An explosion of yellow erupts from the crystalline vase – Daisies and roses and sunflowers. The yellow is so bright and so profound that if I were hungover, I would surely get sick, right there on this nicely vacuumed Persian rug; Just yak all over it, apologizing and asking for water but my head spinning like a county fair amusement park ride, so much so that I can’t even offer to clean it up. Feeling pathetic. Bouquets being thrown to the concert pianist, being thrown backwards by the bride on her wedding night, the reception in the party hall, walls painted and wallpapered a pristine white; The food smells good, the cake looks amazing. Flowers on the foot of a grave, given obligatory fashion at graduation. I cradle them like a child. They smell sweet and fresh and will undoubtedly make me sneeze. But mothers get happy when their child accomplishes something; The flowers seal the deal. The stems are firm and strong and need to be cut so they can drink up the water in the vase. The supermarket flowers come with powdered plant food. All you have to do is sprinkle it in. Flowers go from bud to burst. Patient stop-motion photography. The magnolia tree. The mess of petals. Seasons don’t last but always change. I wish I knew how to garden. Then I could grow and arrange my own bouquets. I wish there was something nice or meaningful about deliberately staying in a town you’ve outgrown. One day these flowers will die and I’ll have to throw them away, rinse and wash the vase and put it away. We know this. Bouquets of flowers at funerals and accompanying sympathy cards. Beauty distracts, but death is forever. These petals will fall like these people lost their life. It’s hard to forget that floral smell mixed in with whatever else wafts through the air at the funeral home. It’s not a place one wants to stay, it’s not a place to hangout. It is an obligatory pitstop. And we pay our respects, sign the guest book, kneel in front of the body and make the sign of the cross. Try to pray, but get so distracted by the human body preserved. It looks like unreal art. A sculpture or really good wax figure about the sit up and come to life. But she never does. Those clothes picked out for last rites are still on the body, in the ground, in the wall. They are cold. And I wonder if the laborers who made them knew that’s where they were going to. Foot pulse against the pedal of the Singer sewing machine chewing a piece of gum saying, “Yes indeed, this navy blue dress is going on a dead body. You sure as hell know it is”.
Steel bullet stealing down the runway of metal track. Amtrak tunnel breeze. Feeling the humidity push at my face and body. I am outdoors at Secaucus Junction. It is always changing from hell on Earth to blissfully peaceful. Always too many people on the track waiting to go to New York. Maybe for Rangers games at the Garden. Maybe to drink. Maybe for work, like me. Huge cutouts from the cement walls; Outdoor windows overlooking the Meadowlands and skyline. These are things in my environment I take for granted as I eventually sardine myself in between train cars, taking off my backpack and placing it securely between my feet, looking tough in my sunglasses and Panasonic earbuds as some strange man looks me up and down like, “Who the fuck is this?”; “Who the fuck does she think she is?” I feel his eyeballs glance and try not to look obvious. What else can I do but let it happen? I make sure I have my ticket queued up on my phone, so I can flash it to the conductor as he walks by – Minimal eye contact. I wonder how many steps he gets in a day. Sometimes he’ll yell at us to get back inside the train car, that we can’t stand out in the vestibule because it’s not safe. Sometimes he’s busy and stressed and keeps his head down. We don’t want to be on this train anymore than he does. NJTransit bullshit. We’re all here because it’s the best alternative. We just want to go into the city. We just need to get into New York. And as we leave the station, we slow to snail’s pace.
