April 28

At an upscale pizza joint in South Miami there’s a woman working the door with long blond braids who looks in the candle light to be about thirty. Tell her you’re heading to the bar and she smiles, gestures teh way, and you go. Keep turning to see her walk people to their tables.

Couple weeks ago you saw her at a gas station on Old Cutler in a BMW with her daughter, a kid, wearing matching outfits. Cute. You find yourself glancing at her again and again because you saw her a couple weeks prior to even this

at a bar by herself, Monday night. It’s just past dark and you’re here with a friend. Men keep approaching her and she smiles, engages, sends them away. People by her drinks.

An hour of her sitting by herself and here comes an older guy sitting beside you. Salt and pepper hair, bearded, short and muscular. He orders a beer, gets absorbed in his phone.

She’s looking at him.

A shot of something bourbon-colored gets set beside his beer.

He looks up.

Bar tender points to the woman on the square-shaped bar’s opposite end. With the long blond braids.

He raises his glass to her and she comes over to him. Sits on the next stool.

You’re tipsy and delighted cuz this is gonna be the jackpot of eavesdropping.

Then the fucking Heat game starts and they switch the volume way up so you can’t hear a thing of what these two are saying.

They’re making out by the third quarter.

And a little over a month later you’re having a drink at the bar of an upscale pizza place, waiting to meet your brother, and here she is.

All these people around you. Their lives.

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April 25

She was a bar tender at one of the bars in the mall near your house, still is, and since you were going there on a regular basis she got in the habit of striking up conversation. Especially on weeknights. Friendly, smart, compulsively adopting animals. Good company.

Call her Rebecca.

One night you stop at the bar with a friend. It’s a weeknight, quiet. She buys you both a second round. Some beer that isn’t selling.

Thanks, Rebecca.

Last call comes so your buddy and you head a few doors down and keep drinking.

An hour goes by and, what’s this beside you?

Rebecca.

“Hey,” it’s nice to see her, “where’d you come from?”

She got cut early.

And she’s not wasting any time.

Rebecca orders three shooters that taste like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. One for herself, one for you and the friend.

[chorus] “Ariba…”

Then she buys another shot — just for you. You drink it. She tries to buy you a third but you refuse it. Stick with your beer. Drunk.

Rebecca sets her phone down in front of you with the keypad open. “Put your name and number in.”

You do it.

Ask for the check and she tries to keep you planted but you end up paying and leaving.

Next day she’s texting, asking if you wanna hang out You don’t. Come up with an excuse. She asks again a couple days later. Thanksgiving is a couple days away so you’ve got an excuse.

“So much to prepare…”

Here comes the day. Do some prep stuff at home with family and tehn take off for a relative’s place where the platters tower and the booze runs quick. Get yourself plump and drunk. Go off to the TV room and fall back in a recliner.

Deep breaths.

Fat and sleepy.

Phone buzzes. Buzzes.

Reach for it, and see a text from Rebecca.

Says, You obviously don’t give a fuck about me so don’t even bother.

April 19

Her name’s G. Whenever she shows up and you’re here already, reading, she’ll come over and sit, talk, and on the one occasion you told her you really needed to get through this book she told you to go to a library. She’d leave you alone if you really pressed it but you never do.

She has a brazen sense of humor and talks in a growl, sarcastic, her eyelids are heavy like she’s always exasperated but she gets softspoken and earnest after a shot. Sips her beer from a plastic cup instead of a glass cuz she’s constantly in and out for a cigarette. Prides herself on intelligence. Every problem she has at work comes down to her colleagues being stupid. Says she likes talking to you cuz you’re one of the few smart people she knows. You figure what she’s praising as intelligence is probably just your willingness to listen. But don’t say that.

G.’s in her early fifties and looking for a new job, maybe in the same industry, and tonight she’s talking, laughing, about french fries (her favorite food, surrendered for lent) and soliloquizes, in a way that suggests years of serious analysis, the french fry situation in Miami. The Cuban influence. The absence of White Castle. The flexible but relatively consistent supremacy of skinny fries over wedges.

She will not eat them curly.

After the first beer she goes for a smoke and comes back for a shot of Fireball, refill on the beer, and then, slowly, weariness encroaches.

“You remember the guy I was talking about?”

