Little city parks filled with plastic aquarium plants are where dwellers pretend to be free in the not-so-bad: free to move from tube to street to building to street to tube.
In a tube under a street under a building near a park, a bundle of newspapers sits in a puddle between the tracks. The filth down there conceals rat fur. A little girl on the train says to another little girl: “Are you scared yet?” Her fingers are pincers. She moves them closer. “Are you scared?” She moves them closer. She asks the question again. The man next to me smells like warm laundry.
A couple stands by the door speaking a foreign language. I look her down and up and I look him side-left and side-right and deduce that they honor a silent agreement. A provision of the deal demands pretense that there is no deal. The woman catches me down-and-upping but I can only see prices. He grabs her arm at a stop where tourists usually exit and they hurry.
The last arm I grabbed was attached to a woman who said: “Why do you grab me when I put a foot in the street? I’m an adult. I saw the car.” I said: “Every time I do that I’m falling into the worst fear sentimentality creates.” We crossed the street from my favorite bar to a restaurant that served pan-fried refried-ravioli burritos. Delicious. But not as delicious as today has been.
Today has really been wonderful. Went to a tiny park, pretended to be free. We pretend to exercise freedom in all manner of ways, such as leaving. People leave. People leave in many ways. It is difficult to leave people who have done nothing wrong. Like leaving a bath because your fingertips are wrinkled and the water has cooled and your dirt rings the tub. Who takes baths any more? Maybe the guy who stuck yellow plastic corncob holders into the ends of a hefty dog turd on the sidewalk. Only a man would do that. A real man.
There was a real piano in the fake park, chained to a fence. A homeless man and a not-homeless man played together. Both were skilled. They finished with a flourish and laughed and shook hands and half-hugged in the freedomless green. Being nice sometimes is not the same as being a nice person.
I full-hugged a friend in the park. He promised that when his divorce is final and he is free, he will stomp his boots directly to a store across from the courthouse and buy three thousand lottery tickets. But not one ticket before then. He understands the law. No divorce is nice and he and his still-wife are already fucking others. They have minus-one child. If you have a child and the child dies, you do not have zero children. Imagine a line drawn by an architect. Many lines. All straight with angles from intersection. Lines that depict sexual intercourse. This hangs on their wall and is their custody battle.
“What’s your favorite art?” my still-married friend said.
I burped and swallowed at the same time and it hurt.
“That’s the truth,” the homeless piano player said.
It is impossible to tell the whole truth and nothing but, even if you do not lie.
“Is it a truth that if you live near a crematorium, you breathe dead people?” I said and my still-married friend said, “The whole truth is camouflaged by truths.”
My favorite bar resides near a crematorium, nearly hidden at the bottom of a building, near a fake park, near my exit from the tube.
Wind blows trash and leaves. The bartender tells me about this woman who works at a hot dog stand. He says she wore a low-cut shirt and handled the food with aplomb. That is the word he uses: “aplomb.”
He says she has the most amazing tits he has ever seen. He shows me her naked breasts on his phone. He took her out drinking and they hooked up. The next day someone told him she was in high school. He says he said: “Oh, shit, she’s 17? That ruins that! No it doesn’t.”
He pours a slow beer with little foam and says: “All a beer company needs to succeed is an awesome tap and fancy stemware. America.”
I smell like someone else’s shampoo. Blood trickles from my ear. Nobody wants to see a robot’s fluids. What else could go wrong? Never ask that question because you will get the answer.
A loud crash from the street. Glass. Horns. Screams. People point and flail their arms and rush in clots. A few minutes later, sirens. A few minutes later, no sirens. The trees in the park are turning to silhouette but the sky is still light as I push into the outside, collapsing into joy into floating.