A Tree on the Street

I stand accused of being a worrier. It seems I may need to let my hair down, uncross my hairy legs while wearing that tight skirt, relax, and focus on the “simple things”. I won’t be letting anyone down. I don’t have anything to prove. I might as well enjoy.

So here’s a little thing. I listen to music on headphones while I’m at the computer. I use an office chair with wheels. It doesn’t matter how careful I am, how far I keep the cord from the chair’s wheels — the cord has unique powers to entwine itself impossibly around wheels, legs and armrests, completely and instantly, randomly, at any time, ripping the headphones off my ears. I pay close attention. I check methodically before I stand up, or uncross a leg, or wheel backward or sideways. It doesn’t matter. Somehow, when I actually move, the cord is fastened in elaborate ways around just the right things to rip the headphones from ears. I curse. I laugh. I buy different headphones, particularly when I’ve ripped the wired connections enough to cause problems. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, or what I do. The music will be pulled violently off my ears.

Like when I was walking down third avenue today after getting my spine and neck snapped around to release so much stuff we never realize. Jazz music was floating through the twilight air along with the spicy smell of shrimp from an Asian bistro. A young guy with a white baseball cap was walking a dog on the sidewalk, heading toward me. He was looking me straight in the eye, expressionless. I stopped in front of him, and he stopped in front of me. He was handsome. The right side of his mouth was badly scarred, and his right cheek was indented enough to be called grotesque. His right eye drooped lower. I asked him what had happened to him, because I try my best to be honest. He blinked a couple times quickly, and his face seemed to relax a little. He said he was riding in a truck in Iraq and something outside had blown up. Without thinking, I told him I was sorry. He asked me, what for — I hadn’t done anything to him. I petted the head of his dog then, who I think must have smelled Jake on my pants.

Later, when I was in the cafe, in line to order coffee for the drive home, I overheard two guys in business suits talking at their table nearby. They were discussing the reasons we needed to stay in Iraq, and how disastrous it would be if we left now. They were not discussing Afghanistan. They did not mention Iraqi people. They thought that Iran was not a threat to us now, but would be soon. I ordered a double americano to go, with a snickerdoodle. On my way out, I stopped at their table, sat down my coffee, and the little sack with my cookie, and squatted down to the ground with my hands on the back of the one empty chair for support, well below their eye level, looking up. They both looked about the same age, slightly older than the guy with the dog, and younger than myself. Hi, sorry to bother you, I said, but I was wondering. If you believe so strongly we should be doing what we’re doing, why are you not over there doing it? The guy laughed, I can’t just leave my job. And I just got married a few months ago. It sounded like he thought of it as an extra long vacation. I turned to the other guy, who had a little more time to think. That’s the job of the military, he said. Ah, I said, as I stood up, gathered my coffee and cookie, and walked back in the chilly evening toward the car.

It’s funny how accustomed you get, hearing your own car’s engine running, as you sit there, idling. I was just sitting inside, listening to it, staring at a tree up ahead, its leaves lit by the strange orange glow of a street light buried within the branches. The coffee was still too hot to drink. The cookie tasted good. And six people, during that time, walked by on my left.