EMT, ex-military, she was hooking up with him while his divorce was being finalized a couple months ago. (Took forever.)

 

The guy feels guilt about sleeping with somebody else while he’s still married.

After a while, as the divorce inches toward a close, he keeps going over to G.’s place but he’s emotional, reflective, doesn’t wanna have sex.

His conscience.

G. tells him it’s fine. She scratches his back in bed while he vents. (Makes a point of telling you she could see him getting hard through his shorts. Closes her eyes and raises her hands, palms out, innocent: “I didn’t touch.”)

“Now…” she says. Just that. Leaves the word hanging while she sips her beer, looks away, shakes her head. “He won’t answer my texts for like ten hours if he answers them at all. Not answering a call, or returning it — I can understand that. But a text? You can’t text me a yes or a no for six hours, seven hours? You don’t shit? Can’t step into the bathroom and take your phone out?”

She says, “For two months we had literally everything I could have wanted. Simple shit. Someone to send a text: ‘Goodmorning.’ Send a text: ‘Goodnight.’ Little nice updates during the day. Meet up once or twice a week to get a drink, sleep over. Not even to have sex, if he wasn’t in the mood. But just that…shit, the company, man.”

You nod.

She drinks. Shrugs. Orders another shot and takes it outside in a plastic cup. You can see her lighting up outside and she doesn’t come back for a while.

April 10. Jazz.

A student comes into the lab where you work cuz her teacher says she has to, she’s your age, and from the moment she walks in you for some reason fall into this comfortable barb-trading, razzing one another’s outfits and haircuts and teeth, and when you sit to help her out with an assignment you get along great, joking and making headway through the work, and if there’s anything flirtatious about the way you guys are joking it’s kept way beneath the surface because, apart from making a mess of the tutor-student thing, she’s involved with somebody, and you’re involved with somebody, both parties happy with those involvements.

She has a son. He’s 6. She collects and repairs and fawns over old cameras and would like to do more of it but for the fact that, as she puts it, she “just had to choose the fucking most expensive hobby, of course, and so…”

She trails off a lot, finishing her points with nimble-fingered gestures and, occasionally, a weight-lifter’s lunge. You go down to the cafeteria with her for a colada one afternoon and she does a pirouette at the register. Says she woulda been a great dancer if her parents had enrolled her.

The two of you meet at a music thing one night after the semester’s done, a couple of mutual friends in the mix. Later she drives you back to your car and in those couple minutes you both get uncharacteristically direct (a few months of casually insulting each other has made this weirdly easy) and the conversation culminates with one or the other saying, “So we’ve got crushes on each other,” and then quiet awkward yeahs.

“Bad timing.”

“Yeah.”

Something just barely mournful to your voices, like it sucks, but also something relaxed and contemplative, because it doesn’t suck.

You’re involved with someone, and happy; she’s involved with someone, and happy.

A relaxed silence between you, like a shrug, and then, smiling, you cheesy fucks talk about moments where one of you swooned at something the other one did. Back when the crush was a secret. That thing you wore, the way you said it, the lighting was just right…

You both laugh about it.

The road’s dark and empty, it’s late, and she drives like a mom with her hands at 10 and 2, her back straight as a board. So much respect for the speed limit.


Grayhaired, comfortable on the porch with a beer, you’re thinking back on old heartthrobs and passions, commitments, dreams.

And then, on a breeze, you catch a tune. Something from your youth. Know that song so well.

Follow it down the street to the gaping door of the old beatdown playhouse and upon walking inside you see a sign for

Thousand Movie Project

April 9.

These two guys are sitting close at the bar and they appear to be friends but it’s happy hour, people are coming in straight from the office, so who knows.

First guy says he’s got a date this Friday that he doesn’t even wanna go on. Says he’s gonna wear his “Trump hat.” Laughs. “Make a real impression.”

He laughs again at his remark and when he lifts his vodka soda he sips it from the straws and winces.


Last call. The lights go up, the bartender rings a big brass bell under the TV, and you notice suddenly on the chair beside you, it’s been here all along, 

Thousand Movie Project.

Summary of 2015

Probably the most unsettling part of this informal retrospective of 2015, as you jot it on a notepad at Starbucks, is that you find yourself writing these exhaustively detailed notes about a departmental merge that took place at work in the middle of the year — this ostensibly temporary job that you’ve now inhabited for two years. It isn’t even interesting. Why are you writing so much about it?

