le jeudi soir à la fenêtre

thursday night at the window
(wine + feelings = poetry)

the words i seek to write will not come
for there is other pain, once deeply hidden
but has risen to the surface
it is throwing me off balance
throwing me off schedule
and so i have spent the week making friends with the birds
trying to keep these plants alive
trying to keep calm amidst severe emotional storms
trying to remember the songs i knew years ago

at the moment i sit, staring out at the birds
trying to draw despite a bit too much wine
dipping strawberries in sugar
as the juice drips and mixes with my drawing
“oh, you americans, you always need more sugar,”
you said, laughing, a few days ago
yes, perhaps
but the sweetness lingers at the tip of the tongue
something to still remember when the fruit itself is gone
a way to cling a bit longer to what has been
a way to hold on to now before it all slips away

my mornings with a newly found purpose
small bits of magic, but bits that still hold great power
as the birds eat my offerings and then fly away
i imagine that they take bits of my trauma with them

i can’t help but to mourn the time i have lost
i can’t help but to be anxious at what little time i may have left
i can’t help but to feel desperate in wanting to preserve what is now

and maybe i can’t hold onto this forever
maybe i can’t hold onto you forever
maybe my recent perseverance will all just be in vain
maybe this cycle is part of a bigger story yet unseen
a story that does not end as i hope

and yet, right now, this is exactly what i needed
so i will continue to thank the birds
and try to keep these plants alive
and try to hold out hope for easier days
while never taking these moments for granted

*    *    *    *    *

le jeudi soir à la fenêtre
(le vin + les sentiments = la poésie)

les mots que je cherche à écrire ne viendront pas
car il y a une autre tristesse, une fois profondément cachée
mais a maintenant augmenté à la surface
interrompre mon équilibre
interférant avec mon horaire
et donc j’ai passé la semaine à faire des amis avec les oiseaux
essayant de garder ces plantes en vie
essayer de rester calme au milieu de fortes tempêtes émotionnelles
essayant de me souvenir des chansons que je connaissais il y a des années

en ce moment je suis assis, regardant les oiseaux à l’extérieur
essayant de dessiner malgré un peu trop de vin
trempant de fraises au sucre
mais le jus goutte et se mélange avec mon dessin
“oh, vous américains, vous avez toujours besoin de plus de sucre…”
tu as dit en riant, il y a quelques jours
oui, peut-être
mais la douceur persiste à la pointe de la langue
quelque chose à retenir quand le fruit lui-même est parti
un moyen de s’accrocher un peu plus longtemps à ce qui a été
un façon de conserver la mémoire avant qu’elle ne glisse

mes matins, à la fenêtre, avec un but nouvellement trouvé
petits morceaux de magie, mais des morceaux qui conservent encore un grand pouvoir
comme les oiseaux mangent mes offres et puis s’envolent
j’imagine qu’ils prennent des morceaux de mon traumatisme avec eux

je ne peux pas m’empêcher de pleurer les années que j’ai perdu
je ne peux pas m’empêcher d’être inquiet du peu de temps que j’ai laissé
je ne peux pas m’empêcher de me sentir désespéré de vouloir conserver ce qui est maintenant

et peut-être que je ne peux pas tenir cela pour toujours
peut-être que je ne peux pas te tenir pour toujours
peut-être ma persévérance récente sera tout simplement en vain
peut-être une partie d’une histoire plus importante encore découverte
une histoire qui ne se termine pas comme j’espère

et pourtant, en ce moment, c’est exactement ce dont j’avais besoin
alors je vais continuer à remercier les oiseaux
et essayez de garder ces plantes en vie
et essayez d’attendre des jours plus faciles
tout en ne prenant jamais ces moments pour acquis

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“This Never Happened…”

Backstory: This took place in the summer of 2003. I wrote down the events as they happened the very next day, but told myself at the time that I wouldn’t do anything with it until the statute of limitations expired. I then forgot about it for many years, until a few summers ago when a similar situation triggered my memory.

When I sat down last year to write this piece for The Wild Hunt, I kept coming back to this old story as it had been constantly on my mind throughout the past several months. I had thought many times about the difference in reactions between that incident and the one I wrote about for TWH, and how those reactions were/are influenced by both cultural attitudes and class. I didn’t mention this incident in my TWH piece at all, but it sat with me as a ‘story within a story’, so I dug out my 12-year old draft and edited it to my satisfaction.

