M. A. Simonetti

Body Fluids

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 10:52 am

There’s nothing like walking home in Astoria from a night of drinking.  The food carts serve their chicken and rice.  The salsa clubs wind down, playing the last of their fast paced meringue.  There are the usual drunks whom wind about the streets and of course the beggars which plead for a quarter or two.  I love it all.  I really do.  But at 3:00 in the morning I am tired.  So is my boyfriend Sam.  We are drunk.  We are into our thoughts.  The last thing that we want (or need) is to deal with anyone else.  The beggars get nothing and as for the rest of those drunks, they get nothing too, not even a nasty look.

I have found though, that life doesn’t care what we want or need.  Life wakes up, decides today is the day it’s going to throw a pie in our face and before you know it, the bad joke has taken over.  Walking back to my apartment from a friend’s party, we proceed down Steinway, onto Broadway.  In our drunken stupor Sam and I were analyzing the social scene that we just left.

“Well…I don’t think Mike is really into her.  He kind of ignored her through the whole party,” I said.

“Well she wasn’t that much fun either,” Sam replied.

We paused for a bit by the side of the road as our discussion heated because Mike’s relationship was THAT important.  But suddenly I heard a loud “BANG”.  I turned to my left to see a body pummeling through the air.  Then, I watched as it landed on the street next to Sam and I making a loud “THUD”.  We ran to the body on the street.  Blood was draining out of his head, ears and nose pooling to the one side.  A car had skidded to a halt next to the body.  It stopped fully, a small man got out of the car and walked toward us.  Sam and I now stood with the driver who had hit this man.  I called 911 while Sam rushed to the man’s side to get some sort of response.  And as for the man-heck who knows.  Sam and I let him fade into the crowd that was now forming.

Now I did not ask for this.  I did not.  At 3:00 in the morning, after seeing a body fly through the air, you can imagine how quick a person sobers up.  Life is annoying like this.  All I wanted to do was walk home and instead I found myself on the phone with some very slow 911 operator who kept asking me where the accident was.  Our conversation followed something like this:

“It is on Steinway St. in front of the United Colors of Benetton Store”

“Where?”

“It is on Steinway St in front of the United Colors of Benneton Store.”

“What Borough”?

“Queens”

“Where again”?

“On Steinway and Broadway”.

“What intersection?”

“Steinway and Broadway”.

I might as well have said the accident happened on the intersection between Crater One and Crater Two on the Moon because I don’t think she quite got it.  It took forever for the police to come and even longer for the EMS teams to follow.  At this point the pooling at the man’s head had formed a very small deep red puddle which looked like a beautiful red paint.  A man offered up his shirt and we tried to wrap it around the man’s head.  This was ridiculous though, because the shirt would not stay tight enough.  It was like trying to plug up a hole without knowing where the hole was.  On top of this no one really wanted blood on their hands, but it was inevitable.

Eventually, the police came and the EMS crew arrived shortly after.  They ordered everyone to go away even though people were trying to help.  They were mean and nasty, probably tired of seeing this stuff all of the time.  I saw that the man had lost his shoes.  I tried grabbing them and giving them to a police officer but he wouldn’t take it probably because the risk of blood.  Sam still in his drunken stupor, for some unknown reason tried to shake the officer’s hand and the officer refused because of the blood on Sam’s hand.

I am a hypochondriac, plagued with worry.   I am a paranoid crazy.  At this moment blood was the root of all evil.  It was hurt.  It was sickness.  It was death.  It meant hepatitis and AIDS.  Not only was it pooling at my feet, causing me to believe the man had lost a considerable amount of blood, but it was also causing me to worry about my own health.  Since I had touched the blood, did I have any open wounds?  I checked my hands with a reassuring no.  Could I get a disease without open wounds?  Maybe.  Could I die?  Maybe.

