Gray

March 28, 2002

Gray

There’s a form of colorblindness that reduces the world to shades of gray. What must this be like?

I think if one previously saw colors, it’s crushingly sad, but then in time one adjusts, by which I mean forgets. The healing power of forgetting.

Then there are those born in a gray world. This seems far worse: to know there is something everywhere, always, you cannot see and never will. I doubt this could ever be forgotten.

March 26, 2002

Sign

duck sign

It was Rachel’s idea to steal the duck sign. Had we succeeded, I wouldn’t be telling you this story. This raises the question of what I’m not telling you. I’m not telling you a lot.

The sign is on Broadkill Road, a few miles from Rachel’s mother’s beach house. Rachel noticed it on her way back from the supermarket and immediately got out to check the bolts. The bolts seemed easy enough to unscrew, although reaching the top bolt would require some kind of stool.

Back at the beach house Rachel reported her findings and asked for my help. I agreed to do so only so long as we didn’t get caught. My philosophy is, I’ll steal duck signs with my girlfriend but I won’t get caught.

After much discussion (sign stealing is not a felony, we reasoned), more investigation was deemed necessary, so we drove to the sign, bringing two large wrenches and a foot stool. If things went well we would steal the sign in the middle of the night, when few people used that road.

Things did not go well. There was no shoulder on the sign side of the road, which meant that we couldn’t park the car in a way that would block view of what we were doing. Worse, the top bolt was higher than Rachel had estimated: a good four feet above my reach. We would need a small ladder to do the job, and unfortunately there was no such ladder back at the beach house. We considered using the car as a ladder, with me standing on the roof, but that seemed crazy. What if a car appeared in the distance? At best I would have just enough time to jump from the roof, or perhaps lay flat across it, but there wouldn’t be enough time to move the car, which would be parked against the sign, sticking out halfway into the road.

I turned to Rachel and said, “I’m not sure we can do this,” by which I meant, “No fucking way am I doing this,” and then we returned to the beach house.

The next day, heading back to Brooklyn, we stopped and took photos. It was sad. Rachel really wanted that sign and I wanted to get it for her.

About the only good thing about this is that I can tell you about it.

March 22, 2002

Anniversary

At their one-year anniversary party, Paul and Julie played a video made on the day of their wedding. People crowded in front of the television to watch themselves, one year earlier, wish Paul and Julie a happy marriage. When Annie appeared on screen, the tape was paused so that Julie could run to the kitchen to get Annie, who evidently did something funny at this point.

Nobody said anything while Julie was gone – it was as though pausing the video also paused the party.

Then Julie returned with Annie and the video was started again. On the screen Annie took a long drag of an imaginary cigarette and said, “We’ve come a long way, baby, but we don’t know where the fuck we’re going.” This got a big laugh, although I sensed that most people had already heard it, either because they were there when Annie said it, or, more likely, because they had seen the video before.

I realized then that this wasn’t just the anniversary of Paul and Julie’s wedding but of their wedding video, and it struck me that someone should be making a video of this event as well, to be played at next year’s anniversary party, and so on.

March 18, 2002

Nothing But Dots

It wasn’t until ninth grade, in Driver’s Ed., that I discovered I’m colorblind. You were given a set of cards with colored dots, and you were supposed to see numbers on the cards, ghosted between the dots. In most cases all I saw were dots.

At first I didn’t understand what this meant. I turned to the kid next to me and said, “There’s nothing on this one, right?”

“What do you mean, that’s an eight,” he said, tracing the number with his finger.

Even as he traced it, I saw nothing but dots.

first colorblindness text image

The number 12

second colorblindness text image

Nothing but dots

third colorblindness text image

Nothing but dots

fourth colorblindness text image

Nothing but dots

fifth colorblindness text image

Nothing but dots

six colorblindness text image

Nothing but dots

seventh colorblindness text image

Nothing but dots

eight colorblindness text image

Nothing but dots

Six colorblindness text image

Nothing but dots

It felt like that dream where your teeth fall out. Holding your teeth in your hand, you know that your life will never be the same, because you no longer have any teeth. Except this was different because I never really had the thing I lost; I only thought I had it. Probably a lot of losses are like that.

March 7, 2002

New York, New York

I’m on the uptown 6 train. We stop at Union Square. People get on. There’s an open seat to my right. A woman passes in front of me and is about to sit down when a dorky-looking guy with huge square glasses appears from the other direction and throws his ass into the seat, bumping her aside. Once he’s in, he says, “Ha ha, you lose.”

I get off the train at 23rd. As I’m crossing 22nd, two men stride across Park Avenue, oblivious to traffic. Well, one is oblivious and the other is nervously following his friend. Both men look beat up and possibly drugged. Cars swerve around them, horns blasting. I stop at the corner to see if they survive.

They survive.

Production

I had brunch with some friends this past Sunday. I don’t understand brunch. Why do we need a special hybrid weekend-only meal? With tax and tip I paid $16. During the week the same meal costs $7. One of my friends said something interesting. He said that in a perfect world he would watch two movies every day and get high. I suppose I can relate to that, although I rarely watch movies or get high. But I like the idea (from a distance!) of having pleasurable experiences all day and not producing anything.

