2005-01-13 - 9:03 a.m.
From my window, at three in the morning, this city has gone misty. Big lit spires disappear into the steam settling down over this island. As the day passed and temperature droped, it kept falling; finally streaking down over the streets in little wisps, making everything blur and expand, like the world squinted into your eye. It had rained, or it did rain, or it was raining, all the same, it was there, languid on each corner like a drunk still clinging to the bar after he’s finished the contents of his wallet. It’s the cumulous stew you’d expect an Irish poet to describe loitering over an Irish bog.
The city never does really sleep, but it does take catnaps. Half awake and half asleep, only a few late bloomers muss up the pavement. The quiet on the walk echoes off the dipped buildings just as loudly as the morning delivery truck dishing the day’s milk to the supermarket on the corner.
“When I was really young I used to drop acid all the time.”
The previous I hear coming from a few hipsters in twenty-something Northface and stubbly face, and once it hits my ears my skin itches. ‘Back in the day’ and ‘when I was kid’ always seemed like they should be candle dunked in irony coming from the mouths of the babes in Toyland that utter them, still plodding through college campuses and their first real apartment with three friends that all sleep on the same tattered futon mattress. "When I was really young..." Were you doing hard street drugs on resess from grammer school. Still, verging now on twenty-five with not a single entry in the Discography for Death Cab for Cutie in my mind, I wonder if I now do have a day to be back in.
Two dollars worth of garlic bread and ill-advised coffee squat in front of me while I try not to watch the mouth of a far-too-awake-for-two-a.m. gent in a booth just right of my natural eye line. He’s singing along with a piece of sap strung over the diner’s speakers that I don’t recognize despite the signature seventies style twang in the voice behind the pithy valentine lines. The friend he’s serenading is more predictable; taking up the entire booth, with his boots waggling over the side.
The total is three eighty. I’ve been fighting for singles all day. Each purchase came to an annoyingly even number; a little bit under the even five, but just enough under to fit as a tip. At one I cringed handing over a fiver for a fifty cent lighter, especially to a man with a lazy eye that kept checking the door to the bodega. He slowly counted out the four bills, but made quick work of the quarters, letting his thumbs do the counting.
At my old job at the photomat, two rolls of oversized doubled prints cost twenty-three, fifty-nine. They always paid with two twenties. Their change? One ten, one five, one single, one quarter, one nickel, one penny. The variety pack. Bing, Bing, Bing…Bing…Bing…and Bang…Thank you…Come again! Too suspicious and too time consuming and too pocket heavy for good change.
On the subway, I wait for the woman with the wilted look of a toddler denied a cookie to lift her bloated duffel off the two seats it takes up beside her. It’s been sitting there by where I’m standing for four stops. At first avenue she sputters out a disgruntled sigh, casually lifting up her matched luagage, while I slip into the seat. The couple filling the next couple makes a late exit at the same stop freeing up the entire right side of the bench. One of the ever-giggling speed talking gaggle of young women takes notice, and with eyes wide takes a running slip and slide into the last spot against the rail.
“Lookie! A couch!”
Her clan jumps in next to her, running hip-to-hip, right up to mine. The last of them doesn’t hold in her arms, letting a knuckle come to rest on my thigh, her left leg perched circles mine, presenting a boot with a heel large enough to carry a healthy pair of Adidas; large enough to have a spring loaded drawer containing all her pertinent tax information since infancy.
Surrounded, I scoot. And her ass slides right back next to me. I scoot. Her ass follows. Again. Again. Until she’s nearly racked on the steel strap bisecting the bench. Her little grin displays the knowledge that I’d make way. She’s too cute not to be made way.
With night-cap in hand, at twelve, almost ready to turn in, I turn a cold shoulder to the usually available bar stools up front, bundling myself into the quieter back room, occupying the second of eight tables sutured to the walls. I set up shop, dropping my cider, my cell phone, acting as watch, and an overdue library book.
“This is better than a puppy for getting girls to come talk to you! It’s just so great to be able to read a book with someone else. There’s something to that. There should be a dating service, with books. Meet at a coffee shop, with a book. Just sit and read, and when you’re done you have a conversation.”
“Sales on Being and Nothingness would go through the roof.”
Her attractive friend in a shirt held loosely together in front by a thin piece of shoe-laced satin wanders away as their tatooed crew member tries to tell me about Art.
“You have to have a passion about it. You have to need to do it. That you don’t have a choice. That it’s not about the audience. Actors act to get the applause, the attention. They’re not going to last. You have to know it, for you. It’s not like Love. Where you want from them…about the reaction…completely different…polyamourist…have to stand out in the rain…passion…”
Never trust anyone who says they know who they are. They’ve probably taped a flattering photograph over the mirror.
All generalizations are wrong. Including this one.
We exchange pleasantries. What do you do? Why do you write? Why did you stop? Where do you live? Do you want to have kids someday? I know she’s an only child. Playing role model, even and unwilling one, seems too abstract for her, and I, gentle spirit that I am, inform her of this. She leaves shortly afterward to join her friends at the bar who don’t come back to visit again for the thirty pages I plow through before paying up at the bar.
I just wanted to read.
Never trust anyone who says they know you. They just think you’re a weaker version of them.
All generalizations, even over the generations…
“You can focus so much better reading at home where it’s quiet, but there’s something about reading in a bar.”
The warmth of being surrounded by people laughing? The private, selected, chosen quiet? That it doesn’t feel so lonely?
Sometimes it’s just too much. Dodging white elephants with friends, burning on phone calls, guilt and anger shaken not stirred. Sometimes you just don’t want to hand your current mental state over to the sadistic hands of your unconscious mind just quite yet. The hope being that something, someone will communicate one little piece of themselves that will somehow distract you.
It’s just after work and I want a bowl of soup. I’ve been talking all day, pushing my way out of hotels into the mist and spouting the same stories over the phone for hours, and I just want a few soggy carrots and some coffee to fight off the sleep thats threatening everytime I look down. I want to sit and slurp down stewed animal fluids listening the quick chatter of a young woman, trilling found brillance at her mother. Listen without hearing her words, just the music.
If you know what you’re going to say, you’re probably not saying anything important.
All generalizations. Everything. Everything in this misty city.
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