Friday, May 29, 2015


Some of my mature neighbors still think I’m unemployed. They shower me with pity and advice. I haven’t given up on rejiggering their delusions yet, but I lose patience now and then, which has prompted me to listen by the door for footsteps in the hall. Only when the coast is clear, will I take out the trash. This is always a challenge anyway with two thoroughbred cats who dash out of the apartment any chance they get.

My upstairs neighbor, let’s call him Mel, keeps mentioning a rough spell he went through in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and again in the 90’s. It’s what got him into stamps. Whenever I run into him, he pssses me over as if he’s about to show me hot merchandise. With his cuticle-remover-pincher-thing he shows me a new gem. I’ve perfected my awe-stricken gasp, palm to mouth. Not sure if it’s worse being subjected to his philatelic fantasies or his pats on the shoulder. What he says he misses most about work is the daily ritual. He probably never got into much of a rhythm, considering he’d got canned in each of his prime decades, but Mel always struck me as creature of habit. Just for kicks, I tell him my boss saves a bundle by not offering me a “real” office, which is absolutely true.

There’s a mantle in the lobby which always has something festooning the top. I’ve been caught, numerous times, absconding with books: The Portable Chekhov, Sophie’s Choice, and Karl Popper’s The Poverty of Historicism. Once, I was even caught grabbing a can of garbanzo beans. Sue me. I mean it. Gladys, from 4D catches me almost every time. She must have a John Gorman radar or maybe she injected me with a dose of GPS when I was unawares. After the first garbanzo incident, she left a care package by my door: peanut butter, day old rye, three cans of sardines. I wish she would give me laundry detergent or books instead. Maybe not. She’s what I would call, a catalog person. I’ve seen her plenty of times by her mailbox, flipping the pretty pictures of strappy gowns and bathing suits she has no business shimmying into. Gladys tells me, with a double scoop of exasperation, that her nephew works with computers. I nod my head. I’m always nodding my head. She knows computers have taken over our lives, but she’d just love to see my laptop deliver her packages. Drones have got that covered already, but I smile and keep it to myself. She’s convinced if I just apply myself I will find my niche. She slips the classified ads under my door, usually from the Daily News, but sometimes from The Village Voice, and the sex ads are often included. I know she is myopic, and waiting to get her second cataract operation, but sometimes I wonder.

I’ll tell you what the real trouble with working at home is. Hands down, it’s that everybody gets to know your face, and you always get stuck taking somebody’s package. Sometimes I keep my lights off so that the Fedex guy won’t ring me. I could move. I’ve done a fair amount of moving already, but the truth is I’ve gotten used to these characters in my building, they’re chattering in my head at the oddest times. They’ve become my writing fodder.

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