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running away with the circus (looking for dolphins)

There are three of them, a brazen woman with bright eyes and a big voice, a man going grey with a hop in his step and a younger woman who might be their daughter or their niece that twists her short hair into little tufts. They roam the hotel, sometimes in elaborate costumes, letting us know that there will be a secret dance party near the ballroom in an hour.

The older woman strolls in during dinner in a costume of blinking Christmas lights and exotic face paint. V stares up at her, convinced she is a princess or a fairy or maybe both. The next night, she is all in black, great horns wobbling on her head. She always has a pair of black Converse high tops on, as if they go with every costume or maybe they are the only shoes she owns.

The man is typically dressed as a pirate, in a striped shirt, maybe an eye patch. He is perfectly relaxed, like his limbs are made of silly straws. The younger woman is always smiling, her mouth a wall of metal braces and lip gloss. I imagine they sleep …

every pair of shoes has a story to tell

There are Soviet-Era mailboxes on the first floor of our building. A key to any of the slots will work in the next, so there is no actual privacy. Nothing tends to be in the boxes but penny saver fliers, and the occasional water bill. They stand with slack open mouths staring back at anyone waiting for the elevator to rumble open. On top of these mailboxes, you can often find a dusty book or a broken toy. The mailboxes enjoy a second life as an unofficial lost and found, and a donation shelf. Last week I saw a pair of black stilettos there. Today, a pair of white nurse shoes. Some time ago there was a cane, leaning against the wall. It is unavoidable, the game of wondering who left them and what adventures they had. There is little else to do as you wait for the elevator to arrive. 

Every pair of shoes has a story to tell. 




On my very first trip alone in Manhattan, I was on a mission to buy a 16mm film splicer for editing class. I had been in the city countless times, but always with someone else. I managed it alone, walking down Broadway all of the way to Rafik's just below Union Square. On the way back to Grand Central, I had the idea to find some cheap lunch. Somehow I passed 42nd street and kept going north, and on 47th in the middle of the diamond district I spied a little sign hanging above a doorway. "Wise men fish here" it said, in hand letters. I walked inside, to find magnificent piles of obscure books. Here was Kawabata, and Lorca, Kerouac and Micheline. I came across a slim, weathered collection of short stories by Anaïs Nin titled Under a Glass Bell. It was mine for a few dollars. I wandered out into the glaring sun of 47th street and shuffled East somehow, and had sushi for the first time.

It was only on the train back to school that I cracked the book open, fingering the yellowed pages, breathing in that scent of dead things and the soy sauce on my fingertips. Inside the back cover, there was a tiny ink stamp. "From the library of Anaïs Nin" it read. It had been her very own copy, resting on a shelf in her apartment  - maybe the one in the West Village.

I made a point of returning to the Gotham Book Mart every time I was back in the city, spending more and more time in-between the stacks. The greats had wandered the same carpeting - Joyce, Salinger, Mailer, Miller, even Jackie O.. Some even slept here I was told. I had crushes on some of the girls that worked the counter, trying to make small talk when I traded a slip of paper with a number on it for my bag as I left each time. I imagined some day that one of my books would languish on the shelves there, my name all in caps, the title something rare and sublime.

The store closed some time ago, but I still have my copy of Under a Glass Bell. I lost so many things along the way, but this little book survived it all. Now that I publish books, I decided to make them all the exact same dimensions as this one, an odd and secret tribute to that perfect afternoon.



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