Cold Brew

I made cold brew two weeks ago in a container I used to store dog treats. I discovered the metal top doesn’t have a solid seal with the glass bottom. It makes sense now.

I prepared it on the counter in the kitchen, following the instructions; placing an individual bag into a container and adding two cups of water to then let sit for at least 24 hours. You can later add equal parts water or milk when you want to drink it.

I picked the container up, along with a bag of baby carrots, a carton of cage-free eggs and bag of spinach— balancing the cold brew on top of the groceries, pressed against my chest, making my way to the refrigerator in the hallway. At first I thought it was annoying and strange to have the refrigerator in the hallway, nestled into a cutout in the wall underneath the staircase to the upstairs apartment, but now I appreciate the obscurity in spite of the inconvenience.

I started to put everything in the fridge, balancing all of it against my chest with my right arm, opening the door with my left. Everything was dripping with the coffee concentrate. My dress— I was wearing the dress that some unknown girl left at the restaurant and never came back to claim. I imagined I was confronted on the street wearing the dress, convincing myself of a backstory, just in case. “I had purchased it at a second-hand store on 6th or 7th street, Crossroads— Oh, I always find the greatest deals there!”

The dress is white, navy blue and beige stripes with pockets that have zippers— the best feature. I love it, too, because I don’t feel like I need to wear a bra with it.

The dress was soaked. Well, at least the right breast. The stain came out with water immediately. I don’t know if it could be considered a stain if it never had the chance to set.

I half-assed cleaned up the fridge. I was more concerned with the dress. The floor was also wet. I sopped it up with c-folds I had taken from the restaurant.

I realized just today that I hadn’t drank any of the cold brew because I moved the container it had brewed in while getting half-and-half for the hot coffee I had just made and saw the ring of coffee below it. I still haven’t cleaned it. I took the creamer out, leaving the spill alone.

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2/18/17

Three years ago I sat at his bedside and watched him dying.

waiting for him to die.

waiting for his suffering to end.

Death’s rattle, that’s what they called it—  my older family members who had watched and waited for others to die.

I had never heard the phrase before, at least not that I can recall. But now I know the sound.

It’s inside of me now.

I prayed with my family, all of us gathered around his frail body.

I prayed not for me, not because I “believe” — but because he did. Maybe they did, too. I don’t care. It was for him.

Flashes of the funeral, the smells and sounds, the ritual

scrambled in my memory

It’s the feeling, the sensation, that stays. Details aren’t important.

 

He asked her if I was happy.

I think she told him I was.

It was his one wish for me. I’ve known that my entire life.

I’m selfish. I wanted his life for me— more than for him. I feel guilty for that, too.

I feel guilty that I couldn’t be and do more for her. Or that I didn’t.

The sadness had enraptured us both. And I held onto mine, alone.

At the time I thought I was doing that for her— that it was all I could do— to just not share it.

I still smell him. I still hear his voice— “mija” 

and I cradle it in my heart, in my head.

I see his hands— that I know have worked so hard, have scars, but are gentle and soft.

He wasn’t perfect, that’s not the point.

He was my warmth. My father. My protector. My support. My example.

Selfless even if he was wrong— it was the intention, the love, that we were left with. And it was all encompassing.

He was easier on us, I know it was harder to be his children. We got the best hand, my brother and I.

It is true. Time does help. The tears don’t flow daily. And I can sleep some nights.

But the emptiness, the void, still fills me.

It’s like a chunk of flesh has been ripped from my body. And yes, I can continue. My body functions as it needs to, as it’s designed to and utilizing its miraculous healing abilities— red and white bloods cells, regenerating growth to create a new layer of skin over the gaping wound.

And yet, it’s forever there. Not the focus but the reminder, the memory, of the former whole.

 

The Zoologist

“Are all of those yours?”

“Some of them.”

“I like dogs. What kind is that one?”

“Italian Greyhound.”

“Little guy.”

“Yeah. That’s as big as he’ll get. He’s not mine.”

