I’m walking. It’s what I’m propelled to do under such circumstances. Behind me, an old man trips…and falls…and dies. I don’t turn to look, but keep on walking. There is no need to see with my eyes. My very being knows it to be true, even if it hasn’t actually occurred. I am even quite certain as to the identity of the man. I’ve pulled the trigger on enough previous versions of myself to know who it was. An old man just the same, thirty years or so down my road, yet five years behind me through the histories of thought. It’s better off this way – you know? – and I keep walking, whistling something by Nino Rota.
And it begins to rain, storm violently, as it is propelled to do under such circumstances. A smile crosses my face and leaves it before the cause is even apparent. All the fearsome hunters and gatherers of this city, arm and arm with their identities, run as though an atom bomb has struck, but left them perhaps enough time to carry out their final, flailing acts of existence. Lightning and thunder, my friends, wrestle with each other in a playful, innocently childish manner as my eye is plucked from its socket by a great humanitarian shielding his desiccated life under an umbrella. I should have seen it coming…but I am lost in some of my better memories.
A similar situation had confronted me previously…but before that I am reminded of another experience. It’s what memories propel one to do, conjure up even more memories, until the layers are so dense and infinite that one cannot even be sure what is at present anymore.
The city can be an endurance test now and again, which is quite a thing, and a founding reason for my being here – one of the first times around, anyway. What better way to orient oneself than to be thrown, as if fresh out of the womb, without security or dependence, into an unfamiliar world and a struggle for one’s safe passage.
Oh, Old man! You must leave for home, but what’s this? You’ve lost your return bus ticket and you only have enough money for either a bus ticket or a cab ride. Where the hell are those buses, anyway?
I was given the location of the Port Authority by a cop. Fantastic tour guides, these cops – quite splendid, really. And now, old man, you are going to see the city. From 4th to 42nd street and over to 8th avenue in half an hour, wearing a coat, your hat, and carrying two bags, the strap of one digging into your hip with every step you take, in ninety degree heat? Huzzah! Sounds like a challenge and an epic love story at the same time to me.
Shuffling at just such a pace, I suffer through the most fascinating, mounting misery, reabsorbing and savoring the sweat as it runs down my face. I think, if one were to see a graph of my emotion, it would be quite an eccentric and scientifically intriguing one. There is a certain point, past all the common madness and pain of such an exertion, that one stops feeling all together. All inhibitions and previous fears are taken away and locked up for safekeeping. This is a type of directed unconsciousness through which one may weave whatever one may wish happen – or at least have total faith that that is the case.
I am now external, experiencing and commanding myself from a point devoid of alarm or concern. Observing my body as a mere vehicle, I instinctively combine myself with it, but in a manner different than previous, and command it to walk at a rate that transforms everything that is me into pure thought, pure energy, traveling on a straight line to its immediate destination. No attention is paid towards any of the interesting or threatening characters that dutifully line the street. Without any passage of time, or break in concentration, I reach the Port Authority, buy a ticket and board the bus.
And I am reminded again of that memory that first caused me to recall the previous anecdote. Not as strenuous or extreme a tale as the preceding one, but, then again, despite its similarities, it is a whole other story. Again, it is a journey to the center of the Port Authority. However, the story only really starts as I exit Grand Central Station. Even as I approached the front doors, ready to hit the streets, I could see what awaited me outside, through those big glass windows. Ah, yes sir, brilliant! Clearly, the clouds had gathered in anticipation of me; and, from my perspective at least, the storm only seemed to break as I, in turn, broke through the doors. Boy, and was it raining! The whole sky and city together were darkened like the fantastic antiquated sepia towns that only exist in my dreams. I skipped and spun as the queer fish, this I wish, and am. I couldn’t help thinking of it as some sort of religious, ceremonial, golden shower – the perverse, sinister character that I am – and thought it coming from the city or, truer still, the less ventured sky above it as a welcoming and acknowledgment of me as myself and what I might be.
The rain was so acidic that I expected to be siting on the bus naked. Endurance! A city worker asked, as someone is obligated to do, “Got a little wet, huh?” “Yeah, I got a little wet.” And I walked into a restroom, drying my shirt, shoes, socks, and other things less mentionable, oblivious to any of the finer social graces that might have been observed under such circumstances. It’s what I was propelled to do.
Ah, and here we are, back at the not too distant present. I was standing under the doorway of my building, eating some variety of marble bread, dwelling on these memories, but, as I have snapped out of them, I find myself out in the rain doing what can only be described as a 1950’s Italian style-dance, sweetly and fondly indicative of Giulietta Masina‘s Cabiria. It was the storm that brought me forth in the first place. Despite my great efforts to bar any light from entering my cardboard cave, the very disorder of the storm would have none of it.
Ha! There are my fellow New Yorkers, scattering under shelter of makeshift umbrellas, hiding underneath the morning news, behind second-hand reports, and the religion of information.
If I look behind me, I find myself within a four-year range of difference in age, still waiting in the doorway for someone to come and take me away from all of this. What’s going through my mind looking at me, my eyes closed, now completely numb to the rain? I even seem self-conscious, almost guilty, longing, as though he feels pressured, by me or perhaps himself, to go running into the chaos with the same reckless abandon and passion as I. In your own time, buddy. When you’re ready…if we’re ever willing.
I don’t…look behind me.