Month: October 2014

LRRH (9)

Halfway through the walk across the peninsula towards Kennedy’s restaurant, Jared was nearly soaked with perspiration. Not because of the heat or the walk, he was nervous. He stumbled across Huggie Bears, a non-descript convenience store tucked behind several bungalows and beside a set of baseball fields, and slipped inside to grab a bottle of water and his bearings.  He was getting lost on the walkways but he could tell he was at least heading the right direction.  He had time to get lost, the ferry ride is almost an hour.

“How do I get to the Bay from here?” he asked the clerk who rang up his purchase.

“Not more than a kilometer.  You’ll come to the main road after the ball field.  Cross that and head straight a ways.” she answered with a thick Irish brogue.

“Are you from Ireland?” he asked, pointing out the obvious.

“Aren’t we all?” she responded with a wink. “Are you looking for someone?”

“I’m meeting someone at the ferry.”

“That doesn’t come ’til half past.”

“I know.  I don’t want to be late. I need to be there when she arrives.”

“Well you better be going then.” she suggested.

He paid her the $3 and went to step away.

“Do I know you?” she asked.

“I don’t think so.” he said and he walked out of the store back in to the heat of the day.

“I think that was Jaret Leeto!” he heard her shout to someone inside the store.  Great. He thought.  He picked up the pace, crossed Rockaway Blvd and skirted between more bungalows on his way to Kennedy’s.  He recognized this part of the walk, the church was over his shoulder somewhere to his right.  He pulled his hair back in a sloppy bun, it was getting quite long again.  It felt good to feel the air on his neck.  He dabbed his sweat with his shirt collar and readjusted the rest of his clothes.  A vain attempt at making himself presentable for Erica.  When he got to Kennedy’s he saw the pier where the ferry would normally dock.  It was destroyed in the storm.  Up the water a ways was a temporary structure.  Metal.  That’s where he disembarked earlier.  He sat on a bench and retied his laces before watching the ferry grow on the horizon. He could see New York City in the distance.  It was a clear day.

The beach was relatively silent for such a nice day.  He wondered where everyone was.  Maybe at work.  Or home for lunch.  Probably at the ocean side.  He really liked this community.  Even though it was packed with fans.  As the clock ticked towards 12:30, Jared could make out every detail of the ferry but he couldn’t find Erica in the faces of those on the bow.  Just a handful of people.  Not surprising at mid-day.  He stood up when the boat docked and made his way to the temporary pier to greet Erica.  She was one of the last ones off.  And she looked gorgeous.  Sun kissed and windblown.  His heart sank again and he cursed himself.  He really messed up.  Big time.

She was wearing a pair of distressed blue jeans, a white tank top and a soft yellow button up that she left undone.  Lacy sandals and her hair was off her face.  Her makeup was subtle and she was talking with someone as she walked down the plank.  The someone, a man twice her age, was blushing and gushing and Erica was smiling kindly.  But Jared could tell she was uncomfortable.  A fan of hers perhaps?  Or maybe an old pervert.  He couldn’t tell exactly.  Erica noticed Jared then, bid the old man farewell and charged towards Jared.

“Kiss me.” she demanded.  And Jared pulled her in to his arms and did just as she asked.  And it was divine.

“Ok! Ok!” she grumbled as she pulled back from him. “Did he leave?” she asked without looking over her shoulder.

“Who?  Oh.  No.  He’s still there.  Watching.  Should I grab your ass?”  he teased.

“No.  But do something.  He’s a creeper.”  Jared took her bag off her shoulder and grabbed her hand and they turned around together and headed back towards Roosevelt Walk hand in hand at a brisk pace.  “I can’t get a moment’s peace since The Circle came out.” She said and Jared knew what she meant.  The Circle was her latest film, based on a best-selling book by Dave Eggers.  Jared had to be honest, it was a very good movie that was quite popular. Even Jared saw it and he never goes to the movies.  But he went to that. Opening weekend.  Telling himself something about still being supportive even if from a distance.  A great distance.

“You were great in that.”  he said softly.  Erica released Jared’s hand then.

“Too great apparently.  Now everyone thinks I’m an open book now.”

“You were a quite convincing Mae Holland.”

“Thanks.”  Erica put her hands out to take bag her bag from Jared and he shook his head.

“I’ll carry it.” he suggested.  Erica relented and stuffed her hands in to her pockets instead. The bag was cumbersome and heavy anyway.

“So, Mr. Leto.  Why the fuck are you at my Grandmother’s again?”

He stopped walking “I told you.”

“Yeah, but I don’t believe you.”

“Why would I lie about that?”

“Because that’s what you do!” she nearly shouted.  The tension he spent a year avoiding sucked the sun right out of the day.  Immediately.

“I don’t….I don’t lie.” he said drawing out the last word like he couldn’t even say it let alone do it.

“You lied our entire relationship!”

Erica started walking again and Jared had to follow.

“I didn’t lie about anything.”

“You said you loved me!”

“I did!” he sighed “I do!”

“Could have fooled me!” she said and she wiped below her left eye where a tear had fallen.  Jared wasn’t expecting this.  He’s not entirely sure what he did expect, but certainly not this.  Jared felt terrible.  As he should.

“I didn’t lie.  I got scared.”

“Nice excuse.” she said.

“I did.  I can’t do … love.  I told you that.  I warned you!”

“So this is my fault?”