After the police came and took the man away, Sam and I finished walking home.  We needed to clean up.  I had blood on me but Sam had a little more.  End of story.  Sam tried to put his arm around me but I shrugged it off.  We were two recovering drunks in shock.  The walk home was silent.  I had nothing to say.  We finally reached my apartment with the bright blue vestibule.  I found my keys and opened the first door.  I then opened up the second door to my apartment.  I couldn’t get the door open.  Now why would I not be able to get the door open?!   I looked on the floor and almost passed out.  On the floor was a body.  Two shoes.  Two ankles.  Two legs covered in jeans.  That’s right, a “body”.  Now one body during the night I can handle.  But two?!  Two is one too many bodies.  Who needs to face the possibility of death more than once during a 24 hour period?!  In shock,  I quickly took my hand off the knob and let it shut.  I turned around and whispered to Sam, “There is a body on the floor.”

He looked at me with a blank stare and then turned behind us, grabbing the vestibule broom.  He opened the door, nudging it with the broom and pushed body away with his feet.  Once inside we realized that the body was in fact, my roommate not the dead stranger I had envisioned it to be.  My roommate had passed out, obviously from a night of drinking and was now laying face down with her head resting on a a pile of magazines in my bedroom and her legs extending into the hallway.

Sam and I helped her up.  I guided her to her room.  Once inside her room she started heaving and vomited into my lap.  Now at this point not only do I have blood on me, but now there is vomit in my lap.  For the next hour or so I spent the time holding her over the trash can in the kitchen.  This was only after she tried vomiting into the sink and onto the couch.  She finally settled down and at that point and I noticed the blood had dried and the vomit had caked up into tiny balls on my jeans.  I was now filthier than five minutes before.  And my paranoia about germs had increased to a level which left me numb to the fact that I had more fluids on me than ever before.

At this point it was now 5:45 am.  Sam had taken a shower and left to go back to his apartment.  I had also taken a shower and lay in bed staring at my ceiling.  It was just one of those nights.  It was night where the shit just didn’t hit the fan.  Sometimes the shit goes beyond the fan.  Well-this was one of those times.  At this point it was now six o’clock on Sunday morning.  The only thing that I needed was coffee.

I pulled my sleepy self out of bed and threw on some jeans and the first shirt I saw in my chest of drawers-this ugly purple sweatshirt that I’ve had for years.  Outside the birds were chirping.  The air smelled cool.  My neighbor’s American flag wagged in the wind like some dog’s tail.   The Mexicans waited for their usual work and I passed them, walked down Broadway to find tents set up- just another summer street fair.  I went to the nearest bakery and got my coffee with milk only.  They always try to throw some sugar in there and I only get annoyed.  On my way back, I passed through the street fair to enjoy the people and smells of food and the white tents but then I was stopped by some guy with a cart selling balloons.  He motions toward this purple one in the shape of some animal.

“Mam…You like?” he asks in broken English.  “Here, you take to match shirt.” he says.

I was thrilled at the prospect of being given a balloon but even more excited that it was a purple one and one that could match my ugly purple sweatshirt

“Sure!” I responded.

“Twenty dollar” he replied.

No way.  I hated the thought that I would have to pay for this ugly purple balloon now.

“You take for your children” he coaxed.

UGH.  Ok.  So it was bad enough that I had to pay for the purple balloon.  Now it was even worse that I was supposed to buy it for my children.  I quickly walked away towards my house.  Past the post office and some stores where I looked at my reflection in the windows only to see someone that looked horrible.  Not sleeping at all had made me look haggard, but that ugly purple sweatshirt made me look like a mother.  A mother!!!!  This at my youth was an insult.

I walked back to my house, with my coffee, my ugly purple sweatshirt and no balloon.  I passed the one house which has this cat that likes to perch on the radiator outside, its own personal balcony made for one.  I passed my neighbor Jose with the peg leg and my next door neighbors, the Balkans which like to have pig roasts and sit outside and watch tv (yes their tv is outside and they sit on a couch outside and watch it.  It is plugged into their house).  I think to myself that this is just another day and as my brother says-one crazy thing only prepares you for something even more mind blowing later.  And usually you will need more than just one purple balloon to save you.

