you spread a towel across the floor; you fill two plastic litter pans with warm water and epsom salt and set them a foot apart on the towel. you test the water temperature with your elbow, you can't get a good feel for the heat through surgical gloves. you fold and roll a second towel and place it between the pans. D throws a towel over the swan's head and brings her, swaddled and thrashing, to the roll. when she's seated, you grab the swan's right ankle and force her foot into an epsom bath; a friend mirrors you on D's left. D sets her phone's timer for ten minutes and kicks it across the lobby, out of the splash zone. D is wearing jewelry, and you trade stories of songbirds unraveling friendship bracelets, of beads lost to canada geese, of the time a pigeon's cage ripped a favorite earring right out of your head. when D's phone chimes, you and the friend lift the swan's feet out of their baths. they're flat and black, huge, like moldering leaves; pink patches of new skin bloom in the spots where the swan's bumblefoot scabs have fallen off. you swipe up a tablespoon of udder balm from a pot on the floor and massage it into the swan's right foot, you swipe up a tablespoon of udder balm from a pot on the floor and massage it into the swan's left foot. the smell is the cloves, D says. you release the swan's left foot and remove the towel from her bowed head; she erupts from D's lap and the little girls in the lobby window are vowels.
a dotty-but-harmless, harry-dean-stanton-fallen-on-hard-times fellow met me at the counter at ye olde charity bookstore cafe yesterday; we chatted about the weather and how every time a big white truck parks on crosby at the front window i assume that we've been snowed in. he reappeared an hour later and told me, slowly, that i reminded him of a girlfriend he'd once had. that my sequined top was, that i was, liza minnelli, he trailed off and i didn't know what to do; he tipped forward and went blank and i didn't know what to do. his coffee cup fell to the floor.
he's a client, D said. (ye olde charity bookstore's D is a man, o shame—when i didn't know what to do i summoned a man from the basement.) D roused the fellow, offered him a gentle shoulder, and guided him outside. he just had his methadone, D said, those are the nods. the worst is when they get the nods right on the stairs.
i walked home through an alley between crosby and lafayette and pretended i hadn't meant to pass the memorial offerings outside david bowie's new york apartment. a girl played the last thirty seconds of "heroes" on her phone, and a tall man whispered the details of angie's divorce settlement to a friend at his side. everyone says hi.