“No.  It’s me. I’m all fucked in the head.  I never wanted to hurt you.  Please believe that.  I made a big mistake.  HUGE mistake.  And I’m so sorry I hurt you.” He put the bag down and pulled her in to his arms.  She was really crying now.  Streaks of tears coated her delicate face.  “I’m so sorry.” he whispered in to her hair.  He held her tight and she caught her breath.

“I don’t know what to say to you.” she said when she finally pulled away. “You broke my heart.”

“I know.”

She slapped his chest “You’re such an asshole!”

“I know.”

“I don’t want to get back together with you.  I hope that’s not why you’re here.” she stated.

He hadn’t thought about getting back together with her at all.  He missed her.  That was true. But he was still deathly afraid of all she represented.  An anchor.  Someone to answer to. He doesn’t want that.  Ever.  No matter what the price.

“I told you why I’m here.  And it had nothing to do with you at all until I saw your picture on the wall.”

“Well you know what my Gran says about coincidences?”

—–

“There are none.” May said after she sat the two of them down on the couch in her front room.  Erica with a glass of chilled ginger-ale and Jared with a cup of ice water.  “The Lord doesn’t do coincidences.”

Erica and Jared sat side by side on the sofa, a cushion between them, like two bad teenagers caught in the act.  Or two school kids caught with hands in the cookie jar.  They were being scolded.  And like good kids who only dabbled with the bad, they were respectfully listening to her lecture them both.

“Gran…”

“Don’t Granny me Erica Healy.”

Jared stayed silent.  Probably the smartest move he’d made in a year.

“Gran, It’s over between Jared and I.  We’re ok.  We’ll stay …friends.  But we’re not dating again.”

“You shouldn’t run away from love. Either of you.”

“I’m not running.” Jared said softly.

The ladies both looked at Jared simultaneously. But neither of them acknowledged what he said.  Which was good for him, that statement could have ignited a firestorm.

“It took your father twenty one years and three children with some harlot who wasn’t even good enough to marry to realize he only loved your Mother.” May said sharply.  Erica tried to stop May from telling her parents tragic ‘love’ story but May kept on talking right over her “Twenty-one years!  Just think about all the time he wasted.  And you’re an only child because of that mistake!  An only child in an Irish family.  It’s unheard of!”

“I’m not an only child.  I have two brothers and a sister.”

“They do not count.”

“They do to me.  Can we change the subject?  Please?”

“No.”

“We’re not Momma and Daddy Grandma.  This is different.”

“No it isn’t! He’s the love of your life! You said so yourself.  Or do you not remember last year?  Crying on my front porch step about this boy?”  Erica was turning two shades of beet red and Jared was looking at the floor now, guilty.

“And you.” she said slapping Jared’s kneecap.  “I can see everything I need to know about what went on between the two of you in those blue eyes of yours.  Snap out of it! And get over yourself!”

“I’m not…”

“I wont let this happen again.  And frankly, you don’t have twenty-one years to screw around with like Phil.”

“Grandma, I love you, but this is crossing a line.”

May sat down in her barcalounger and crossed her ankles as she smoothed down her church dress.  Jared thought about the company then.  When had they all left?  His stomach growled quietly when he thought about all the vegetables he had cut up.

“I need to freshen up, and you two need to talk.  Really talk.”  May said and she left the room.

“I’m sorry.” Erica said apologizing the moment May was out of earshot for her Grandmother’s intrusion in to their sticky situation. “I don’t know what has gotten in to her.”

Jared stayed quiet for a while.  Looking at the floor.  Turning his shoe over and over and grinding the tip in to the carpet.

“Are you ok?” Erica asked after a few minutes.

Jared looked up.  His nose was red and his eyes were filled with tears.  Erica softened and this time pulled him in to her arms.  Jared laced his arms around hers as she held him from the side.  “I’m such an idiot.” he said.

“I know.”

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Breezy Point (non-fiction)

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Breezy Point, NY

There is no place in the world that measures up to Breezy Point, NY.  There really isn’t.  If you weren’t sucked in by the uniqueness of the co-op’s layout, you’d be won over by the people. More than just tight-knit, it was filled with family. Everyone knew everyone.  Everyone watched out for everyone else.  There was no need to lock your doors, ever.  Your walk (block) was home to policemen, firemen, bakers, store clerks, sanitation workers, teachers, librarians, nuns…every day people.  And they knew your name.  You knew theres. Sometimes they were the same …Patrick …Michael ….Murphy ….Eileen …Annie ….Bridget ….O’Shannessey …

On 9/11 we lost 30 residents to terrorists.  Every one of those people would have given each one of those terrorists a cold beer, sun lotion and a beach chair to relax in the day before the attacks.  Not because they’re naive, but because they expect the best of people until shown otherwise.  Breezy is inhabited by people who are truly the salt of the earth and kind to everyone.  Always.  All are welcome.  Yes, it is a gated community.  But just ring any one of us up and we’ll leave a pass for you at the gate … I was lucky to spend summers there every year of my life.

Now, in 2014, it is a multi-million dollar bedroom community, with one hell of a view, for Manhattanites.  The original bungalows are few and far between now.  A lot of people live there year-round.  Their homes are modernized and winterized. Money has filtered in over the years as the bakers and sanitation workers became doctors and lawyers but you’ll still find plenty of firemen around too.  A lot has changed but a lot has remained the same.