“I, I have a pet duck. Best pet ever. A duck. Very clean. Very smart.”

“Wow. Do you have a pond?”

“Oh yeah, but he’s an indoor duck. He’s very clean. His little area in the house is very neat. He does his business there, but if he wants to go outside, he quacks, ‘Quack, quack’ and let’s me know he wants to go out. He has a spot he goes in. He’s very smart.”

“Have you had him since he was young? You trained him? Does he come when you call him?”

“Oh yeah. And he drinks beer. He loves Heineken. For treats, I open up a can of corn. He loves it, too. You should give your dogs beer. Dogs love beer, too. Do you give your dogs beer?”

“No. Just regular food.”

“You should give him beer. Not liquor though. My duck doesn’t like it. He tasted it and blah! ‘Quack’ and spit it out. He’s the best pet. He walks around the house, waddles down the stairs and if he falls, HA! he hits his beak! Heheheh. I love all types of animals. I’ve had all types of pets. Every animal. The worse pet I had was an iguana.”

“Why was the iguana the worst?”

“Ha! ‘Cuz he would beat everyone up!”

“How?”

“With his tail!”

“How big was he?”

The bald man in the plain white T-shirt with blue jeans and a belt, standing about 5’8″, gestures to his chest.  “This tall! But the funniest pet I ever had,” he pauses, rocking back and forth, “was a bobcat. Ha! THE funniest!”

“Where do you live?! An iguana, a duck, a bobcat?”

“Ah, I have a place upstate, here in Greenpoint and I had one on Long Island. Sold it though. They wouldn’t let me have my other pet.”

“Which is?”

“A porcupine.”

“What? Are you a zoologist?”

“Ha. No, I’m an electrician. I just love animals. They’re better than people.”

 

 

Walking Dogs in the Rain Sucks

 

 

Walking dogs in the rain sucks.

No one wants to be out there. It’s fucking cold and dismal and we all end up unsexy wet.

It’s not that pretty mystical, fantasy rain of Tom Cruise’s “Legend” — searching for unicorns in the magic forest. No. It’s cold and grey and gross. Wind whipping in unpredictable patterns. Streams and dumps. Sheets and bullets. Cold ass rain. Wet everywhere.

We have to go out. They need to poop and pee. They are too proud and territorial (thankfully) to do it at home.

Balancing two dogs and the umbrella I took from the restaurant’s lost and found. Damn wind keeps changing— left to right, up to down, down to up — flipping the cheap thing inside out and I keep confusing the retraction/expansion button and crumpling it. Fucking thin cellophane-like poop bags stick to my clammy frozen fingers. I have been doing this for so damn long, how is it possible that I keep confusing which side is the seam and which is the opening, and with everything drenched, the little trick of licking a finger and rubbing the plastic to separate the vacuum pressed fold, is futile.

Again, I’m a grown-ass woman. Why did I not put on my rain-boots but instead opt to wear my beloved Fryes that I have been neglecting to weatherproof and wax?

My outfit doesn’t matter. The fronts of my legs are soaking. My calves are covered in the gross splash-back of old piss, shit and barf from the streets, disguised as simple murky puddles of freshly fallen rain.

The puppies, you would think as an evolutionary mutation- like a duck, would have fur that wicks away the water. They don’t. Rain functions in a totally penetrating wetness, with all the city splooge, splashing back a little extra love into their fur.

 

The Photograph

The power of a name opens doors, closes them, and creates them. Names mean nothing without people, without some acknowledgement of the existence. I was moved by Lucy Lippard’s piece, “In an Image” (The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society, 1997) in which she discusses the power of an oral narrative, that which gives root, plants a home and a history.  She says that the place is “the heart of storytelling… the imaginative act of bringing together self and earth, culture and nature… Once you start hearing the stories… you are becoming related, because the story is the umbilical cord between, past, present, and future”.  The place is its name and its story; and it can be contradicted by memory and photograph.