So OK, here’s one last realization for 2015: it’s time to quit your job.

#

You go on a date with somebody you met on Tinder. Drink three whiskeys while she eats a salad (extra croutons) and recounts for you a controversy that unfolded on The Bachelor and why, on moral grounds, she refuses to watch it as even just a guilty pleasure anymore.

Later that week you delete Tinder.

#

On New Year’s Eve you’re at a bar as one of only seven customers. Everybody gets free champagne at midnight. You climb on the bar and then fall off, shattering a flute, and the sad-looking man three stools down smiles when you hit the floor and says, “Please do that again.”

#

As the year starts out you’re finishing up a book you’ve been working on for several years and you’re involved, in a complicated way, with a spindly brunette who quotes Macbeth when she’s drunk and fans her face with big saucerlike hands whenever she gets excited. The two of you drink a lot together, and fight, but it’s a good time.

Then you finish your book, and the girl moves to another city, and your drinking slows down and you quit the worse of your two jobs and go back to the gym. Life seems to reset.

#

After revising the book twice you start sending it out to agents; excerpting little sections that might pass for short stories and sending those bits out to magazines.

Twenty agents say no.

One says maybe. She asks for more pages, so you send her some more pages, and then two weeks later she says no.

You hold out hope for the excerpts, at least. The stories. But the magazines say no, too. They say, like the agents before them, to not take this rejection personally. “Please don’t,” etc. Because, they say, there’re a million factors and the majority of stories they turn away are rejected for reasons having nothing to do with the quality of the writing. So really. Don’t feel bad.

One of these rejections begins, “Dear Aaron.”

#

You do get discouraged, though. How could you not?

One day over lunch your dad prompts you to explain why you’re so discouraged. And so you go on. Talk about the poor quality of the prose and the overall shoddiness of this thing you’ve written and “the fiction market” this, “the fiction market” that, fears about something you read online and so on, so on.

He listens. Tells you to lighten up. Points at your drink: “And you shouldn’t get into the habit of drinking a beer with lunch.”

#

For a couple weeks you can hear your own heartbeat whenever you get too idle. You start feeling it in your ears — which are constantly hot. After going to the Miami International Book Fair on its opening morning, and actually seeing the reverberation of your heartbeat in the flesh of your stomach, you freak out. Go to Urgent Care. Then Urgent Care sends you to the hospital. Electrodes are glued to you, and you panic. Blood is drawn, and you faint. An x-ray is taken and various tests are run and when finally you see a doctor she scans the results and shrugs and says you should probably just calm down.

An hour later, over Thai food, your dad nods. “Really, though,” he says, “you gotta lighten up.”

#

You become active on Twitter. In the wake of your book’s completion, rich with rejection, you start a new project on (and find solace in) YouTube. After a month of work on this project you feel good, busy, but find that even just reading a few lines of your book can sour your mood for a whole day.

Start writing other things. One of those things gets published, and you dedicate it to the spindly Shakespearean with the wide hands.  You start work on a new book.

#

At an Italian restaurant in the Gables you’re sharing a booth with a girl who doesn’t live here and she sighs a lot, looks around, and when finally she gets her menu she flips it open and tells you in a near-whisper, without looking up, “Since I know you’re not gonna kiss me I’m gonna go ahead and get something with garlic.”

#

Next year there’s a new Cormac McCarthy book coming out, which is exciting, and you should have a new job and should be well into the next book and you suspect, in optimistic moments, that you’ll’ve gotten a better angle on the agent thing. On publishing. Either way: you should probably lighten up.

Here’s to the best.

Cheers.

Summary of August, 2015

Last call and the bar tender’s telling you about this older married couple who keep coming by on weeknights and chatting her up, inviting her out, boasting of their money and of the luxuries they’ll bestow, of their yacht and two sports cars and lavish meals each night.

Manager pulls her away for a moment. Some problem with the register. While she’s over there trying to fix it the manager comes back to where you’re sitting and, after a quick and heavy pour, hands you an egregious amount of whisky and with arms folded he leans back against the liquor display. Tells you with a smirk and a hard stare to “Go on, drink it all, one gulp. Come on. Something to put on your blog.”