Today, October 29, 2014 is the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy which set fire to then flooded out this wonderful home away from home.  The 9/11 memorial was destroyed. Kennedy’s was destroyed.  The pier* was destroyed.  Sugar Bowl was destroyed.  And more than 100 houses burnt to the ground.  The rest (almost every single one) were water damaged, some beyond repair and others (luckily) with relatively minor damage but damage just the same.

My latest story has a few scenes in Breezy.  I think it’s funny that my mind went here at this time, because the anniversary wasn’t even on my radar.  But my subconscious remembers.  My toes still ache for the sand whether I’m aware of it or not.

Check it out:

*You can’t actually catch the ferry at the pier that was washed away. I took a little literary license there so I could keep the story flowing.  The ferry exists but arrives/departs in Rockaway – outside the gates of Breezy Point.  Jared would have had to walk quite far to find May Healy if I was true to that in the story.  Also, when I was growing up, I swear my Father said the ferry did come/go from Kennedy’s. I’m too lazy to look that up though 😉

Huggie Bears convenience store (it goes by a few names)

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LRRH (842.5)

“Come come now” May pulled Jared away from the wall of photographs. She didn’t regale him with a single tale. She ordered him to the kitchen “We’ve work to do. The clan comes by before noon and it’s already eleven-twenty!”

Jared followed May back down the hall past her brand new bathroom in to the kitchenette that stretches across the back of her bungalow.  She set down a wooden cutting board on the kitchen table and directed him to a drawer to retrieve a knife.

“On the right….my right.” she said as Jared opened one drawer, then another.  “Rinse the tomato before you cut it.  It has been on the counter a day already. Thin slices.”

Jared nodded and obeyed.

“I’ll cut the cheese.” May snickered and Jared looked back over his shoulder at her with a smile.  He likes this woman.  A lot.  But he has a problem, a problem that’s impossible to actually believe.  But a problem just the same.

As he sliced the tomato, he thought about his predicament. Should he employ full disclosure or just let it go? If he comes clean, that’s probably the end of his day with May.  Which would be quite a bummer.  He’s enjoying himself.  And he’s sure she is too.

What’s a day in a life really?  He’s sure he wont stumble across May’s path again. He could bide his time and effectively avoid any awkward unecessary-ness. But he likes May.  He doesn’t want to run away with his tail between his legs.  But she’ll likely speak with Erica, mention her visitor, and he’d be discovered in short order no matter what he decides.  And the story Erica would tell, after she got over the shock of his trespass, wouldn’t make him look so good in retrospect.  He looks like a stalker.  A creepy, ferry riding, old-woman stalker.  Or worse, a user.  A trickster.  Trying to woo Erica back through grand-ma-ma.  Even though his visit is so far removed from that sort of scenario, who really would believe in this level of happenstance now? Especially if he ran away. It’s too much of a coincidence.

The conundrum made his stomach churn.  He brushed a bead of sweat off his forehead with the back of his wrist.  What have I done? He thought, and much the same could be asked of the state of the tomato.  It was nearly sauce.

“Too thin! Too thin!” May chastised.  Jared made healthier slices.  “Better…” she patted his shoulder.  “Cucumber next, if you think you can handle it?”

He nodded and began to speak “May?”

“Hmm?” May was drying lettuce by the sink.

“I was looking at your pictures…”

“Aren’t they grand?”

“Yes, quite.  You have a lovely family.”

“I do.” May agreed.

“I…I recognize someone in your photos.”

“You do?”

“Yes, your Granddaughter?” He asked more than stated.  Not entirely sure of the relation, heavy with assumption.  “We used to date.  I dated her.”

May put down the paper towel and turned to face Jared.  Her own face not quite registering any one particular emotion.  “Which one?”

“I didn’t know she was your granddaughter before I came here.  Believe me.”

“Which one?” she asked again.

“Erica.”

“Oh, Erica!” May snorted ever so slightly and went back to her salad fixings. “Erica lives way out in California.  You’re mistaken.” and then it clicked.  “Oh.” was all she said next.

“Erica and I aren’t on the best of terms….Should I go?”

“You need to eat, then you can go.” she said with a stuffiness in her throat.

“I’m sorry. I promise I didn’t know you two are related.  I couldn’t have.  You understand?”

“Jared, are you the boy that broke my baby’s heart last year?  Because if you are….”

“I might be.”

“Well then you have some explaining to do.  But not now.  We have company coming and you haven’t diced the carrots.”

“This is really awkward, May.”

“Yes.  And that’s what you get.  Now go out to the shed and get the umbrella. I think we’ll sit on the deck.”

Jared obeyed. And on his way across the deck to the small shed that sat in the sand, he checked his cellphone.  Pulled up Erica’s last text message and he reread it “I miss you too.” she said.  On a Tuesday, just after midnight, over a year ago.  He never sent another text after that.  He can’t explain it.  Yes he can.  He’s an idiot.  And she got too close.  He was in love and he hated everything about it.  Love is an uncomfortable, unwelcome, unnecessary emotion.  It ruins everything.

He pulled up a blank text and began typing quickly “Erica, I’m in New York.  Breezy Point. And you’ll never believe who I’ve met.”

He erased that and wrote another “I just want you to know that I bumped in to your Grandma…”

He erased that one too.

“I’m sorry.” he typed and he hit send.

She responded while he was setting the umbrella in its stand “Who is this?” she replied.  And his stomach fell to his shoe.  How the hell do you respond to that?  He bit his bottom lip.  Opened the umbrella up wide.  And started typing once again.

