I had to get in, I had to go to bed. I was locked out, but now I had my clean laundry, and I had to get in. The wheels are worn off into two centimeter remnants of two inch wide wheels, and I was pulling toward I didn’t know what. While I had been waiting for my laundry to dry, I had watched a bit of “Jurassic Park 4,” and a stranger and I remarked, how many of those things there were, why didn’t people learn about dinosaurs and what always happened?
I pulled the suitcase on its hindquarters like the hindquarters of the velveteen rabbit, up each step and I pushed the buzzer hard and long four times, someone did answer, and let me in.
In a minute, I was inside my warm room, aquarium with my one blue fish, bed with blue quilt, black lamp with white shade, black cat. I was in. What to do with my suddenly unnecessary hysteria? There is no one here who could help me, there is never anyone to help me, any tiny mistake I have I must pay for, there is no net, there is never a net, there is nothing down there, and now I am down there, down, down there.
My new work neighborhood is Polish. There there are clapboard row houses, instead of brownstones. The doctors’ names listed on doors are Polish. In a store you can buy an American flag or a Polish one. I have a slice of a park with a statue in the half shape of Poland, the upper half a bust of the Polish working man’s freedom priest who was beaten and killed by the communists. People still love him so much there are three or four flower arrangements there, and some candles are always lit. I caught a woman hanging red balls on one of the pine trees next to the statue. I caught another woman sitting on a park bench, brushing her hair.
I am a full one-eighth Polish, from Silesia, right near Auschwitz. My great-grandfather left as a teenager, to avoid being drafted for the latest war. They were always at war there, in Poland. People loved to march across that part of the world and burn things, until Auschwitz when really outdid themselves.
Wednesday I was hysterical again, called someone, who did answer, and she and all my busmates heard me explain why I was going to quit my job.
A kid did this.
A kid took this and did that.
They do this.
They do that.
When I do this, they do that.
They do this.
They call me this.
They won’t do this, or this, or this, or even this.
And I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t.
She told me to eat something and drink a glass of water and go to my writing group, so I did, and I wrote a little story.
My new commute sucks. The bus sucks, and the G train sucks. Sometimes I sit while two of the appointed bus appearance times go by, and still no bus, and I start to freak out. You do get to see the city on the bus, though. My bus ride is through Bed-Stuy, past the Slave Theater, which someone called an “epicenter of African-American activism.” After the bus, getting to the G train means running way down the platform because either that station is too long or the G train is too short. Then at the Metropolitan Avenue stop, the one right before I get off, the train sometimes fills so full it can take seven times for us to get the doors closed, the conductor gets progressively angrier and more threatening, just like your teacher or your dad:
Step away from the doors.
Step away from the doors!
Pull your bag in!
Pull your coat in! In the first car, pull your coat in!
If you don’t get these doors closed, this train will go out of service!
Then we go.
This is the story I wrote:
In a drawer in a dresser of his grandmother’s house, he found an old photograph of an ice, coal, and gas delivery truck from the early 1930s. The back of the photograph said, “For you,” in that script that shows people were taught to write instead of assumed to write. He had been looking for his shuttle.
He made a gallon of lace a week and sent it to an Etsy shop that wasn’t a shop, in fact did not even exist. But they sent back checks. He walked downtown and deposited the checks and bought groceries. He lived in his grandmother’s house, and his father paid the taxes on the house.
He walked downtown with the gallon of lace in his hands, it was always marked, “Hand-tatted,” so everyone thought there was the shrunken tattooed lady inside.
He looked up at the porch of his neighbor and the neighbor was laying a knife on an iron table on his porch.
He walked faster.
He was considering going into the Swiss cheese business. It was better. Then he would ship a gallon of cheese a week, in the same ice-cream cardboard container, but that container would say, “Hand-acidified, coagulated, separated, and strained.” It would be a longer label. He wondered if he would make more money. He wondered about refrigeration.
His grandmother was dead. She wasn’t nice. She had taught him to make lace as a punishment. She had eyes of overcooked asparagus. She blew her nose into newspaper. She salted her tea. She killed flies with cereal boxes. His father wasn’t nice, either. He crossed days off his calendar by tearing at them with the end of a paperclip. He brushed his teeth with magnets. He licked his lips before he spoke.
The trees on the way to the post office looked like cookies in the shapes of trees.
He opened the door to the post office. There people were in line. One was the retired English teacher who sent everyone books they didn’t want. One was the woman from india who sent her family enormous packages and always argued about the scale being wrong, like the scale was her husband. The third person was a stranger.
“These, please,” the retired English teacher said after looking through the entire binder of sample stamps.
A car drove by behind them. No one knew who that was.
He wondered what it would sound like to shake the gallon of lace. He didn’t shake it.
The retired English teacher paid and slowly put away her billfold and her address book.
The clerk said, “Next.”
The woman from India set her package on the counter and warmed up for doing battle with the scale that was not her husband.
He thought about cheese. He thought about applying at the post office. He thought about learning to weld, wearing that medieval mask and those falconer gloves. He thought about why his grandmother hadn’t liked him. He thought of who had written, “For you,” and why the photo wasn’t roses or a book she didn’t want.
The clerk said, “Sorry, we’re closed,” and pulled down a metal gate to hide himself.
The man on the porch was gone, but now there were three knives on the porch table. The front door was open, but the screen door was closed.
The trees looked like logs you use to make long oars for Roman galleys.
It was five fifteen, and he lay on the couch that he had bought after he had dragged his grandmother’s couch to the curb, all by himself, no one would help. He fell asleep, and the gallon of lace was on the table beside the front door. He dreamed that he was asleep inside a cannon and awoke when he was shot out high over the trees and the river, where he could see it all.
Image: Claude Lorrain, “The Trojan Women Setting Fire to Their Fleet,” Metropolitan Museum of Art.