In Astoria

In Uncategorized on January 7, 2011 at 3:36 am

There are many things I could tell you.  I could say what I do for a living or where I grew up.  I could tell you stories about my younger brother, my family or the homes that I’ve lived in.  But, instead you should first only know, the other night I woke to hear a baby crying outside my bedroom window.  Now, I wasn’t dreaming or in some drunken stupor from the evening before.  I know what I heard.  I lay there with the sound droning in my ears for at least a half-hour or so.  I was only half-awaken with the covers pulled over my head.  It was one of those moments when you pause to think, that just five minutes ago you thought you knew what was going on.  In time, you only can second guess.

Something isn’t right.  Something is just a little off.  In the dim light of a pre-dawn in Astoria the crying seemed inhuman, scared and pathetic like a creature that had been left outside far too long.  I stared at my vinyl blinds and in time I heard more sounds, muffled human voices and the loud thud of what I believed to be a ladder.  Shadows crossed my shades.  I crawled to the window and peered out only to see legs between the slits, traveling up the rungs of a dull, metal ladder.  I looked beyond the ladder and saw a handful of people gasping in horror on my porch, but seconds later I saw a flurry of white, a single tail rushing down the steps before me.

Whose cat it was and how it found its way to the roof of my apartment, I never knew.  It was a moment where baby changed into cat and the lapse between the two was a time where I was suspended, or as I like to say-just plain confused.  Children and animals, back and forth visions flashed in my mind like some bad TV reception.  This madness continued for a while until that white tail assured me I wasn’t totally crazy.  Madness is all around me, and almost always it comes from my own mind.  But although this state brings an uncomfortable taste to my mouth, it also always leaves me with an intense happiness and an overwhelming sense of well-being.  I suddenly do not fear death nor care about it.  I only live for that moment, even if it is a certain kind of madness.

And as I like to say, I’m simply living in Astoria.  The suspension of confusion and excitement happens anywhere.  In the light of a Tuesday sun or in the florescent lights of a subway car, this state of mind happens.  But it almost always takes place when I’m home, in Astoria.  At a day’s end, riding the R or N train, voices fade away and my mind looses focus, thinking of calm and of a peaceful place.  Although I feel safe and relaxed, lunacy always finds its way to me again.

I admit I was a bit anxious when I had the thought there was a baby on my roof.  My mind materialized an endless amount of reasons why it was there.  But, that was a pretty odd situation.  Laugh if you want, but my mind also allows me to be in Astoria, in mundane ways like when I go to the post office to buy stamps or on any evening when I leave the subway and proceed home on Broadway.  I think this is because I always see things which remind me of the places I’ve left behind or of people that I’ve left or have left me.  On any evening, I become engulfed by a world which is both past and present at the same time.  These landmarks speak to me and create a tension, madness so strong that suddenly, I am Astoriated.

Sure, I see the usual pizza joint and barber shop.  The Greek restaurants and bakeries make my day as I pass and smell their food.  But, when I walk up Broadway to the point of passing Steinway, I am immediately reminded of my friend Shannon whose dream was to get her very own Steinway piano.  I see visions of her on Steinway searching for just the right one, and suddenly I hear her exact slow songs, her calm jazz.  I take out my cell phone and give her a call.  The incessant rings of my call take over those notes.  Shannon never pays her phone bill and wouldn’t pick up her phone even if she had a working one.

Going further up the street, I pass another place which provokes this awkward Astoria.  I try to look away, but no matter where I look or what I think about as merely a distraction, I almost always notice Doyle’s Corner.  The huge Kelly green shamrock on the sign outside the bar calls to me.  On Saturdays it gives me an attitude and yells out in its manliest voice, “Go Ireland!”  Sometimes when it’s a warm spring day it mocks me saying, “I left you for leprechauns!”  I know, I am horrible and yet somehow pathetic.  But that sign eats away at me without fail every time as I think about one certain past boyfriend.  I’m thinking of taking it down, so if you pass it one day and find it missing you’ll know not to go looking for it.