“It’s Jared” Send.
“and I’m an idiot” Send.
“and I’m at your Grandmother’s house in Breezy.” Send.
“and I miss you.” Send.
“And I’m sorry” Send.
“and I want to explain myself.” Send.

The texts cascaded in to Erica’s phone one after the other as she stood in the door way of a toy store in Bay Ridge.  At my Grandmother’s? was all she truly registered.  The rest was too little way too  late.

“Uh, which Grandmother.  And…why?”

“Healy.  And you’ll never believe the story. Can I call you?”

“idk” she responded.

“Will you answer?” he texted but he didn’t wait for her to respond.  Wouldn’t let enough time pass where she could curse him and toss her phone back in her bottomless purse.  He dialed her.  And she picked up on the third ring.

“I really don’t have anything to say to you.” was how she picked up the line.

“I know.  I know.  But I have so much I should say to you.”

“Should?” she snickered.  She sounded like May.  A lot like May.

“You know what I mean.”

“Do I?” he could hear the sounds of the store around her.  Kids and intercoms.  She was fussing with something.  Pressing buttons.  Electronics of some sort.  Distractions.

“I’m so sorry for everything Erica.  I’m an idiot.”

“You said that already.”

“I’m ….stupid.  I got scared and I …I should be saying this to you in person.”

“Yes you should have.  Do you mind telling me why you’re at my Grandmother’s of all places?  That’s so weird.”

“It’s kind of a long story…”

“Try me.”

“I gave her my seat on the train and well we got to talking.  You know how she is.  So friendly.  She had this little birdcage…”

“And?”

“Well she told me to look her up and I did.  Ok?  I didn’t know she was your Grandmother.  How would I ever know something like that about a random woman on the train.”

“You sound defensive.”

“I feel defensive.”

“Ok well can I talk to my Grandma? Is she there?”

“She’s inside….” Jared said as he turned around with the phone to his ear.  May was standing in the doorway, the screen door between them. She was listening and she wasn’t embarrassed by being caught in the least bit.  She opened the door and put her hand out for the phone.  The look on her face was again unreadable.

“Fancy…” May said as she walked deeper in to the bungalow with Jared’s phone to her ear.  He was beyond tempted to follow her.  To eavesdrop.  But he stood fast on the deck instead.  Getting in further trouble was not in his best interest.  He thought about running.  Taking off down the sand alleyway and disappearing.  He didn’t really need to ever see either of them again. He could pretend nothing ever happened.  He’d already been doing that for a year with Erica.  What’s one more body in the count of people he avoided thinking about?

Twenty minutes past and Jared could hear other people milling about the bungalow now.  Did May forget about him?  Was he supposed to have gotten some hint by now?  She did have his phone and he does sort of need it.  Jared was getting thirsty just standing there.  And his stomach was queasy.

He went to the screen door.  Peaked inside.  And, of course, May was coming down the hall then.  Her face was twisted but she wasn’t angry. At least she was hiding it well if she was.

“Oh Jared.  You’re a fool.” she said as she handed him back his phone.  “You’re a fool and she’s now on the ferry over here.  Two fools.  Meet her at the dock. Bring her here and I’ll forgive you.”  she nodded to the phone…he saw that the call was still engaged.  He said hello and started walking towards the front of May’s house.

“She’s an old woman Jared.”  Erica said in to the line “With a stubborn streak.”

He nodded in agreement, he could see that true already “Are you really on your way?”

“I am whether you’re there or not.  I always see her when I’m in town.”

“Oh. I thought…”

“You thought right…we’ll talk.  But not for long.  I want you to go.  I don’t want May to worry about any of this so I’ll give you ten minutes for her sake. A ten minute walk back from Kennedy’s…you better talk fast.”

“Ok but first let me…”

“Ten minutes.” she said and she hung up the phone.  He spoke again twice before he realized she had hung up the phone.  And his stomach flopped around inside his shoe as he shuffled up Roosevelt walk towards Kennedy’s.

LRRH (7)

It was early morning and the sun was just beginning to stretch across the rooftops downtown.  The rest of the city was bathed in shadow. It looked pretty but chilly. Which made no sense…it’s summer.  Jared dressed in layers by the window, modesty useless at his perch above the city.  The people below looked like ants.  Busy and fast moving creatures.  He felt content and justified watching them scurry along.  A Manhattan morning embodies the way his mind functions.  Busy at all hours.  Racing from thought to thought.  Project to project.  Constructive and creative, regardless of the hour.

Jared laced up his sneakers.  Thought about the laces for a moment.  One was frayed and ready to give way.  He double knotted that shoe.  Then felt uncomfortable because one was tighter than the other.  He double knotted the other, grabbed his door key and left the hotel room.

Down below, on the street, he walked past delivery trucks and big store windows.  The stores weren’t open yet but people were already inside.  Refolding clothes.  Redressing mannequins.  He nodded at a gentleman who was setting up his street vendor table and slipped into a coffee shop.  He wasn’t there for coffee, his mind was working on ideas for Black Fuel, Shannon’s pet project that’s in its infancy stages.  Jared isn’t part of the project but he can’t help but pay attention to what works and what doesn’t.  Can’t help but try and learn whatever he can about it because that’s what he does.  A consummate learner.  No matter what the subject.

