Humidity By Woodworth Winmill

December 29, 2014 Comments Off on Humidity By Woodworth Winmill

At first, I thought it smelled of gasoline or vodka, putting me in mind of highway gas stations and dorm rooms, but a memory came to me: a smiling, short, gray-haired woman telling my lab section that, the semester before, some girls had come in to use the ethyl acetate — the chemical we used to wash organic compounds off glassware — to take their nail polish off. Like dissolves like. It made sense that the lime green nail polish, which I had half-finished applying, had the same primary ingredient as what I could use to erase it.

But what was weird, I realized as the sun rose across the East River by the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center, was that I was trying to dissolve myself in a city inhabited by people whose days were, for the most part, fundamentally unlike mine. I lay naked on top of my sheets at six — seven? o’clock: well-rested, sober, uncaffeinated, and without anything I, strictly speaking, needed to do that day.

Later, after my shower with volume-maximizing shampoo, I put on the khaki shorts and a short-sleeved seersucker shirt I’d worn the day before, and it was off to the races. On the sidewalk in front of me, a man in very short pastel shorts and a collared, lavender shirt with a pattern of leaves told his friend he wished he had Sperrys, and his friend offered to lend him some, and the first man said he was just going to buy a pair that afternoon. Then an old man in a coat and tie asked me whether I had change for a twenty, maybe two tens, and I told him I didn’t (which was true) and then I heard him asking someone else, who did. I was confused until I saw a taxi waiting, the driver standing by it.

I’d been walking for half an hour, past signs advertising shows at the Met with catchy titles that referred to artists and eras I didn’t know anything about, when I saw a townhouse ahead of me with a flag out front: aha, a consulate! But was it Italy or Mexico? I’d seen the Mexican consulate a few days before, I was sure, on another long, objectiveless walk, so this one had to be Italy. When I reached it, I read the metal sign: The American Irish Historical Society.

I kept walking, past hotdog-pretzel-soda carts and aspiring artists selling their paintings and photos, and pressed my hands together in a surprisingly supplicating gesture. I looked at my nails: I’d painted them green for spring, but it was already summer.

© 2014 Woodworth Winmill

Woodworth Winmill lives in New Hampshire. His novella, A Watchful Woman, is available as an ebook on Amazon.

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