It seems counterintuitive that anything in this city would remind anyone of a Midwestern mall, circa 1984, but the anti-inertia that lends itself to film crews doing 70’s-era period pieces in my neighborhood must tie the two together: things that don’t change, don’t age, are remembered as we first saw them. And I first saw Brooklyn on TV, the same TV from the storeroom. Is that it? Is that the connection?

No. It isn’t. Because there is no connection. 

I shake my head like a dog out of the bath and tell myself that these connections are all illusory, and moreover, ancillary to the purpose I’m here to serve. But something doesn’t feel right, and the best thing for me to do is to err on the side of caution and get out. That bit of writing seems to have shaken me up. Even for someone conditioned to mistrusting others, this is getting out of hand. I’m finding myself less and less inclined lately go out into that world of watching eyes and wearing wires. They can smell through my clothes to the cargo I carry.

I exit the vestibule and head straight for the subway, cap pulled down like Leo. I try to slow down my racing thoughts on board the Q train, sitting on a fiberglass bench scalloped to accomodate individual asses. The woman sitting next to me must be coming home from the gym. She’s got a cap, too, with brunette pigtails coming out from underneath it. My grandfather used to tell me stories about dipping girls’ pigtails in the inkwell when he was a youngster, and I’d think, what the fuck is an inkwell?

Across are some NYU kids that get off at the last stop in Manhattan, two girls and a guy. The guy has left behind a copy of Tropic of Cancer. Every other sentence is either underlined or highlighted for the first seventeen pages, but beyond that, nothing. A doubled-over Post-it marks page 161.

I settle in at home and turn off my phone when they call looking for me, later than I thought they would. My apartment is next to the garbage chute, and through the kitchen wall I can hear a bag sliding down it, a soft slither from ceiling to floor, preceded by the sickening cold thwack of the chute door slamming shut a floor above.  I undress for bed, but my zipper is sticking again, making it difficult to tug my pants down past my hips. On the other side of my apartment I can hear through the bedroom wall my neighbors having sex. I pull the covers up to my neck and try to imagine it’s the lady with the pigtails from the train.


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December 2008
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