The coffee shop was bustling, as would be expected at this hour.  Men and women with messenger bags slung over their shoulders.  Business suits and business casual.  Danish orders.  Bagels with schmear.  Breakfast a la carte.  He understood.  Convenient and fresh.  The shop smelled like energy.  Fuel.  But it wasn’t unique.  Profitable , it would appear, but not unique.

His mind went in to hyperfocus mode.  McDonald’s serves egg sandwiches and flavored coffee too.  For a quarter of the price.  What’s the difference?  Why are these people spending $9 on breakfast.  Quality?  Convenience (everything in Manhattan is convenient)?  Is it something else?  Is there another take away from Nosh Coffee that you don’t get at Mickey D’s?  It’s probably somewhere inside denial.  The fruit cups looked like fresh cut fruit, not crap floating in preservatives.  There were several well named choices for schmear.  The eggs were pre-made and micro-warmed but you only noticed if you were watching very closely.  They hid well the truth.  Unlike Mickey D’s with it’s visible assembly lines and it’s lobotomized clerks.

Jared grabbed a bottle of water from the cold case.  Happy it was a glass bottle and not plastic.  With the amount of water he drinks, leaching from the plastic freaks him out.  He admired the label, turned it over and giggled when he saw it was a Cocoa Cola product.  He had seen enough. Gleaned all he was going to glean from this non-chain coffee shop. He put the bottle back in the case and made his way out of the shop and back on to the street.  The sidewalk was filling up fast now.  It was a little after 7am.

Jared had a day to himself.  A rarity lately.  The evening was scheduled thick but his day was wide open until after dinner.  In front of him, an old lady was pulling a large laundry cart.  Though she didn’t have the same appeal, she did remind him of old May Healy.  From the train.  Where did she say she lived?  Queens.  By the ocean.  Breezy Point!  He pulled out his phone and googled the town.  A ferry could take him on the hour.  He was sure she’d be awake.  Maybe the ocean breeze and light conversation would be a good way to spend the day.  He slipped inside Einstein Bagels and ordered a dozen bagels, little containers of butter and cream cheese, fruit cup (for him) and a bottle of orange juice and made his way, bag in hand, to the ferry dock (on foot).

He didn’t think about what he would do if she wasn’t home.  Didn’t realize that Breezy is a gated community.  He just hopped on the boat and let a mini-adventure begin.  He walked to the back of the boat, set his paper bag down on the seat and watched Manhattan get smaller as he drifted away.

The ferry let him off near Kennedy’s (a restaurant still under repair after Hurricane Sandy’s damage) and he remembered why Breezy Point had some familiarity.  This is the little community that nearly burnt to the ground last year when he was in town for the DOC NYC festival.  He saw it all on the news.  300 homes?  Something grand.  He hoped May’s home was spared.  Thats when it clicked that he had no idea where exactly to find May Healy.  Where would he begin to look?  He wandered up Roackaway Point Blvd and crossed in front of St Thomas More Church.  Roman Catholic.  There was a small gathering of gentle old women filtering in through the front doors. He looked down at his watch, 8:15am.  Ah, the dedication of the Irish.  He followed them inside.  Took a seat in a back pew and watched out for May Healy.  He was certain, if the luck of the Irish bequeathed it, that he’d find her here this morning.  And he did.  And she noticed him right away.  She came up beside him, put her hand on his shoulder and told him to “scoot.”  He did and she sat beside him.

“Beautiful morning!” she commented.

“Yes.” he smiled.

“Take mine.” she said as she handed him the church bulletin “I know all the gossip already. And can recite this mass in my sleep…could since I was four I’d say.”

“What makes you think I don’t?”

She patted his hand and leaned back in the wooden pew.  Several people stopped and said hello.  May introduced everyone to Jared and called him “the nice boy from the train” more than a few times.  He politely stood and shook hands and cheek kissed each lady on the cheek when called on.  A few patted his tattoos and raised their eyebrows before smiling.  One even informed him “those don’t come off!”  He was amused by the formality of it all.  The ladies (and a handful of elderly gentlemen) were dressed up.  Nice sundresses and summer suits.

The mass wasn’t terribly formal.  The songs were sort of familiar.  He had picked up the melodies at some point in another lifetime, in another place.  May admonished him for not singing along at first. He joined in and they exchanged soft smiles through out the service.  She mothered him, Grand-mothered him really, and took his arm when they exited the pew.

“The girls are going to have fun with this.  A handsome suitor on a Tuesday morning.” she smiled again and he knew she was teasing him. “So have you come in just for mass? Or can we walk?”

“I just came for a hello…and I brought bagels?”

“That’s wonderful.  Some of the congregation is coming over this morning for tea.  Your bagels will be a hit.”

“You don’t mind? I feel kind of strange now that I’m actually here.”

“Of course not.  I invited you, didn’t I?”

The two of them walked out of St Thomas More on to the sidewalks that crept here and there between the houses.  The cars were all parked at side streets away from the homes.  No one parked anywhere close to their houses.  He marveled at the uniqueness of Breezy.  A true walking community, just a boat ride or a car ride over the Marine Parkway Bridge.

“What do you think of my Breezy?”

“It’s great.” he said honestly.

“I’ve been here for forty-something…no almost fifty years.  A lot has changed and well, we lost a lot in Sandy. But it’s coming back.  I shouldn’t complain.  I did fairly well comparatively.”

“Your house wasn’t hit?”

“We were all hit.  Had to take everything down to the studs.  But just water damage.  Thankfully the fire stopped two walks over.  It was quite a storm.”