After my angst passes and I’ve gone past Doyle’s Corner, I look back to see the faded Pittsburgh Paints sign on an old brick building.  It reminds me of the place that I’ve come from and also of a place that continues to call me to its safety.  Literally.  As if the ten phone calls from home each day are not enough, I always have these strange “urgent messages” left for me.  My father leaves these messages for me repetitively.  One by one, day by day I listen.

Message One, Urgent Message, “Hey Missy, it’s a cold one today…make sure to wear your hat.

Message Two, Urgent Message, “Hey Missy….Its going to snow today.  Or Urgent Message, “Oreo says Hello!”

I cannot be there, but am tempted to go back to the city where urgent messages are weather reports and greetings from the family dog.  That is my comfortable place.

But Broadway can be different and is.  Not always triggered by tired confusion or the past, my madness is caused by things which are dark.  The other evening, after I left the subway station, I walked down the steps, off the platform and onto Broadway.  It was the usual routine until I had passed Steinway.  At this point I saw a white van covered by blood.  It had looked as if the streets were covered by a red rain or as if someone took a hose and sprayed the van with a thick red sludge.  I was in panic.  I walked past the intersection and noticed on the cement that sprays of blood were heartbeats apart.  I changed my mind and immediately I thought this was something bigger like a massacre, a gang shooting.

I walked further past Doyle’s Bar and across the street was the Chinese takeout place, all taped off.  A drunken guy at Doyle’s told me some Black Mexican went inside for a beer.  The owner wouldn’t serve him anything because he doesn’t serve alcohol at all.  The guy called him racist and was angry thinking the situation was spawned from hate.  The guy punched the glass door in with both fists and pulled out.  Shocked by the amount of blood and pain, the man ran down the street screaming, “You Racist!!” with wrists severed, spraying people and buildings.  Ironically, the man ran to Rite Aid for bandages but didn’t make it.  He collapsed on the white van outside.  The cops said he probably didn’t live.

Just knowing that death was around me and that I was living caused such an awkward fear and such a rush of excitement, that once again I was living in Astoria.  Seeing the reddened buildings, sidewalks and signs caused such horror that I immediately was thankful for the life around me.  But at the same time, I still had some sick, twisted humor that caused me to find the idea of people getting spraying with blood somewhat funny.  People walking in their going out clothes, looking good, feeling confident to be only sprayed by someone’s DNA.  A whole night ruined.  I was alive and that was all that mattered.  These people around me were alive and that was all that mattered.  Slowly, the blood wore away after the next rain, the tape was removed, the glass door replaced.

Yes, it is true that this was one horrific day.  The whole of Astoria changed with just one white van and some red.  In one instance, madness took over.  But, my neighborhood is calmed and returns to its normal state, until something else changes it again.  Not cats or signs which exasperate memory but holiday lights on row houses, snow and huge plastic figurines.  The dullness and dirty sidewalks go away for the time being and things become just one beautiful dream.

In this beautiful dream is the Astoria.  You are caught alone, something in the air changes and you notice it slowly like a newly decorated room.  You are in it, on quiet, snowy nights when your lease is up and you are wandering the streets in search for a place to call home.  You hope the next place will be better, fighting the uncertainty.  On Sunday nights, when you are doing laundry and dreading work, you enjoy the moment when you only have to fold clothes.  And other times, you are in Astoria just walking around after lunch or dinner for no particular reason.  You find a certain kind of peace in the gaudy reindeer set that is inside the front window of one storefront.  The red and green bulbs fade as you wonder why it is that you continue to struggle, when all you search for is simplicity.

