Hi Again Friends!

Having spent the last few weeks alone gazing out my window at a gray wet winter while my partner travels solo, this is the tale that surfaced. May I present to y’all… "Thunk".

It was during in my first year living in New York City that my roommate invited me out on a double date. He was (briefly) seeing a posh British girl who had a wild/weird friend in town he thought I’d vibe with.

This isn’t that story.


At twenty-three, I’d hooked up lots of people but had never been in big adult Love before. That meant I’d never had my heart broken either. Then one spring evening, that wild/weird friend appeared across a long wooden table in an East Village vegan restaurant called Caravan of Dreams: she was higher energy than me, younger and smarter, from a stable loving family. She studied in Cambridge and was recording a twee indie-folk album. Her shit was infinitely more together than mine… and she adored pointing that out at every opportunity.

In truth: she exhilarated and terrified me, and in my struggle to keep up, I’d also decided to hang on to her tooth-and-nail as long as I could, no matter how cruelly she treated me, her lazy stoned American beau. Over the course of a year, we’d cris-crossed the Atlantic for each other, met each other’s parents and siblings — hissing cats in all directions — and somehow I’d convinced myself that we were engaged after she said she would marry me at a rooftop party while on MDMA. I never gave her a ring, never followed through with any of the steps that would’ve edged us into that confrontable reality.

We were always fighting, always breaking up, always making up. The make-ups were the best part, the only bits that contained any hope. We both knew she was going to eat me alive.

Again, not that story.


Somewhere in the valley of the worst of our fights — where she’d correctly called me out for introducing myself as a comic-maker having never actually made any comics — fiery autumn turned wet and windy and black, rotting and freezing all the beautiful things that surrounded us during our New York summer together. I was alone in my apartment. My roommate was seeing someone new, someone I’d never met, but it had gotten serious enough that he was never around.

We’d moved up to Brooklyn from Miami together, and two other friends of ours — a couple who lived around the corner from us on South Beach — followed us, moving once again around the corner from our 1BR in Greenpoint.

That night they called me — the couple, Dexter (a DJ) and Allison (a stylist) — to come smoke out and watch videos. We were all big Anglophiles, especially weird UK comedy and underground comic books, and Dex said he’d discovered something “earth-shatteringly brilliant” I absolutely need to see. I muttered “sure” and clumsily replaced the phone in its cradle next to my head.

I’d been laying flat on the cold linoleum floor for hours already, surrounded by clumps of cat hair, old joint roaches and used-up international calling cards. All evening, I’d been thinking about killing myself. Not really thinking, but planning. Running scenarios about the least painful way to not have to be fucking here anymore. Part of it was the breakup carousel, but underneath that was the deep shame of being so lost, so lazy and utterly clueless in this world that was always seven steps ahead of me. With no example to follow, the daily act of facing Life until it eventually ran out on me didn’t really seem worth the effort.

There were a few options I was considering of how to do it quickly, with (hopefully) minimal agony. Like jumping off a tall building. Maybe even the Williamsburg Bridge? If the fall didn’t kill me, the freezing water below surely would. But I was also very stoned and very lazy, and I could honestly kill myself any time if I couldn’t motivate myself to do it tonight.

So I bundled in my second-hand winter coat and walked around the corner to Dex and Alli’s.


Dex opened the door of their 1BR into a Candy Land of groovy pop culture ephemera: 1960s movie posters, lucite displays of action figures and Pez candy dispensers, mid-century vintage furniture. Music was thumping from the turntables in the other room as they greeted me with bleary eyes, a lit joint and hugs. Even their chihuahua Mister Piddles snorted at me from his square foot of claimed territory on the couch.

DEXTER: How’ve you been?

I hesitated — such a tell — half-wincing through the shame heating up my gut:

ME: Better. It’s good to get out and see—

ALLISON: Oh my God! Have you seen your roomie’s foxy new chick yet?

I hadn’t. He and I had crossed paths only twice this month, to pay the bills and grab some pierogies in the neighborhood together. Back in Miami Beach, he and I were inseparable: they called us “the twins” at the bookstore we both worked at. Other folks wondered if we were a couple. New York City yanked us in two very different directions — he went into food-service and partying after-hours with food-service friends, I day-gigged doing data entry temp jobs in corporate offices, and subsisted on buttered rolls. Underneath my armor, I missed him.

ALLISON [demolishing the joint]: She’s gorgeous. I kind of hate her.

I took off my shoes and coat, tossed a Ziploc of sticky red-haired Northern Lights on their formica table: my contribution to wherever the evening was heading.