They wandered through the wedge.  A section that looked more like a war-zone than a beach community.  Jared could tell where the walks used to be.  Imagined what the bungalows might have looked like.  Each empty lot had a sand filled bucket out front. An American flag stuck deep in the sand. Where houses once stood there were debris piles or concrete blocks.  Not much else.  No new construction.  Just empty space.

“Looks like war doesn’t it?”  May remarked.

“So sad.” Jared commented.

“They’re going to rebuild.  Not sure what – there’s talk of raising the new homes up.  Which I don’t like.  Bad enough we have those fancy monstrosities towering over the bungalows as it is.  It’s too much.  But I’m old.  Don’t need much space.  These families have children.  Grandchildren.  It’s just me so a bungalow is perfect.  But I did upgrade my bathroom!”

Jared smiled.  Took in the trappings of Breezy.  Statues of Mary.  Crosses.  Jesus.  He felt a pull in his belly. As much as he likes the far out, rule bending side of life and music and especially art, he also has a deep respect for tradition.  And belief systems that span millennia.

“Would you like to see the Ocean?”  May asked a quiet pensive Jared.

“Of course.”

They wandered up what was left of Jamaica Walk, past the spot where the Sugar Bowl once stood to the sidewalks that led to the sand.  The Ocean appeared before him past the dunes and a warm breeze blew through their hair.  May put her hand back on his elbow when they stepped in to the sand.  Steadied herself on his arm.  Jared guided her towards the water’s edge where they watched some surfers body surf the small waves.  Seagulls squawked around them and shells crunched beneath their feet.  Two teenagers came in on a wave together and climbed out of the surf walking towards them.  Jared stiffened when he saw one had a triad necklace.

May looked at the teenagers and at Jared then back at the kids as they walked towards them.  “Do you know these boys?” she asked just as they approached.

“No.” he said quickly.

“Oh my God! I told you it was him!” one kid said to the other.

“What are you doing here?” The other kid asked Jared as he tried to hug him (soaking wet).  Jared took a step back but let the kid embrace him anyway.  Two sopping wet selfies and a few uncomfortable flattering comments later, Jared had to say goodbye and usher May along since the kids weren’t leaving.

“What was that about.” she asked.

Jared wrinkled his nose and wiggled his chin.  “Um.” he said.

They were back on the sidewalk now, this time it was a gathering of girls that screeched and ran over to him.

“Fuck.” he mumbled.

May looked at him crossly.

“Sorry….Hi!” he said to the girls who were already snapping pictures and asking for group selfies.

“Maybe we should get you back up to the house before you get mobbed again.” May suggested after they left the third set of giggling teens.

“I’m sorry.” he said.

“Don’t be.”

“I…”

“I feel silly, Jared.  I have no idea who you are!” May laughed.  “Do those children buy your doodles?”

“Some of them.”

“So tell me what you really do Jared?”

“I do a lot of things. I’m an artist.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

Jared laughed and May winked “Music mostly.  But I act sometimes too.”

“Act?  Anything I might have seen? I could have.  You’re quite handsome.  Leading man?”

“I did a movie in Ireland. In Cork.  I had a really bad accent.”

“I’m sure you were great.”

They wandered along the walkway that ran parallel to the Ocean.  Jared couldn’t see it anymore, it was hiding behind countless dunes, but he could smell it on the breeze and hear the waves crash.  He wanted to go back.  Sit with May there and chat but that wasn’t possible without making a scene.  He had to admit he was a little surprised by the attention.  His band isn’t that big in the states.  Love Lust Faith and Dreams, his new album, isn’t getting radio play either.  But he guessed this Irish enclave has good taste in more than just locale.

When they finally reached Roosevelt Walk, May started regaling Jared of the stories of each of her neighbors.  Lots of firefighters.  Manhattanites.  9/11 families.  Jared’s attention crawled back to reality.  Outside himself and back to May.

Her house was just as she described.  A small gray sided bungalow with a dozen small windows.  A deck that wrapped around from front to back of the home.  With a small gate across the side to “keep her dog in the back because he’s a barker.”  Jared was glad she had a dog. At least she had him or her for company.

They entered the house through the back door and Jared set his bag on the kitchen table.  May’s teeny dog – a Schnauzer of some sort – circled around his feet giving him a good sniff before skittering back and forth around the kitchen, tail wagging back and forth.

“Back door guests are the best.” May kidded and she gave him the penny tour.  Across the back of the house was an eat-in kitchen, no dinning room, mid-hallway bathroom which May was so proud of, she even slid back the shower curtain to show Jared the new jetted tub.  Then frontward to the living area.  Off that room were two very small bedrooms.  Beds neatly made, small chests of drawers and books lining shelves in both rooms.  Paperbacks and beach reads in the front room.  Hard bound classics in the master.  Jared noted May didn’t have a television.  But she did have a ton of photographs hanging on the wall.  May left him to look at the photographs while she freshened up.

Jared danced his eyes across the happy faces in the photographs. Sun kissed people in beachwear and bathing suits.  May was in most of the photographs too.  Someone else is the photographer in the family.  He noticed lots of kids.  Many brothers and sisters.  May has a huge family. He’s not sure why he thought she was a loner.  At the center of the photographs was a large family portrait.  In front of the church they were in this morning. To the right, standing between a pot bellied man and a string bean pale teen stood a girl that looked painfully like Erica.  And in that moment then it clicked.  Erica Healy.  May Healy.  Holy shit!