I have moved around a lot; inhabited multiple homes within various cities, states, and countries. In my “hometown” (a place I do not regard as home),  my sense of home lies in my family who tell me stories about my childhood, the relatives and the family’s history. Talks often veer to cuentos of the past — hardships endured or antidotes of brothers causing trouble or children misbehaving. Every time I would visit my abuelos, my grandmother always told the same story of how upset my mother was upon seeing a Polaroid of me caught in the act of climbing out of my round baby-chair on wheels (now since outlawed), balancing one chubby little foot on its front tray and the other midair, stretching for a piano bench. I am turned, looking at my abuelo, who, instead of running to save me from slipping and cracking my head on the piano I was attempting to scale, ran for a camera to capture the moment.

I never tired of hearing them or seeing the photograph of me, a me that existed before my current recognized self. That photograph is emblematic of my concept of my childhood, my relationship to my abuelos, and root for the formation of my identity. It has become the rationale throughout my life for my wild behavior —for my desire to claim fearlessness as my own (and feign arrogance to do so). It is who I am supposed to be. It is how my mother comprehends her relationship was starkly different with them than mine — I, the consentida she never was.

The interpretation of the image, that beloved photograph of me ascending the piano, holds alternate meanings for all people who were there, for those who were not, for those who know none of us, and me, who was present but only knows the image and the story— not the moment as acted out. I still hear my grandfather’s laugh; he was always the one in the corner of the house, snapping unflattering photos of his large familia. He captured the memories, created them. This picture captured how my grandmother justified her actions, imbuing confidence in my abilities—

           Ah, I knew mija could reach it! She does this all the time! 

She gifted me a strength I carry with me today.

This photograph, this moment, shared on multiple levels, is what gives me my sense of place, my sense of home; it is not a geographical space. The cuentos and conversations that accompanied it were always familiar, but changed every time, shifting with the present and colliding with the past. New details emerged and old truths faded— the line blurred in deciphering which was which.

My name, my home— as named by this photograph, exists in the contradictions of memory, guided by the image, allowing me to see the outside from within— grounding and freeing.

The East River pt.1

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Perambulating through the streets of Williamsburg.

We wander. Inspecting interesting piles of trash squished into fences, accumulating in abandoned commercial lots. A wheel from a child’s toy truck, orange and black. The wrappings of a gift. A pink brush whose bristles have been pressed flat and useless.

We stop at the end of Grand Street at the small park and stare at the choppy waters of the East River, at the cityscape across. A landscape brushed in dirty coffee and copper, dusted blue, grey and moss green. It’s mostly patinaed copper, but when soft rays of sunlight break their way through the blanket of clouds, a shimmer of gold speckles here and there.

Trying to stay present. To be mindful while simultaneously repressing the urge to urinate (coffee kicking in). Rejecting the urge to succumb to the cold, but the wind is gaining intensity. My hair is the color of honey, whipping across my face, breaking the grey. My fingers are so cold they burn hot. Lips chapped but I hesitate to apply chapstick, knowing my wind-whipped hair will end up stuck.

I try to concentrate on the strewn red rose petals spread on the ground beside the bench. I imagine some lovers quarrel or romantic encounter gone wrong. Maybe it was a proposal gone right and the couple were swept up in the moment, in their happiness and hope, they forgot about the bouquet.

Sitting still, the cold begins to penetrate. I need to move. I want to stay in this moment, ruminating in my observations, but I can’t.

Walking now, the follicles on the front of my thighs pop with chill and I’m eating my hair. The puppies, who were content chewing sticks at my feet are still equally enthused sniffing the smorgasbord of odors on the street.

Zelda swings right to left, scouring every lead like a metal detecting beachcomber. Drake hangs low to the ground, foaming nostrils, identifying every scent skillfully. We approach a section of fencing that seems to be the outdoor bathroom of choice of some desperate humans, but it’s not fresh and it’s too cold to be too noxious.

I pull them closer to me, in case for want they decide to investigate.

They help me to be aware. To be present and take note of the simple things.

I tend to make things complicated.

I am never bored.