Let's Not Do This Now


I wrote this in February 2012 for my old writing group, and only got to read it last night as the group was meeting at our apartment - Krissa is still involved.


Yesterday, this is what I saw. This is how it made me feel. This is what I think.

In Brooklyn and waiting to cross a street two women on the other side share a kiss and turn and smile out at the world and I smiled back, doubly happy to see love and its free expression, when there are places in the world where it would be possible but not prudent to kiss at a crosswalk when your lover is of the same sex. The taller of the two caught my eye and my smile and I held it , suppressing the fear of being thought a leering voyeur, but she smiled again and looked away and I was relieved at not breaking her out of whatever world they were inhabiting.

Sitting in a mostly empty subway car at twenty to seven in the evening and heading to the village, near me was a drag queen in a large curly wig and leopard print minidress adjusting her makeup with a jerky staccato movements that suggested a mixture of verve and nerves. Halfway down the car behind her, two men in white lace skullcaps and leather jackets were loudly discussing alcohol in Islam in the middle of the carriage and I realized I would be okay with living in New York for a long time.

I get a sort of mental tic from time to time, like I imagine some people get vertigo or flashbacks, of what it is I?m looking at or doing. Making coffee in a skyscraper made of hot-rolled steel and long-set concrete, three hundred feet above the ground. Sitting in a ponderous heavy metal canister propelled along rails by electricity at forty miles an hour, reading a book, under a river. Breathe in. Alveoli exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide at the gas-blood barrier, do nothing with the nitrogen. Breathe out. Stepping outside onto the office balcony for some fresh air and a view of downtown and the harbor, where a tugboat is buoyed upwards with a force equal to the weight of the Hudson river water it displaces, and moves forward due to the effect of differential pressure over the moving blades of its propeller like wings and described by Bernoulli?s equation which you can demonstrate by blowing between two sheets of paper... I have spent so much of my life learning how to isolate things...to recognize the systems in the world. When alone they can be simplified and understood. Sometimes things will ?click? into that isolation of perception when, suddenly alone on the stage, they embody a remembered fact or relationship that is completely and abstractly true but utterly irrelevant to the ocean of real movement and life in which we are immersed.

I stepped out of my office building, abrupt into streams of people and into the path of a blonde woman in a smart blue coat walking hard, crying, brushing her hair from her face and talking on the telephone.

?And now you?re trying to break up with me like this, when you?re mad at me, and you don?t want to talk. Let?s not do this now.?

Blocked by flow in both directions I was forced into an evasive intimacy with her as she listened, and a snatch of voice, digitized but unmistakably emotionally aroused in tone, briefly dopplered past my ear and I couldn?t help but turn as she passed me and heard her say, ?It?s not right to do this,? as she became lost in the crowd.

I thought of a boyfriend, an angry situation of no real importance any more and a sudden coldness of the heart like a blanket being lifted from the skin, and the ease and surgical finality of using the telephone to remove someone from your life, and how terrible it is.

I pursed my lips in sharp sympathy and crossed the street to the subway station by the church and thought that it might only be through the persistent application of humanity to time, day after day, that we ever accomplish at all. Just think of all the impersonality and restriction and structure we?ve made and have to deal with and how simple and sad it is to become inundated by it, or to withdraw into it, to be seduced by its ease or broken by its complications. It is near miraculous and bloody marvellous that we manage to reach out from behind all our thoughts and memories and ego and through our perceptions to find consensus on anything at all, let alone to love and share and risk...that we all take small steps - forward and backward - we progress and regress - deliberately, accidentally, and voluntarily for long stretches of time for a million reasons which occur to us from one moment to the next and even though we realize what we?re doing isn?t that tiring and inspiring at the same time?


I'm struggling to start putting down words, because there's so much to say and yet the difficulty of finding a voice for it is great; a thread to start in on the morass of feeling, but starting is half the battle so here goes.

Firstly: God fucking damnit.

Nextly, if you hadn't heard via social media feeds: Krissa and I are totally fine, no damage to property, life or dog, we never lost power, water or internet, but we were tense, and scared - that we would lose windows, that something would hit a window, that the power and water would go down and we wouldn't know for how long... and the noise was awful. All of which is nothing on the scale of what happened to others but it was our personal experience and not one I'd care to repeat. 

Our apartment is not blessed with great views, but throughout Monday we watched a tarpaulin flapping on the construction site next door, jabbing backwards and forwards and tearing itself to pieces as the daylight faded and all we had to go on was the sound and the windows rocking backwards and forwards in their frames, and I felt suddenly anxious that our loose, fine-for-now-whatever windows,a  few of which have very weak and leaky frames, would be sucked out or blown in. Sudden noises from the neighborhood, bangs, clangs, people whooping or crying out, arrived without context.

Surreally, at around 9pm I spoke briefly to France 24 on their 2am TV news bit, with a head full of confluent tides, rivers and hurricane water domes, nor'easters and the very real threat to the city, the presenter insisted on keeping discussion to my individual concerns and experience, which at that time was nothing more than seeing some downed branches in the afternoon and a worry over how we were going to walk the dog in a hurricane...and then they moved on to Ukrainian elections and the events in Syria. Sorry New York. I didn't really give you a good shake there.

At eleven pm a strong smell of smoke started seeping in the cracks around the windows with each gust, and we panicked. We stood on stepladders in the kitchen trying to see a distant light that looked orange and flickery. It was a train yard light not normally visible from our apartment because trees were being bent around like crazy in the wind.

When there was a press conference announcing that the worst of the storm had passed, we exhaustedly went to bed, after seeing people talk of green lightning and blackouts on twitter and facebook.


The next day the first thing we did was call family and let them know we were ok. Winds were still high and rain came in short frequent bursts. The dog was taken for a walk and after thirty seconds pulled back towards home. We spent time just absorbing what had happened from friends and news and NY1, and the impact had been so divorced from our own experience it was difficult to accept. This is the picture I took walking down to our nearest evacuation center, about 11 on Tuesday morning. They had more volunteers than evacuees (30:25) and had only had 115 of their expected 600+ the night before...so I was turned away. 
Sunset Park was almost normal, apart from the debris. Stores were open. The bakery smells on 5th Avenue were incredible.

I know we were fantastically lucky to have weathered the storm so smoothly, but I can't help be angry.
Could this freak confluence of storms and tide happened without the warming climate? Yes.
Did climate change contribute to making this worse? Absolutely.


There is so much to be done, all of it needed, because there is no one easy fix, and the fact that climate change has been pettily contested so successfully that a presidential candidate can slip it into a speech for an easy laugh..makes me sick.

Blue skies for now, but I've collected all my candles and flashlights in a bag marked 'For Hurricane 2013' and I fully expect to have to use it.


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