The restaurant was called Dizzy’s. Despite ominous clouds overhead, we ate at a table outside. I half-wanted it to start pouring, just to see what would happen. The restaurant was packed, with more people waiting for tables, so it wasn’t as though they had room for us inside. I figured that if it started raining, we would be forced to stand in the aisles, plates in hands, or maybe crouch in the hall that leads to the bathroom. That would have an EXPERIENCE. Alas, a few drops fell on my bagel, but nothing major.

My friend confessed that most days he watches two movies and gets high.

March 5, 2002

Lie

When I was kid, just six or seven, I used to work in my father’s pharmacy on Sunday afternoons. This arrangement only lasted a short time because my father’s pharmacy failed. Later he bought another pharmacy, and that one failed too. I believe he owned four pharmacies in all, each of which failed.

One of my jobs at my father’s pharmacy was to dust the empty prescription bottles. My father had hundreds and hundreds of such bottles, in various sizes and shapes, arranged in rows under the counter where he prepared prescriptions.

Another one of my jobs was counting pills for prescriptions. It was illegal for me to do this – you have to be a pharmacist to count pills – so I could only do it when my father and I were alone. Looking back, I see it as the pharmacy equivalent of sitting in my father’s lap and steering his car as he drove.

Pill counting required a special plastic pill-counting tray. The tray was blue and had an alley on one side into which you slid the counted pills. Since you couldn’t touch pills with your fingers, you glided them into the alley with an implement much like a butter knife. The alley had a clear plastic flap that closed over it. After counting the pills, you shut the flap and poured the pills into the appropriate bottle or vial. My father let me do the pouring, but I wasn’t allowed to type the label. That’s where he drew the line. You have to be a pharmacist to type a label.

My father’s pharmacy had a back room where he liked to sleep in the afternoon. Another one of my jobs was to wake him every half-hour and have him tell me to wake him in another half-hour. With the exception of these periodic attempts to wake my father, I wasn’t permitted in the back room.

But then one day while dusting empty prescription bottles, I said something to my father that compelled him to take me to the back room and shut the door behind us. I don’t remember what I said, but it must have been pretty interesting, because as soon as we got to the back room, he sat me on the cot and told me the craziest thing. He said that sometimes he and my mother want to be close, as close as they can be, so what happens is that he puts his penis inside her vagina, and then some stuff that isn’t pee comes out of his penis and goes into my mother, and somehow this stuff finds an egg and makes it into a baby.

My father asked me if I understood, and I said that I did, and then we went back to what we were doing before my father decided to tell me all this.

Naturally I knew my father was lying. I may have been only six or seven, but I wasn’t so easily fooled. The question, though, was why my father had lied to me. Or more to the point, what his lie was meant to conceal.

March 4, 2002

Approach

Since she was an artist, I figured she would appreciate an unorthodox approach. Plus I couldn’t bear the thought of calling and asking chitchatty questions. Better to skip all that. Better to show I’m the kind of person who isn’t ruled by convention; someone who embraces irony but is not paralyzed by it; an artist, like her, though nothing like her. Also I was concerned that if I wasn’t working from a script, I would screw it up.

So I called her and said simply, “Hi, Kathy, this is Michael, would you go out with me?” Except I didn’t pause much between words, so it sounded more like, “Hi Kathy this is Michaelwouldyougooutwithme?”

She laughed and said yes.

“Wow, that’s great,” I said, “really?”

“Sure, why not?”

After that I was forced to improvise.

March 1, 2002

Missing

I was in a laundromat in the west 50s, in what was then called Hell’s Kitchen. I was nineteen. A young woman, a Krishna, struck up a conversation by the dryers. I have only a vague recollection of her: dark hair, dark skin, a bit plump. She came on to me, there’s no other way to say it. Her method was compelling: she spoke as though everything had already been settled and so we simply needed to work the details of where and when. I asked for clarification of the rules about pre-marital sex for Krishnas. She said that it was strictly forbidden, a big no-no, but the way she said it, it was as though she were speaking from some point in the future, after we’d slept together, and was saying, “Oh, I’ve been such a bad girl.”

The weird thing is, I don’t remember if I slept with her or not. I don’t think I did – that is, if I did, I assume I would remember – but it’s also possible I’ve forgotten.

Another possibility is that I dreamt this.

A third possibility is that I killed her.

I realize that’s a horrifying thought, but sometimes when I think about her, I see this cabin in the woods and I think that if I did kill her, I probably did it in the cabin.

Whenever I think this, I try to remember what happened after the scene at the dryers. Did we go back to my apartment? To hers? Did one of us suggest a trip to the woods?

I look and look, but there’s nothing there.

In more reasoned moments, I compare this to crossing a bridge and wanting to jump. One doesn’t really want to jump; it’s just a morbid fascination with what one could possibly do, in the extreme. In the case of the Krishna woman, the fascination is not with what I could possibly do, but what I could have possibly have done.

On the other hand it’s not a reach to think I slept with her. I’ve done that once or twice. It’s more likely, though, that I made her up. That I do all the time.