Living in Astoria, this suspended madness, is not easy.  I am waiting for the confusion to end, when it never does.  I am looking for old places when new ones are found.  I search for the things that I love most, when they are not near.  Sometimes confronted by death, I face fear.  But life seems ever so much more vivid.  There is clarity from the madness and because of this I continue to walk down Broadway to my home.  Finding happiness out of the sad and a sense of calm from the chaos is what keeps me going.  Because of this, I pass the row houses, my one neighbor’s menacing dog only to see my house.  From a distance I can always count on that beach blue painted vestibule, which my brother says reminds him of a tanning salon.  A beacon of safety, I continue to my door, open it, only to start the Astoria again tomorrow.

 

Suicide

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2011 at 11:50 pm

People have called me “crazy”.  They also like to use the term “eccentric” when they’re not trying to hurt my feelings because apparently I’m too nice to be called that.  Nice or not, I’m not crazy.  I think very few things are crazy.  My normal range lately has increased to hold a stretch of things.  It used to be much smaller and just to give you an example, I’ll admit that I used to have bursts of panic just riding the bus to work a few years back.  The people that I came in contact with on the local transportation were enough.  Their weird twitches and loud outbursts gave me chills.  But, I’m proud to say that after moving to Astoria, I no longer think anything is out of the ordinary.  Even though I continually hear that word muttered softly around me, absolutely nothing is crazy anymore.

Take the other day, for instance.  I was on the subway and there’s this guy who gets on the R train real early at around 7:30 or so.  I only see him when I’m feeling extra productive and want to go in to work before everyone else does.  Now, when this guy boards the train he’s always wearing this huge orange jump suit.  The thing is two sizes too big.  He has this backpack strapped to his shoulders like he’s going off to flight school or something.  But, what really gets me is that he has these huge headphones on, which have the text THUNDER79 imprinted on each side.  They kind of hold his thick black glasses in place while he rides.  Everyone thinks this man is crazy but if you ask me, this is just his morning routine.

The real kicker is when the train starts to pull off.  When those doors close he walks to the center pole, leans back and hangs on with his full weight dangling by his arms.  The train rolls and rides and he’s there swaying to some music which I imagine is a hard rock or heavy metal.  It’s like he’s jumping out of a plane, parachuting to some unknown land.  It’s the same every morning.  In response to this harmless poll dancing I hear the usual whispering, “He’s crazy!” or “Just look at him…” from the other people around me who’s normal range does not seem to include his presence.

People call this mad.  People consider this lunacy.  But you know what?  I’m still not considering this.  You don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to just jump out of a plane and fly.  Sure, it would help if I had a jump suit and a book bag on, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking it.  Now, I suppose a lot of people all over the place think things like this.  They want to do the crazy dance in the middle of a crowd, but refrain.  They have a deep desire to just let out a primal scream in the silence of a church, but don’t.  There are also people that do want to do these things and they do them without ever thinking twice.  They are the people that strap on the bag and the jumpsuit and ride the poles.  They risk their reputation.  Others however want to climb mountains in the face of death or even consider jumping off buildings and sometimes even do.

Now the latter involves risking your life and because it does this, it wrestles the borderline of crazy.  It’s especially questionable when the action is done in order to purposefully end your life.  I really don’t know if I could jump off something so high.  I once jumped off a low bridge into some really deep water on a dare and got scared shitless.  It’s a pretty big deal for me, at least.  But I really think that for some people this is much easier.  The other day as I was walking back from my lunch break, I was a partial witness to such a phenomenon.

Around one o’clock or so, I turned down my street in Chelsea and saw a crowd standing at the corner.  I was too exhausted to see what was going on so I continued back to my office, went up the one flight of stairs and took my seat at the computer.  As I sat there doing my thing, people by the dozens were coming back from lunch with a single, common story.  That crowd was there for a reason; apparently some man was standing on the ledge of a window, outside his office.  Not only was he threatening to commit suicide, but he was also holding a co-worker hostage.  First, he threw a plant as well as a file cabinet out the window.  Then he decided to throw himself out along with someone that I don’t think he liked very much.  The police brought out the negotiator and the air mattress was laid out just in case he jumped.  I don’t think he ever did.  From what I heard, it seems like he just kind of hung out there until someone took him down.