 

LRRH (6)

Jared’s airplane taxied slowly to the terminal at Newark International.  All around him, other passengers gathered up their ipads, purses and stowed rolling suitcases and readied themselves to deplane.   He just stared out the window.  Looking for a glimpse of the city, though he knows well you can’t see it from here.  He wanted to feel it.  The hum or the heartbeat.  The energy and everything else about this home away from the home that never truly felt like home.  He needed to smell the perfume of Manhattan.  Hear the deafening music of car horns, ambulances and loud cellphone users. Hide out in the open.

California was feeling like a crypt these last few weeks.  A beautiful, monumental, lifeless crypt.  New York would fix that.  His edgy friends.  The pureness of east coast conversation.  Lack of all pretense.  Full of substance.  He needed it.  But the passengers in coach were slow to exit the plane.  Slow to exit the gateway.  Slow to reach the other side of the terminal where he’d try and catch a train unnoticed.  He was lucky, most of the time.  The NJ Transit riders didn’t pay much attention to a hippie rolling a worn red suitcase.  If he kept his head down, and his sunglasses off, no one looked at him twice.  Today, that was comforting.  The only person he had any interest in talking to was on the other side of the country and she wouldn’t return his calls.

He sent a request to Uber for a ride from Penn Station to Bowery/East Second, sat back on the blue plastic train seats and closed his eyes.  He would be in the city shortly.  Then he could fully relax.  The train car filled up quickly with too many bodies for the seats.  He gave up his chair to an elderly woman who gave him a look that reminded him that chivalry died ages ago.  And he winked and her stone face cracked and she put her hand on his elbow and let him guide her in to the seat he prewarmed for her.

“Sit with me?” she requested and she scooted over so he could park a third of his behind on the edge of her seat.  “You’re a nice boy.” she remarked to Jared.  Then she looked pointedly at the man occupying the seat by the window.  Shaming him with one glance.

“Thank you.” Jared said softly but he declined her request.  The man next to them rolled his eyes and put his headphones on his ears.

“Not many of your kind around anymore.”  In her hands she was holding a small wire cage.  There wasn’t a bird inside, nor a candle.  Just more wire.  It peeked his interest so he sat down on her arm rest.  He imagined she’d repurpose it somehow.  But he didn’t dare ask.

“I’m a sucker for junk.” she commented when she caught his eyes on her cage. “I quite like the detail though.” and she lifted her hand off the lid and revealed a garden of roses, discolored and black, curly Qs like vines and Jared nodded.  It was pretty even if the latch was quite bent.  Might make a good bookend. Or perhaps a coffee table tchotchke.  “Are you an artist?” she asked.

He thought about his response.  Of course he should answer honestly.  But honesty always feels too much like boasting so he said “I draw.”

“Oh, lovely. People? or Places?”

“Things.” he smiled.

“Things?”

“Doodles.  I’m not very good.”

“I’m sure you’re just fine.” she patted his hand.  Hers felt like ice and bone.  “Are you doing anything grand in the city this weekend?  I’m sure you must be.”  Jared noted her slight brogue finally.

“I’m here for a rest.”

She laughed.  “Wrong city for that a thaisce.”

Jared wrinkled his nose up “You might be right.”

“So you’re running away.  To the city that never sleeps?”

“I’m not running.”

“It’s quite alright if you are. We all need to get away sometimes.”

He smiled.  And the conversation lulled.  The train went underground and Jared stood up again.  When they reached the station Jared took the old woman by the elbow.  Helped her from her seat and grabbed his rolling suitcase.

“Will you be alright?” he asked after helping her up to the main lobby.

“Of course son.  I’ve just flown two-thousand seven hundred seventy three miles on my own.”

“Ireland?”

“Of course.”

“I don’t want to leave you.”

“You don’t have to.  Fetch a cab.  I’ll show you around.”

“I have a car service…”

“Aren’t you fancy.”

“It’s just a black cab.”

“Well, my dear boy.  I’m riding yellow.”

“It was very nice to meet you Ma’am.”

“Don’t ma’am me child.  Makes me feel old.”

As he handed the woman back her empty cage he said “My name is Jared.”

“It was very nice to meet you Jared, I’m May Healy.  Look me up if you find yourself in Breezy.”

“I will.” He promised.

“Alright then.  Up Tip!”  And then she was gone.  Inside a cab on 7th Ave.  And Jared found his Uber driver on the next block.  “Bowery and East Second?” he confirmed.  And he googled a thiasce on his mobile. And it took forever, because Gaelic doesn’t read as it sounds to the English ear, to discover she had called him a treasure.  It made him smile.  A real smile.

pink duct tape (fiction)

It was shortly after the tech talk.  In a hallway behind the stage.  I paid Adventures in Wonderland $1400 for a moment of your time. A conversation and selfie.  Clutching my notebook…the one with four pages of questions I’d painstakingly thought out over the last month since I won the auction, my script ideas, and everything I’ve been thinking while I’ve been waiting backstage for you…My hands were shaking so I held my notebook tight across my chest like an anchor. Digging the spiral bound rings in to the palm of my hand. The black notebook I hoped I wouldn’t have to reference should the conversation flow like I imagined it could. Inspiring me to ask more.  Inspiring you to answer.  One moment in time to open a door.  Worried that it’d be locked tight.  Thirty seconds to get on Mars.  Double time.

