Lemon Tree Love

His eyes focused, for a moment, on the contrast of her otherwise pale skin with the flush of her cheeks as she walked towards the spot where he was leaning on a fire hydrant.

“Hello, handsome,” she said.

“Hello, gorgeous,” he said as he extended his hand, palm up, and revealed a bright yellow lemon. “I snuck this from the corner tree for you.” She looked over her shoulder, checking to see if the lonesome housewife that planted the tree last spring had seen, or was seeing, their exchange, and then she took the lemon from him and clutched it in her small hand. It was firm and cooler than the muggy Foggy Bottom air that choked the city this time of year.

“Thank you,” she said. Then she kissed him, and kept kissing him until it felt, again, like the lonely housewife was watching. There was more love in her lips than he could hold in his heart. He broke away and smiled at her – at the old row houses – at the poorly parked cars and the cracked cement sidewalks.

Written from 1:10 pm to 1:32 pm on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 in my office in Traverse City, Michigan.

The Fine Horizon Underfoot

“Look,” he said as he pointed at the distant lake shore where the early-morning mist lingered, depressing the plump tangerine lines of sunlight on the placid surface water. She turned and looked as they walked through the dew-covered bluegrass. “Indistinguishable,” she said. “Which would you choose?” He stopped them from going further and placed his arm on her shoulder so that his finger tips could caress her collarbone. And he pulled her slight frame closer to his, and leaned his head against hers. “I will always choose you, and then, while both will remain indistinguishable, it will not be from one another, but from life without you.” His eyes welled with tears because his eyes often welled with tears when he let his mind wander to the future – to what he would or would not receive from her – to dreams of dreams coming true – to the moments he’d never choose to miss, but sometimes would because that’s what happens when life is folded in two or multiplied by half. “We are, and forever will be, standing on a fine horizon underfoot.”

Written from 7:30 pm to 8:00 pm on Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 in my office in Traverse City, Michigan.

Applebottom, Alberta

The average annual snowfall for a small village just north of a long forgotten two-track in western Canada is just over 346 inches. This past summer, the road crew for the village went to the trouble of installing fans 20 feet in diameter along its three-block long main street. The intended effect of the fans was to blow the snow up and away from the village’s main city blocks and onto the rooftops and back alleys. That way, for the six-month-long winter, the residents of the village could walk or snowmobile their way to and from the local market, pharmacy or saloon. However, the fans quickly became overwhelmed by the snow, created two heaping mounds of snow – one covering each of the two rows of buildings – and froze in place. The result, as was discovered by the local stunt helicopter pilot on his bi-weekly trip south for emergency medical provisions for the village’s residents, was the transformation of its main street into a gluteal-like cleft between two enormous pale cheek-like heaps of snow. The pilot snapped a blurry photograph with his iPhone and sent it to his ex-girlfriend Lola, the head anchor for the not-so-local TV 17 & 4 studio. The village main street was featured on that evening’s news and shared throughout Canada for the rest of the week. What many Canadians had long believed to be a fleck of pepper from the national cartographer’s pastrami sandwich was now dubbed “Applebottom, Alberta.”

Written from 11:23 pm to 11:43 pm on Thursday, September 15, 2011 at home in Traverse City, Michigan.

The Mighty Shake

When he stands, it is as a mighty lion stands – a deliberate struggle of a beast battered by carnivorous dreams. Restless and cold, he shifts through the monochrome darkness of night. With each step his paw lands with the thrust of an uncalibrated pile driver trying to beat down the house in which he lives. His good master does not wake; not so for the neighbor girl tumbling beyond the pale green drywall.

He reaches his mirage and begins his inarticulate laps from the cool stainless steel bowl. Water splashes on the wall and the floor and his crusty black nose. When the struggle is over, strands of sinewy slobber drape his mug. The “mighty shake” is coming. The walls recoil in terror. The picture frames fall flat. The clean – the spotless – the untouched – they all post their guard – ready and waiting. His great brute box head turns violently and sets in motion a furious chain reaction of jowl to drool to mid-air acrobats of gelatin-like mouth droppings seeking out the clean – the spotless – the untouched.

Written from 11:05 pm to 11:25 pm on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at home in Traverse City, Michigan.

CNN International

Watching the international CNN station anchored by a woman with a vague British accent at 1am when I should be sleeping, but can’t because the temperature in the room I’m subletting is swealtering and the Chicago humidity hasn’t been rained out yet by the thunderstorms rolling through daily, is comforting. Comforting like being in your bed at home. Comforting like walking into an air conditioned room on a hot day. Comforting like kissing someone you’ve kissed ten thousand times.

The woman’s accent, the cricket highlights and the semi-canned clips that remind me of a windowless hotel room in Shanghai combine to remind me that some intangible force that is exponentially larger than anything I could ever dream of comprehending comes and goes with each passing day.

Yet, here I am, sitting at my desk above the shadows of street lights lining up the minutiae of my daily life like dominoes.

Written from 6:25pm to 6:45pm on Monday, June 29th, 2009 at the new Starbucks on Halsted Street north of Greektown, Chicago, IL.

In Her Eyes

He stood, half seated on the antique writing table in the hallway. His stomach lurched. She turned off the hallway light. He surrendered to the darkness and slipped further down the front of the table until he was seated on the floor with his head on his knees. The weight of his error pinned him to this moment. He looked up again in her direction like knowing prey anticipating the first strike of its attacker. But there was nothing coming. Through the darkness there was only the blackness of her eye sockets, highlighted below by her cheekbones.

He looked through his tears and said, “I know what you’re thinking.”

Anger overtook him and he thrust his elbows into the weak old wood of the table until it began to crack. The lamp that sat atop the table fell and shattered on the floor. Glass scattered around him. He pumped forward and back again with so much force that his body was kicked away. Laying in glass, elbows bleeding, he screamed and pounded his fists until the pain absolved his lack of control.

There was a sincerity to her existence in his life that he desperately wanted to understand. But could not. She loved him and did not lie when she told him so. He could not stretch far enough through the darkness to reach her. Even if he was seated beside her, their arms entangled, looking into her cold blue eyes his empathy for her love would be insufficient. The fact that he could not try hard enough to make successful something that was not meant to succeed infuriated him.

Written from 2:15 am to 2:35 am in my bedroom in Traverse City, MI.

Two Of Everything Good, Please

“I’ll take two,” I told the young waitress behind the counter wearing a pale blue dress and filthy grease-stained apron. Her blond hair was pulled back tightly into a bun that looked like a small abandoned barrel of hay. In a hurried motion she swept her untrimmed bangs behind her right ear. As her fingernails, painted black, came back to her side I noticed she wore no earrings. There were two sets of holes but no earrings to dangle from or loop through them.

“Anything else,” she asked.

I stared at her and imagined that she was wearing strands of diamonds from each of the holes in her ears — that the diamonds radiated a bright white light that washed over the painful blue fluorescence. When I looked through my imagination, though, I saw that her eyes smoldered — perhaps with impatience — in the pits of her face and her ears were still unadorned.

“No. Thank you.”

Written from 12:05 am to 12:26 am on Monday, December 15, 2008 in my apartment in Concord, NH.