Not that I’ve ever considered suicide or anything like that, but I kind of understand the guy.  All it takes is one extremely bad day at work and it could potentially send you to the ledge.  I know for sure we’ve all had those.  Work is filled with hardships either brought on personally or by crappy co-workers and menacing bosses.  We’ve all wanted to throw someone out the window.  He probably got carried away after the plant, the file cabinet and thought, “Hey…why not just myself.”

Like I mentioned before, this situation is on the borderline of crazy.  Even the man on the train may seem a bit strange and pushing it.  But, I can’t be totally certain.  These people are living in the madness.  They are facing it head on and are not shying away like some weak wind.  They confront confusion and fear without ever thinking twice about it.  Sure people say that those who commit suicide are running away from problems, but I think in this case the guy just wanted to stir things up a little…but who knows!

So what if I have my doubts about what’s normal?  I can be certain about one thing though.  I know for sure what is absolutely ridiculous, absolutely intolerable.  What it boils down to, is living in fear and not confronting it.  It also includes being satisfied with the known and forgetting about ever wanting to understand the unknowable.  Even living in the past or in the future totally kills the Astoria and this is unacceptable, just plain absurd.  Living without Astoria is just not living.

I know people who do not choose it.  I have this one cousin whom I love dearly but he chooses not to live in the Astoria.  He sits at home in the same house he grew up in.  Afraid to leave the house, he lives in collected memories and dwells only on his regrets.  Never leaving his own neighborhood, he has no desire to explore, to know anything else but his four corners of the world.  Or take for instance my one friend Christina who sits inside as a 20 something knitting and reading her days away.  She can’t handle anything out of her routine so she never changes a thing or rearranges her schedule even if something really great comes along.  Satisfied with only being in her comfort zone, she’s aged 50 years wondering what things would be like if she ever did anything different.

Astoria is a choice.  It’s out there if we want it and if we don’t want it, then we can just sit around, hiding from things which frighten us and waiting for the things that we do want.  If we want to, we can just live in a house collecting memories.  We can refuse to fight if danger or despair comes our way.  But we can also avoid danger at all costs, even if it means locking ourselves in, bolting doors and securing the windows.  Living in Astoria is a tough choice and one that maybe makes no sense at all.

But once again, I am certain that a life without Astoria is what’s crazy.  I picture it and cringe.  It’s like eating different foods which all taste bland or listening to the same song over and over.  If I didn’t embrace the madness I’d probably be in a locked up in a room somewhere biting my nails till I was surrounded by sharp shreds of worry.  Work would be just too much handle because the people would be too much to bear.  The guys which I’ve dated would just creep me out so much that I’d given up by now and the family next store which sits outside on their couch, watching tv would just be too strange.  I wouldn’t be able to go to work.  I wouldn’t be able to go out with friends.  I certainly wouldn’t be able to even go home.

When I look back at that day at work when the suicide almost happened, I think everyone was living in Astoria.  We were sitting around either gossiping about the event or gasping in horror because work was just way too boring.  The diverting conversations continued and my co-worker Alisha said something which I’ve thought about for a while now.

She said, “Every so often, you just have to do something in your life that doesn’t make any sense.”

I responded, “Yeah, well that guy probably thought suicide made sense at the time…”

“No, but really…no sense at all.”

I rolled my eyes at Alisha and then turned around to my other co-worker Ben, “And so what are you doing about this Julian?”

Ben said, “I get tattoos…and I keep getting them.  I don’t know why.”

“And you Alisha?” I asked.

“It’s enough that I come to this place every day.”

And enough is right.  Sometimes, just waking up in the morning is all the Astoria you need.

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