FLOATING SHAPES

I'm getting off the J train at the Hewes Street station. It's hot and August wet. I think it must be well over ninety, and the sweat drips into my eyes, stinging me. I can't wipe the sweat away; my hands are full of cans of paint, wood, supplies. I have to buy my supplies in Manhattan, though there's a hardware store in this neighborhood. It never seems to be open; I'm still not sure whether they have closed for good or the Hassidim who run the store are on some religious Jew-holiday I am unaware of. The sweat doesn't bother me much; sometimes nothing can touch me, no matter how painful or trying or humiliating. Sometimes I can be distant no matter how cruel my actions are, or how vicious or pathetic someone is to me. I waited for the train for over forty minutes at the Delancey station, soaked to the skin, immune to the Puerto Ricans arguing and laughing around me. I just stood there, looking deep into the dark tunnels, thinking about the people who live there on the miles and miles of deserted tracks.
           On the train, I spend a long time watching the bones of a small animal on the floor underneath the plastic bench across from me. I can see them through the legs of a sadly unattractive thirteen year-old chewing Bazooka bubble gum. Her skin is bad, and she stares at me, bored. I know they are the remains of a chicken, but I entertain myself with thoughts that the bones were once surrounded by a medium-sized lizard, or maybe even a tiny monkey who lived in the train, ever eluding capture, living off the kindness of strangers. She blows a bubble, and I am persuaded. I pull from my pocket and unwrap a piece of my own gum, soft from the heat of my ass, and stick it in my mouth.
           Clem told me that leaping in front of a subway train is not the quick and efficient death I had imagined, but rather leaves the suicide to fade slowly, burst from the impact and tumbled in his own entrails, often surviving long enough to see the contempt of workmen, who have to clean up the mess, and travelers, who are unnecessarily delayed. He despises suicide, condemning it as a sign of weakness. I think it's romantic when done properly, or at the very least, a satisfactory response to tedium.
           I live in my studio. It's about the size of a garage, about two hundred square feet in the corner of an old rag factory in South Williamsburg. I rented the studio from Kathy, a friend of a friend, when I first moved to New York as a day space to make paintings. Work was unsteady, though, and I soon lost my small room in the East Village. Kathy didn't want a roommate, but I had nowhere else to go, and after I repeatedly pressed the issue, she let me move in. I built a small room in the corner of my space, just large enough to surround my futon mattress, and now spend much of my time hiding there, feeling constantly awkward that I have imposed myself on someone's life. The rest of the space is enormous with very high ceilings, and I can get onto the roof to paint and tan and drink tall cans of cheap beer while I watch the Puerto Ricans loiter in the street or work on their cars or fight.
           Kathy's studio is on the fifth floor. There's a freight elevator, but the other artists in the building are adamant about me returning it to the ground floor after I use it. They don't appreciate the walk up to pound on my door to yell at me to send it back down. The climb to Kathy's studio is excruciating in the summer. The woman on the second floor yells at me sometimes about her children, and how she cannot leave them alone over and over again to walk up to retrieve the elevator. I don't have a phone, and told no one Kathy's number, so I don't answer when people call. The woman on the second floor also yelled at me about this. She's called me more than once about the elevator.
           I work part-time in Greenwich Village in a small print shop laying out people's business cards and party invitations and printing them to film for the press people. I used to walk to work. Now I take the J train to Delancey and transfer to the F. Sometimes I walk from Bowery. I like the walk. I hope someday to support myself making smooth and colorful abstract paintings. I am meticulous when I paint, not at all like the work I do for the print shop. I sand the dozens of coats of gesso, then patiently lay down layer after layer of spraypaint, sanding in between each. I love the nearly featurless surface I finally end up with; the paintings only reveal the smallest details when studied at close range with a serious eye. When everything is perfect, I carefully mask off long, gently curving stripes. There is nothing more entertaining to me than to drink a forty while sanding smooth layers of paint I have applied while up on the roof. When I set type for long hours at the print shop, I am deliberately sloppy, passive-aggressively leaving obvious mistakes, delighted with myself when they escape the proofreader.
           I hope to sell paintings, but so far I've been lazy about pursuing anything. Kathy, before I moved in, suggested I talk to a friend of hers who runs a gallery on Broadway in Soho. I never did, and now I suspect that the offer would never have been made if she thought it might influence me that she was helpful, looking out for me, and would possibly offer me shelter when asked repeatedly.
           I'm home. Kathy's not, so I put some girl-pop on her stereo and paint for a while. Kathy gave me a fan, so I use it to speed the drying of the paint. I can paint thin layers of paint and sand more often with the fan. While the paint dries, I dance to the girl-pop and drink beer. I'm surprised I left any. The painting I'm working on is sitting on a table, and I look up from watching my feet to see two of Kathy's catswalking across the tacky surface, shaking their feet to get rid of the wetness. They make little tracks away from the table.

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