My knees were weak so I was glad for the loose skirting of my dress.  My outfit understated.  Hoping it would make the biggest statement of all – I’m a brain seeking yours.  A vessel of creativity lost on a sea and you’re a ship’s captain.  And I’m so lost.  Capsized on this vapid American sea.  You’ve navigated these waters.  I want to be your first mate.

But I know I’m not your kind of girl. So I’m longing to be your student.  Mentor me?  Inspire me.  Motivate me.  You already own me.  Enslave me.  Control me.  So teach me now.  Bring me out the shallows of this sea.  To shore.  Say one word.  And change my life forever.

Or open your eyes and see me for who I am inside.  A confidant who understands all those things you don’t say and could finish the sentences of everything you do. I could teach you a thing or two. And I need someone like you in my life, in the worst way.  I’m lonely and uncomfortable in my skin.  This time zone.  This century.  This life.  But you’ve got all that I want.  Inside that brain of yours.  Can I borrow your aura for a moment?  Just one.  Pretend that I’ve got something that interests you too.  Inside this notebook if not my heart.

But I know. Please Papi know that I know.

Sometimes my imagination is a curse.  Fantastical. And blind.  Wasteful thoughts.  Broken reality. Running and seeking and haunted by fantasies that I’m Bonnie and you’re looking for me, Clyde.  But you’re not looking for anything or anyone.  You’ve got it all.  Inside that pretty brain.  Your story is written.  I wasn’t holding the pen.  You’re here to give me angst.  To inspire me and make that money.  I know.  I know.  I….know.  I’m writing invisible words you’ll never read.  Waxing poetic in a sea of sharks.  Lost behind an ugly face. A body too round.  A spine too curved.  But inside my notebook, the one I wont let you hold, you’ve fucked me in the backseat.  You’ve fallen in love with my lisp.  Pulled my hair and caressed my heart.  Easy love.

Take your time walking over to me.  Let me imagine your body on mine one more time.  Your lips and your eyes.  Just me and you.  On the ocean together.  Kneeling at your feet.  The rope in your hand.  Sail on mast.  Then speak to me.  Say hello before goodbye.  And everything in between.  Then I’m gone.  Back to my pen and paper.  Back to the oxygen that lacks vapor.  Inside the other side.  Alone.

“Hello.” you said then.

I responded back “Hey.” and the fantasy evaporated and you were human again. We talked and you guided me.  Said to keep working on the dream.  Work is the bridge to success.  $1400 well spent on learning to receive No.  Learning to let go.  Motivation. Inspiration.  Amid so much perspiration.

Then I stood on the pink duct tape, you by my side.  The camera flashed and you smiled.

Thirty seconds on Mars and then we were parted.  Back to your world and I’m still brokenhearted.

LRRH (5)

Erica sat in that cellphone parking lot, listening to the AM station announce the arriving flights.  And she heard the robotic sounding man state Jared’s flight just landed, right on time, but she didn’t start her car.  The race to Jared’s side petered out.  Instead of surprising him by the curb, as she had planned, Erica ran her finger through her playlist and loaded up an obscure band…an old band…a one-album-and done band Max Q, and sighed.

Erica started the car, glanced in her rear view and as she exited the airport, she sang like she was on stage.  Again.  In an empty stadium.  Soundcheck style. Unreserved and free.  And if you’d have heard her, you’d have weeped.

THREE WEEKS AFT:

Erica drives a hybrid Porsche.  Panamera.  And she has a bad habit of testing the frame and her reflexes on the days when her senses have been completely depleted by loneliness and angst.  She has a ritual.  Painting her finger nails the same color as the exterior and the matching 20″ wheels.  Amethyst Metallic.

If her body is thrown from the car, she wants to be linked back somehow. Even if they find her weeks after.  Rotting in the brush. They’ll note the metallic amethyst.  And they’ll remember that pretty purple car they found, sans driver, in a heap at the bottom of the canyon.  Erica has fleeting thoughts that should warn her off but instead she shakes them off, dons leather racing gloves, slips out of her shoes (she feels more in control that way), slides snugly in to the driver’s seat. And heads up in to the hills.

The car is opulent.  Borders on garish even.  But when she enters that right hook on Mulholland, right above Runyon Canyon, going 35 when the posted speed limit is 15, she feels like Steve McQueen.  And she feels alive.  She hasn’t felt alive in months.

She rolls the windows down, cranks the Brumerster, The Race on 30. Sings the lyrics: love is a dangerous game to play (and she cackles and shakes her head)…hearts are made for breaking (then her voice catches in her throat) I’m not running, Yes you fucking are! No, not running as she pounds the wheel along to Shannon’s heartbeat. Navigates the S turns like she has been racing all her life.  Across the top of LA.  In that place the smog can’t reach.  Another place. Another planet.

Her hands stay tight on the wheel – ten and two.  Because she’s a novice.  And stupid.  And flirts with death too often these days.  The only moment of sanity, in her race across the clouds, is the moment of reverence she devotes as she passes the retired FDNY Truck parked midway between insanity and her return to earth.  She always pays respect because inside Erica Healy is a New Yorker that hates everything about L.A. now that he’s not a part of it.  The sunshine is an insult to a broken heart.  And her heart, it is broken.  Though Joe is trying to mend it.  She’s sure Jared has forgotten all about it..and her..and being forgiven.  Fourteen texts and then nothing.  Fourteen texts after nearly fourteen months together.  Will she ever get over him?