Breakfast sacrament that is unique in shape, in form. Branded General Mills religion being poured into a bowl, nutritious value and point always suspect. But there is something interesting about how its competitors cannot compete. Competing products are not identical. These crisp Os. It is oaty and earthy and crunchy. Their non-sweetness makes me want to reach back in the box and pop another handful in my mouth, in the bowl. Breakfast time when the sun comes up. Where I am not hungry, but excited to eat. We used to have this Cheerios bowl that was red and in the shape of a heart. Plastic that became worn and the color dulled. But we used the hell out of that bowl for morning cereal. What do I want for breakfast this fine morning? I think of oatmeal and Cream of Wheat. Cereal. But do I add berries or fruit? Maple syrup and cinnamon? Always on the precipice of FOMO. Always on the precipice of Murphy’s Law. Leftover lentils spilled on the floor and carpet, somehow launching themselves from the fridge. Before the hardwood floors were installed. That sound of the cardboard box being grabbed, the opening of the top, rustle of the bag, and the higher pitched sound of the Os hitting the porcelain bowl, filling up, glissando in pitch, until in reaches the top. The low noise of liquid saturation as milk is poured over the top and they all rise more, gain in height. I like my cereal crunchy as possible, so I don’t wait, but dig in right away. Spooning this American tradition to my mouth, intermissions with gulps of coffee. The top of my mouth becoming mildly irritated at this combination of milk and O’s. I’m not sure why, but it happens sometimes. I imagine a diver on the lip of the their board, springboarding into this bowl complete with Speedo goggles and bathing cap. One-piece bathing suit. Childhood folders and notebooks with the swimmer on the cover. Some uncredited athlete that signed some likeness deal. Brand recognition and acceptance. We do not set the table for breakfast, but to each their own unless pancakes, french toast, or bacon are on the horizon. To each their own, endless possibilities. I grin and crunch and chew and swallow. The original Cheerios.
You know what? Silk-screened tie on t-shirt. Oaken desk that’s just as good as marble. Adornments and ornamentations of “doing well”. Golden affectations and big sky and landscape, skyscraper building silhouettes; The New York City office. Where the corner walls just look out at snow and smoke and little insignificants scurrying like ants. He’s in his white collar shirt, sleeves rolled up, arm muscles bulging. It’s going to be a long night. What to do when the money don’t make sense, when the stock market doesn’t add up? We weave these webs upon ourselves and then cannot find a way out. Spider spins and dances, crackling on a radio frequency. As our lives hurtle through pure human chaos that can only be exemplified through Wizard of Oz twister dream sequences. Because the truth is we are all Judy Garland with ruby slippers on. The power and the helplessness, the ability to ask questions, to success and fail. These truths get hammered home, but my head hurts. Tile floor in the bathroom has known many footsteps and telephone secrets. Vomit stained sink porcelain that is cleaned up before the sun rises. Mad Men interiors. Crisp new shirt still in its plastic, straight from the drawer.
The bathroom tile is a middleground between teal and aquamarine. I remember the day this small closet-like space was spackled white, the expert precision in which the workmen laid and cut the tile, little squares, decorative with purpose. Now there’s someone inside the bathroom with the door locked, wretching. Whispers of prayer and profanity come through the little crack of the door on the bottom. In the dark, a golden beam of light eeks out. The occupant has no strength left to reach back up and turn it off, hangovers are never kind or easy or negotiable. How could I ever forget the taste of sour bile? Acidic and cutting, helpless to stop the waves of nausea. Vomiting is surrender. Body takes over and mind shuts off. You close your eyes and wish for it to be over. Wish to forget dinner and all the decisions that led up to this moment, even if those decisions were made lifetimes ago. Shaking with a cold sweat. I recall those moments. I watch the still, wooden door and become mildly aware of the morning light beginning to lift away the clouds of night. The shades and curtains begin to show themselves again. My bare feet are embedded in the carpet. This is their home now. Afraid to move. Time to confront. Deep sighs, gasping, pleading. This is punishment now. The Bible tells us that sinners will eventually need to come to their knees, well here we are. One final spit. The light turns off. I hear the running water of the sink, cleverly masking the sobbing which only I can hear. Every Sunday morning does not need to start this way, but it does. I, sleepless and worried and numb. He, momentarily remorseful and apologetic. It will fade. It will not last. This cycle will start back up again. And I will be standing outside the door, cold with no slippers, waiting for a call for help, an opportunity to be of use that will never come. The tile on the bathroom floor must be cold and unkind.