A girl who’s stood you up three times before gets in touch to say she’s back from out of town. She asks if you’d like to go for a drink on Saturday and, since you’ve never passed a stove you didn’t touch, plans are made.

To your surprise and delight, she shows up. The two of you meet at a bookstore and then cross the street for a drink, small talk along the way, and meanwhile, like a match dropped into oil, your anxiety ignites to something apocalyptic and vast so that, once seated, you pull down two beers in quick succession to quell it.

Conversation at that point is going pretty well, fluent as it was when the two of you first went out six months earlier. So it appears that the booze has worked, which is great, except that it’s kind of a double-edged success in that, having been soothed by the second beer, you feel emboldened to have a third. Elixir of good conversation. Have a fourth! What could go wrong?

It isn’t until you stand up for the check and the room starts doing Inception things that you realize how drunk you are. Sit back down and, keeper of necessary information, tell this to your date. “I’m a lot drunker than I thought I was.”

“Yeah,” she says, “you had seven.” Her tone is kinda dry and maybe it isn’t so judgmental as you’re thinking but you go ahead and project things on it.

Two days later you and the date exchange pleasantries through text, pledge a mutual interest to get together again later in the week, but old habits resume, the girl goes dark, and you go on to sit thinking and talking and cringing about your fuckup at various bars over the next few days, friends lending their ears. Sleep is sparse and guilt abundant and meanwhile the Earth persists undaunted in its orbit and your dog each night is here with this look to his eyes like, “Hey. Come on.”


Your brother stops over between appointments. Sits at the kitchen counter playing with shrinkwrap and doesn’t make eye contact when he says, “Hey so have you ever tried using online dating?”

This is his way of saying that he knows you’re using online dating.


You have finished the second draft of your book and now get to be that 20-something with a part time job and an unpublished book. Laying up at night and contemplating your credit score in the same bed where you once sat contemplating your first pube.


Your dog in the middle of the night starts roaming the bed. Rising and stepping and then laying and groaning. Repeating the cycle. It’s 2 a.m.

You take him outside, thinking he’s gotta pee. There on the grass with his tail pulled tight between his legs under so much moonlight, the sky strangely purple, you see his hindquarters pitch to the right and then the rest of him goes over. He’s never collapsed before.

Get down in the grass and try bribing him to his feet with promises of every sort of enticement he knows a word for. He blinks, squinting.

Pull on your jeans and shoes and head toward the all-night animal hospital a few blocks away. All through the drive you’re talking to your dog in a perky voice as if to sooth him in his final moments but really probably just so you can feel like you’re doing something, anything, that you’re not quite so helpless while this dog you’ve had for half your life dies in your lap.

Peel into the parking lot at the strip mall where the animal hospital is, throw open the car door, unsnap your seatbelt — and this fucking dog jumps out of the car like it’s his birthday. Frolics among the pavement and grass. Latenight piss fiend, raising a leg to everything.

Take him to the vet and the vet says he’s fine. Probably arthritic. It’s 2:30 in the morning.

So you head back home and take this fucking asshole dog back to bed with you and there in the dark you squeeze him to your chest until dawn and are grateful that certain things can at least be postponed if not avoided.


Your mom, not making eye contact, digs around for something in the top shelves of her closet and calls back to you, “Hey so have you ever tried using online dating?”

This is her way of saying everyone in the family knows you’re using online dating.


Two envelopes in the mailbox amid the catalogs and flyers. Both addressed to you.

Open the first. A collection agency wants $63 for a parking ticket you got almost six months ago and have neglected to pay.

You don’t have $63. Fold the bill, put it in your back pocket.

Open the second letter: A different collection agency wants $63 for a parking ticket dated from the same week as the first one.

Take the dog back inside and keep typing.


“Oh my God.”

“What?”

“You have those fucking glow-in-the-dark stars on your ceiling.”


Something you’ve been telling just about everybody this month is of a guy on reddit who, after several years in prison, still can’t shake the habit, when he sits on a toilet, of taking one leg completely out of his pants. Why? If somebody attacks you in the bathroom, and you’ve got your pants accordioned down at your ankles, you’re bound. Can’t run.

That even in prison you’ve got people worried about their constraints.