MAN: I crawl to the top of the tallest building in the city and ask if it will eat me.
THE CITY: …
MAN: Back in Indiana, Grandma takes out her teeth and holds them up to the phone.
GRANDMA: The city is always hungry. Its mouth is wide and black, like an introverted star.
MAN: Dad shoots a beer can with an air rifle.
DAD: Eat or be eaten. It’s your life. Need money? Just kidding.
MAN: Mom sends a Jello-O mold the shape of Robert Moses.
MOM: “The city won’t eat you if you’re not tenderized. XOXO, Mom”
MAN: “The tallest building in the city” is a four-story brownstone in Clinton Hill.
THE MAYOR: Everyone in the city is the neighbor of everyone else.
COMMISSIONER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods,” I’m told.
THE MAYOR: That’s a jurisdictional matter. You’re not in Port Chester anymore.
COMMISSIONER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS: Sir, I’m from Mystic.
THE MAYOR: “Port Chester” is a play on words, from a Basque term meaning “your dad’s balls.” The Neapolitans have a similar expression. Few know this.
MAN: The Brownstone feels a door for heat.
MAN: The performance artist ties a bluefin tuna by its tail and hoists it in the center of the loft. A man in a black rubber suit holds a baseball bat.
THE PERFORMANCE ARTIST: BIGOTRY! INCEST! MURDER!
MAN: The rubber man whacks the fish.
THE PERFORMANCE ARTIST: ROBBERY! ARSON! BROADWAY!
MAN: The rubber man whacks the fish again.
THE PERFORMANCE ARTIST: PATREON! VENMO! PAYPAL!
MAN: The tuna erupts in candy, confetti, and mackerel.
THE CITY: 🏢🏬🏣🏛️
DATE no. 1: I read The Economist for the tits.
DATE no. 2: MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
DATE no. 3: In my short story, your name is “Man.”
DATE no. 4: I’ll know I’ve made it when my penthouse apartment has a washer-dryer and a model trainset in every room.
DATE no. 2: EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
THE BROWNSTONE: “It Happened to Me: Tao Lin Was Inside Me for a Weekend.”
MAN: A homeless man sits on the bench across from me in Madison Square Park reading a used copy of Slaves of New York and chuckling to himself. A Guardian Angel walks up to him and commandeers the book and reads it in front of him, also chuckling.
HOMELESS MAN: No spoilers!
MAN: The Guardian Angel returns the book.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Thanks, I’ve been meaning to read that one story.
MAN: The Guardian Angel walks away, the homeless man resumes chuckling but not reading.
THE MAYOR: This city is a glorified corridor.
COMMISSIONER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS: How many “corridors” can accommodate both expressionist yoga and intersectional dodgeball?
THE MAYOR: What this city lacks is a gesture of hope, a reason to smile in unison, the biggest group selfie known to mankind.
COMMISSIONER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS: I’m putting on as many slam poetry competitions as space will allow. I need more resources!
THE MAYOR: We can go without 911 for another season.
COMMISSIONER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS: Gregory’s Coffee employees are burning you in effigy.
MAN: The brownstone checks itself for ticks.
MAN: In Indiana, Grandma prays the Rosary using a necklace of SweeTarts.
GRANDMA: The city only knows hunger. It does not know how to picnic. Bring the city out to Missouri, the picnic capital of the More or Less Free World.
MAN: Dad tears up over FaceTime.
DAD: All I ever wanted was an archetype. But what I … what I got was … an idiolect. And Mom says hi.
MAN: Where’s Mom?
DAD: Alaska. I don’t know.
MAN: In Alaska, apparently, Mom tells Dad to tell me she says “Hi.”
THE CITY: 🔥🔥🔥🔥
MAN: Two cops play hooky to ride the Cyclone.
COP no. 1: You see, Cruising isn’t a very good movie on its own. But the best part is, bad movies invite some really interesting readings.
MAN: The second cop nods and bites his hot dog.
COP no. 1: So when you think about it, like really think about it, Cruising is really a misandrist manifesto. It’s not about murders in a gay subculture, but the beastly self-destructive arc of all men. There’s only one female in the film, that’s not a coincidence.
COP no. 2: I like the soundtrack.