ME: Dex, tell me about this new discovery.

Dex looked at me with an eyebrow cocked, then snapped his fingers. Running into his music studio, he bounded back out with a Region 2 (UK) DVD with just the word “Jam” printed on its clamshell cover:

DEX: “Jam”. It’s hysterical. And creepy. It’s hysterically-creepy.

ALLISON: It’s fucking nausea-inducing is what it is! Made me seasick, but I loved it. [beat] Oh! Do you want to take a Dramamine first?

A Dramamine is not what I wanted. What I wanted was to obliterate the flawed and failing program “Dan Goldman”, if not from this life entirely, then just for tonight. If there existed chemicals that could neutralize the self-pitying bile roiling through my belly I would pour them down my throat by the gallon.

Their bong was in its usual spot, behind the couch. I emptied out the meltwater, stacked it with fresh ice cubes and packed a fat bowl from my own buds.

Reaching into the blown-glass ashtray on their coffee table, I found an oversized lighter with “HEY THAT’S MY FUCKING LIGHTER” printed on the side. It was, in fact, my lighter, purchased the year before at a gas station in Ocala, Florida on my drive up to New York. I wondered whatever happened to it.

The long lighter sparked, the buds caught fire and popped, and smoke filled the chamber, curling around cooling ice cubes. My thumb modulated the airflow through the carb-hole like I was playing an flute in reverse, pulling air through it into me. Don’t laugh: this is what I learned in college. I drew the smoke deep into my lungs like a poison to kill the sadness, or would the sadness kill the poison? Numb, dumb, I dunno. Exhale, cough, tiny veins on the sides of my eyes frizzle, throb. Tiny cough.

The tray of the DVD player whined open, the rest of the room coming back into focus. Green pixelated text of the TV menu floated over the home screen of this “Jam” mystery program. But something was surfacing inside me, like a bubble of air, rising up like a burp and before I realized, it escaped my lips:

ME: We broke up. Again.

DEX: Aw, man. I’m sorry. Again.

ALLISON: Again, like for real?

ME: Yeah. I think so.

DEX: Maybe, you know, you’re free now… to— [He puts his arm around Allison’s neck, their bright eyes and white smiles strobing at me] — find the right person for you.

ME: What if she was the right person though? [I felt their helpful energy dip into frustration. This shit again.] What if I’m letting my one cha—

Loud bubbles. The bong. Alli hit it hard, a politer option than rolling her eyes at this conversation again. I took the hint and shut my mouth. Nobody wanted to hear this.

Dex thumbed the gummy buttons of the remote and the DVD inside the machine began to spin as “Jam” began to play.

The tone of the show truly was unlike anything I’d ever seen before: lo-fi video, distorted ambient music, ironically funny dialogue delivered in a flat deadpan that made it feel like voyeuristic, like trippy surveillance footage. Unconnected scenarios followed one after the next, Dex and Alli guffawing at every deepening transgressive humiliation. It was funny and shocking and absolutely nauseating. Until:

There was a close-up of a man talking to the camera as he looked out the window, flatly recounting another man committing suicide. But instead of jumping off the top of a tall apartment building, the second man commited — brutally — to jumping from the first floor balcony again and again, forty times, “in case he changes his mind.”

I felt… seen, as both suicidal and as a chickenshit. Rage, shame, plus weedy paranoia that my urges to self-obliterate would be detected by the adorable friends sitting next to me, tangled in each others’ limbs plus chihuahua. I closed my eyes and pushed those ink-black thoughts from my mind, through the living room, out the kitchen window, into the night.

A tap-tap. On my shoulder.

ALLISON: Hey. You sleepin’?

DEX: Oooh. Would you like an espresso? I would like an espresso. Or even… a macchiato!

ALLISON: We’ll both take macchiatos, babe. [to me] Oh my God, trust me. So good.

Before New York, before his first album hit, Dex was a barista at a Miami Beach hotel. I’d drank many of his macchiatos. They were excellent.

We all sipped our coffees together. As he hit play on the next episode of “Jam”, Mister Piddles suddenly sat up, facing their bathroom and lowly growling—


We all looked up at the bathroom door.

ALLISON: Uh… what the fuck was that?

There were another couple thunks, softer, then a sound of glass breaking. Dex, unmotivated man of the house, set down his macchiato to investigate. He came back holding a shattered photo frame, inside a prized pic of him and Allison and DJ Towa Tei at a gig in Osaka.

DEX: It just fell off the wall. [looking at the photo] Well, that sucks.

