We celebrate dryness in autumn

Pine cones in lieu of flowers. In October we celebrate decay. All things drying out and brittle — colors far different from when the thing was alive. We celebrate spooky. We create bouquets of whatever we find in nature that is emaciated. This goes on straight into November — until Thanksgiving, when we gorge and are OK again with plumpness, the vitality of food consumption and digestion.

The man who lives near my house

I walk through my complex to start my jog several times a week. It’s still dark out, and I begin my run near the big tree across from the leasing office.

In the morning the sky is pretty because I can still see the stars, and I usually spot a constellation or two. 

Today, the man was not yet outside smoking. I see him when I go by his home, on the corner where I turn to head down the block to the park. This morning his paper was still in his driveway.

The other day I saw him, having apparently returned from 7-Eleven across the street. He held his bag of groceries, and he flicked on a small flashlight and began reading headlines near his garage door while his paper was still in its wrapper, which I thought was peculiar. He was squinting and trying to make out the words through the plastic.

Most times the man nods when he sees me pass. 

He is tall and older and wears a ball cap when he comes out to smoke. With that hat on and his demeanor and style of dress, he looks like he should live in the country and be on a John Deere. 

The other morning, when it was chilly, he said, “Beautiful out.” I was running by with my hood on. “I wish it would stay like this,” I replied.

He then stared across the street at the horizon over the buildings, like he often does, as the sky reddened with dawn.

Shark Shirt

He sat amid a sea of empty cafe tables and chairs — a lone island in perhaps the Pacific.

The shirt he wore bore illustrations of small sharks — a throng of them speckling the deep.

He himself wore a mohawk.

He had just demolished a slice of pizza: The flattened box sat lifeless on his table.

Hunched in his chair, he now cruised social media on his cellphone.

A note about perfection

I sit in the morning, tweezing my eyebrows, my coffee turning lukewarm. Over the past few days, my hairs have gathered like the poppy seeds on my toasted bagel — a small colony near the tail of my left brow, spread out like the homes of a suburb on the periphery of a city. But in the same region of my right brow, there is noticeably less density.

In another hindrance, my laser tech fucked up my left brow years ago just above the inside corner of my eye, leaving it sparse, like the crown of a 70-year-old woman. So duh, of course I try to make the other one match, and therefore I tweeze appropriately. Or sometimes I will go in with a brow pencil — dark brown, which always seems to be a mismatched shade, anyhow — in an attempt to correct the scalded one.

In my psyche lurks the deep-rooted illusion of symmetry, a resident phantom that is only mathematically possible yet takes up quarters in the recesses of my brain’s frontal lobe, filed under “beauty standards.” But reality suggests that no two eyebrows are alike. On top of that, my right wrist is thicker than my left; the left side of my face is more flattering than my right; and I am a friendlier, more talkative person after coffee, a sort of Jekyll and Hyde, as many of us are.

I struggle with my brows. Defying all reason, I want both arches to crest above the outer borders of my iris, as is recommended in diagrams for the shape of my face. The lines must aspire to the appearance of bent iron or the malformed finger of the nun who scolded me in grade school when my desk failed to line up like a domino alongside the others in my row.