• Joseph Kolb

Home and Body Improvements

This morning I tore down the living room blinds. The sound they made as I ripped them from the molding was satisfying, even as they left glue residue in their absence. All summer we’ve dealt with them, a cheap and easy solution to the sun without having to drill holes and threaten the deposit, left by my friends, the previous tenants. Without a cord, we would fold the fabric together and delicately (or in frustration) bunch what was gathered onto the top of the window pane. I’d had enough, the end of August looming. I let the light fall in, stage right, dancing in delicate and fluid lines to fill the space. Since my roommates and I left the state for Philly last Friday we’ve been at the mercy of the flies that apparently were fucking all weekend, dimes-sized, I swear. The house is haunted by all the tarry broken forms I’ve managed to correctly aim at with my slipper. Before I broke the curtains away, I watched one still-alive red-eyed fly nibble away at another that had died. Then I swept.

After the subway home from work I stopped into the immediate 99 Cent store to buy curtain rods. I was informed kindly that the debit card minimum was $5 ($1.99 each, I had two), so I retreated back into the depths of the store to find something cheap enough and worthy enough to bring me to my target price. After considering beach chairs and toilet paper holders I settled on a night light in the shape of two hearts, one in the process of eclipsing each other. By the time I trekked back to the front of the store a couple was already dominating the register. I lingered, patient, impatient, waiting, reading the front and back of this package. It promised a multicolored light experience. I skimmed my way through the copy until I landed upon the smallest font on the face of the front plastic:

“If your life goes along too easily you become soft.”

Huh. Huh! I flipped it over, searching. Then:

“Undergoing small sufferings in this lifetime can purify the karma of many ill deeds accumulated in former lifetimes.”

Franny, my manager, asked me today if I meditate, if I have a sounding bowl (but she calls it a chakra. I have to tell her how to pronounce chakra. If you’re reading this, Dan, you’ve motivated me to start/try posting on here more often). I don’t meditate. I’ve been trying to find an in for the past two years. I tried using the app Headspace but found it annoying. In search of an alternative, I’ve pestered my friend Amrit on and off for suggested reading, knowing that they are a devout meditator and serious Buddhist. The only book I can remember that they’ve suggested is The Secrets of the Self, which, as far as I can tell from my investigation, isn’t even specifically or even remotely related to Buddhism or meditation.

Their friend Youssef recommended it to Amrit, it being one of Youssef’s favorite books. I met Youssef when visiting Amrit in Eugene, the last time I would see them before their move to Montreal for grad school. I myself was returning to Oregon from Oakland, on my way back to New York. I met Youssef then for the first time. Both of them — Amrit and Youssef — lived in a co-op, and that particular night they were scheduled to prepare dinner for the house. Youssef teaches part-time at University of Oregon if I understand correctly, has lived in Morroco, all over. Amrit told me that Youssef planned for their thirtieth birthday to fly all their friends from around the globe together to meet in one place. With my being there, Amrit and I took over, Youssef acting as supervisor, a consultant really. We decided on polenta with marinara, and some sort of leafy green. As I set to work on the sauce, Youssef glanced over at my work.

“Can I give you a piece of advice,” they said coolly, not really asking. “If you want a good sauce, you need to shred the tomatoes and ditch the skins.” I complied, put-off slightly. Amrit laughed their always endearing, mildly deranged laugh.

“Youssef! Are you going to help or what?” Later, I joined Amrit on a trip to the garden for basil in order to choose from the many plants available. Amrit made their choices, then retreated to the kitchen to test Youssef on their ability to identify each of the three varieties. They passed, 3/3. Later in the year, June, Youssef would come to New York for world pride and we would both lament over the face that we missed each other, despite being familiar with the parties they went to and our being at the same marches. I hope Youssef visits soon.

At work today, a man came in: vaguely timeless floppy baseball cap; horn-rimmed glasses; overgrown-yet-tidy, tawny beard; wiry; clad in his cycling suit; arm tattoos. He placed his order and I complied, watching. Only the night before I had crafted a fantasy involving a lanky man with a bushy beard. As he left, I was still genuinely (not projecting!) unsure if was queer or not. I swear, I had been smiling all day, in particularly good mood, but Franny glanced at me, shifting between smirking, smiling, gawking, and narrowing her eyes in contemplation.

“You flirting?” She finally asked, ten minutes or so passed. At first it hardly registered, I had already forgotten him.

“What? No…” It registered. “No!” I was offended, appalled, embarrassed, even as only a week or two ago a coworker and I had commiserated in Franny’s on and off company about the overtaking of queer spaces by straights. Still, I fought my burning cheeks but, in a new act self-defense, smiled again. She fell back into the cycle: looking, smiling, squinting, thinking. I had nothing to say. I find myself being transformed into a particular image of faggotry there, but am unsure. That might be projecting, or a self-fulfilling prophecy. At 3:30pm Franny joked to everyone present about me waiting every day for four-o-clock, for her to finally leave. At 6:30pm I asked Shur, the closing manager two years younger than I, to remind me to go to the store.

Tonight we finished The Birds, Megan and I, after I finally hung one of our pictures on the wall and installed the curtain rods with the Chinese writing, fished the old curtains out of the closet, then put up new lights. The film seemed most appropriate given the fly situation. I made a point to mention it several times, so maybe you’ll understand how bad it has been. Somehow it’s a relief when the birds finally get to Miss Melanie Daniels, with everything that’s she’s supposed to embody. As it started to rain, I felt happy in our seemingly upgraded space, watching her get ravaged by seagulls, the streetlamps casting silhouettes through the windows.

#thebirds #LGBT #queer #home #meditation #house #nyc #Buddhism

©2020 by Joseph R. Kolb