ALLISON: Okay, but what was that “thunk” sound?

DEX: I don’t know what to tell you! I didn’t see anything else—

ALLISON: Babe, can you at least—

She growled, got up to fetch the dustpan, and swept up the rest of the broken glass. Dex plopped back onto the couch with a shrug, picked a roach from the ashtray and lit it. We all passed it around as we burned through another episode of “Jam”.

Outside, the front door of the building banged open, then the vestibule door creaked. Heavy footsteps, wet rain boots squeaking and shuffling down the hall towards Dex’s front door, stopping directly across the hall. A jingle of keys, a fiddle of lock.

Next to me on the couch, Mister Piddles farted nervously.

A few more bootsteps into the apartment before the screaming began.

It began as a choke, a single sob, gasping inward but slowly growing, like an air raid siren keening up from subterranean depth. We all jumped to our feet, suddenly bone sober, our eyes finding each other but no one knowing what to do.

We heard the door across the hall hang back open, a body stumbling out, landing heavy against Dex’s door. Wet sniffling, hyperventilating that gave way to heavy sobs. Thin tenement walls put this woman right in the room with us as she gasped for air, prayed through her teeth:

NEIGHBOR: O God no, nononononono—

Snuffling up wet snot, we heard her flip-phone snap open, three tones calling 911:

NEIGHBOR: Ambulance or p-police? I d-don’t know— he, my boyfriend, he’s just, oh God… he’s j-just hanging there…

We all looked at each other, sick. The thunk. Jesus Christ.

ME [whispering]: Do you guys know her? Should we do—

Allison was not having it. She sat back on the couch next to Mister Piddles and picked up the bong, lighting it with shaking hands. We all joined her, in communion.

In some span of many minutes, both police and ambulance arrived. We knew from the red-and-blue strobing off the bare trees branches outside the kitchen window, the vibration of the ambulance’s idling engine, the double whoop-whoop as they pulled up. Alli leapt up and cracked the windows to flush out as much of the smoke as we could before—

The police and paramedics stormed into the narrow hallway, barking low and macho, squawking walkie-talkies, knocking on neighbors’ doors.

We all took turns watching through the keyhole: the puffy-eyed Neighbor, swarmed by first responders, was swaddled in a blanket and ushered into the triangle beneath the stairwell to give her statement:

COP: Ma’am, was anyone else at home at the time?


COP: How ‘bout neighbors?

Silence from her. She had no idea we were home, this whole time.

NEIGHBOR: I-I don’t think so.

COP: Smell that? That’s your neighbors bein’ home. [a silent beat] Fact, I can hear their teevee.

Oh. Shit.

Silently, surgically as mimes, the three of us peeled ourselves away from the keyhole, stepping backwards over the creaky floorboard to lay ourselves flat against either side of the door frame.

The Cop leaned in, audibly sniffing, and rapped on Dex’s door with his Maglite:

COP [like a TV show]: NYPD. Can I take a statement from one of you guys in there?

We didn’t breathe. We didn’t dare.

He knocked again.

COP: I can hear three of youse in there.

He lingered, breathing and listening like a hunting dog, before moving on to the next neighbor’s door down the hall.


At first we were all shaken sober, then Dex filled our macchiato cups with shots of bourbon. Still, rattled, none of us spoke. I sat there on their couch for two more hours until the body was taken away and all the emergency vehicles had gone.

Eventually, Dex and Alli decamped to the bedroom, weakly waved goodnight, quietly shut the door. I left myself out and walked home alone.

Thin shadows of tree branches crisscrossed the pavement, black brush strokes cast by burning orange streetlights. I kept hearing the THUNK, of the neighbor’s boyfriend kicking the bathroom wall, of the character in “Jam” jumping from his first floor balcony over and over until he broke, of my own need reaching out for friends whose goodwill I’d drained and exhausted.

And above that sound, above the streetlights, silver clouds framed the moon, shimmered on the surface of the East River that flowed beneath the Williamsburg Bridge, calling me to leap all night long. Bubbling up from beneath that Thunk: a short, warm chuckle. At myself. My own stupidity. I wasn’t gonna kill myself over that girl.


We did break up, but not after that night. It dragged on excruciatingly for six more months until I was finally fed up enough to disengage and take myself as seriously I was taking her.

So I guess, maybe, it was that story after all.

Bonus Fun!

Here’s the “Jam” sketch I referenced:

Apparently all six episodes are up on YouTube. It’s still nauseatingly, grimly brilliant.

Until next time, thanks for being here with me. I appreciate you!