This was originally posted on my Patreon account as a patrons-only post, but I have since re-edited it once more for this blog. Enjoy.  🙂

 *   *   *   *   *

It was hot, real hot. The kind of hot that in New York City would constantly come with a well-meaning warnings…”

“You know, the murder rate spikes when it hits between 92 and 95 degrees…they say that one’s impulse control diminishes once the temperature gets up this high…”

Which was true, no doubt, but the frequency with which many would restate this fact always struck me as more of a reminder to themselves to keep their own violent tendencies in check than it was actually meant as a warning to others

In Park Slope, August stuck out as the only month that one could find a space to park in the neighborhood. Anyone who had the time, money, and transportation would get the hell out of New York City for the month, headed for either the Poconos or the Hamptons, and those who could not get away were left to cope with the maddening heat the best they could. Open fire hydrants for the poor and air conditioners for the wealthier folks helped to a certain extent, but the underlying tensions and tempers lingered no matter how often one would wet their hair down with cold water.

It was an unusually hot night on an unusually quiet block near Prospect Park when a car alarm started to go off nonstop late one evening. It was a work night, and the piercing wail of the alarm carried for blocks like a clarion call through the neighborhood, quickly igniting tempers all around. Neither air conditioning nor closing the windows adequately drowned out the sound, and the entire neighborhood was suddenly unable to sleep.

I hadn’t been trying to sleep myself, but the sound was more than a little disruptive, and after a half-hour or so I decided to go out and investigate. When I rounded the corner towards the source of the racket, there was already a small crowd gathered around the car. It was a red, scuffed-up, early-nineties sedan with New York plates, a car that admittedly looked out of place in a high-end neighborhood such as this one.

“Does anyone know whose car this is?” one man yelled out to nobody in particular. The crowd shrugged and nodded their heads no.

“It doesn’t look like that car is from this neighborhood,” someone yelled back, and the crowd murmured in agreement. I winced at the classism but at the same time knew that they were probably correct.

Minutes passed, and as the crowd of angry neighbors grew, the collective anger grew as well. A few folks started to pace around the car as the unbearable wailing continued.

“Should we call the police?” someone asked.

“What the hell are they going to do about it?” an older man replied

“They can write a ticket for noise violations”, one woman suggested.

“And that helps us how? If they can’t make it quiet, they’re useless as far as I’m concerned,” said the older man.

Someone else spoke up from a distance. “Disabling the battery should do it,” he said. “See if you can’t open the hood.”

One man looked around, seeking visual permission from the crowd. It was granted, and he along with another man tried to wedge the hood open, but it was securely in place and would not budge. One man made an exaggerated motion of kicking the hood, but stopped a few inches short of making contact.

The crowd continued to grow and tempers continued to flare as the night went on. By midnight, there were a few dozen people surrounding the car. Frustration, tiredness, and the sticky heat only made matters worse.

“Won’t the battery die eventually?” someone asked. Everyone grumbled under their breath. It was clear that the crowd was in no mood to wait it out.

I looked around at my neighbors, who I knew to be teachers, doctors, lawyers, architects, and gulped as I realized that their status as upper-class, supposedly respectable members of society meant nothing in terms of what I had a feeling was about to happen next.

And then suddenly, one man whacked the hood of the car with the palm of his hand in an effort to silence the alarm. “Just fucking be quiet already,” he yelled, as he whacked the car again. He soon traded his hands for his feet, and started to stomp the hood and the front bumper of the car. A second man joined him, furiously kicking the passenger side door.

“Wait, stop,” one woman protested, trying desperately to fight the tide of an unspoken collective decision that was about to be acted upon. Her words were not only ignored, they seemed to even further ignite the simmering rage.

Suddenly, nearly everyone standing around the car started to join in, kicking and hitting the vehicle from all sides. One man grabbed a tree branch off the ground and wielded it like a bat, aiming it at the hood of the car. Feet and fists alike flew towards the red sedan, the car swaying and shaking as the impacts and accompanying dents increased with every second.

The man with the branch then took a running start, and jumped and threw his entire weight into the swing of his branch as he came down directly into the center of the hood of the car. The alarm stopped, and the crowd instantly broke out into cheers and applause.

After a few seconds, the applause stopped, and the cheerful mood quickly morphed into fear and concern. The sedan was visibly and significantly damaged. The two men who initiated the fracas looked around at everyone else, and in that silence an implicit agreement was made, consented upon through eye contact.  None of us were here, nobody saw any of this, and now we will all go home and finally get to sleep.

“This never happened…” one man said softly, his voice trailing off in uncertainty.

The crowd quickly and quietly dispersed, everyone went back into their homes and apartments, and the block was silent once more. I stood there for a moment, staring at a sedan that looked like it had just been through a rock avalanche, processing what I had just witnessed.

On the way back to my apartment, I took a detour one block over to where my own car was parked. I popped the hood open, studied the fuse box for a moment, and then disabled the car alarm. Just in case.