COP no. 1: I think it’s about the future, a not too distant future, than any present or even past we recognize.
MAN: The second cop vomits on a child. Children being by law a symbol of the city’s purity of spirit, the second cop is stripped of his pension and forced to live out his days on Hart Island.
COMMISSIONER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS: Sir, every attendee of the Governors Ball self-immolated!
THE MAYOR: Did they leave a note?
COMMISSIONER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS: The detectives think that it seemed more authentic not to.
THE MAYOR: Even so, they should have left a note.
MAN: I lie prostrate on the couch while the TV gaze back at me.
SAMANTHA GUTHRIE: Gregory’s Coffee employees took to Park Avenue this morning, marching northward to Grand Central Station, where they hoisted up a black flag and underwent ritual suicide.
HODA KOTB: The event follows a series of “resistance actions” taken against the city’s Tim Hortons locations, reducing their number from two to zero. The Secretary of State has been sent to Ottawa to apologize and ease tensions.
SAMANTHA GUTHRIE: It’s hairy out there today.
HODA KOTB: It really is.
THE CITY: 🌚
THE CITY’S THERAPIST: I’d like to explore that further in our next session.
THE MAYOR: This city has become a reflective surface of my inner pain.
COMMISSIONER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS: All Gregory’s Coffee locations are now public utilities.
THE MAYOR: I mask my inner pain with outer pain, but the city reflects my outer pain now, too.
COMMISSIONER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS: They are now used to store everyone’s unsold Dash Snow pieces. And for holding cells.
THE MAYOR: Holding cells?
COMMISSIONER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS: For play purposes. Sometimes interpretive dance goes on. You will be given the Congressional Medal of Freedom for your decisive leadership. Marcia Cross will play you in the TV miniseries.
THE MAYOR: That is a higher threshold of pain. The city won’t know what to do with itself.
COMMISSIONER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS: Give the city the key to itself.
MAN: I stand on top of the brownstone as it takes a dick pic.
PERFORMANCE ARTIST: THE DOG PARKS BELONG TO THE PEOPLE.
RUBBER MAN: BARK! BARK! WOOF! WOOF!
MAN: A woman takes a picture of me in Warby Parker.
WOMAN: Congratulations on being given the key by the mayor!
MAN: She posts the photo that goes sufficiently viral that it requires me to write letters to amNew York, Time Out, and Vulture to clarify a substantial misunderstanding.
DATE no. 5: I’ve learned you need a good routine. Even if you can’t afford it, you can get a good routine. Not that I can’t afford one, I can. It’s just that the one that is most affordable for all works best for me.
DATE no. 6: Before I moved to New York I had a language problem. I didn’t have the right language to express myself authentically.
DATE no. 5: I buy a 30-pack. I stand in front of the mirror behind my apartment door and do 10 squats wall holding the 30-pack.
DATE no. 6: But living here gives me the tools I need to feel good about feeling dead inside and saying so often. I wasn’t able to do that back in Hazlet.
DATE no. 5: I drink 15 of the 30-pack and donate the rest to the Unitarian Church who distribute it to orphans.
DATE no. 2: E.
DATE no. 5: College-aged, gainfully employed orphans.
MAN: The brownstone does not text back.
MAN: The performance artist earns plaudits from Jerry Saltz when she falls into the city’s mouth along with several traffic enforcement agents, a garbage truck, tourists on Citi Bikes, the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, the casts of Dear Even Hansen and The Deuce, all of Hudson Yards, and Saltz himself. The rubber man goes to Washington University in St. Louis to earn his MFA in Picnicking.
MAN: I pack my things and write a letter explaining most of everything. Before I go to the Port Authority, I walk to the brownstone to leave it on the door. When I get there, though, I find an empty lot with a swivel chair in the center of it, upon which a letter is place.
THE BROWNSTONE: “Sorry, not sorry. But, really, sorry. 😛 XOXO, The Tallest Building in the City”
MAN: A Gregory’s Coffee employee sits across from me on the G train, wearing a balaclava and reading a bloodied copy of Speedboat. The train stops somewhere under Queens and won’t start again until the Gregory’s Coffee employee finishes reading. He reads every word aloud, with appropriate feeling. I exit somewhere dark, moist-seeming.
THE CITY: 💃