Friday morning, I awoke to heavy rain drops. The morning light couldn’t seem to find its way into my room, therefore I couldn’t seem to find my way out of bed. But I was finally able to carpe the diem and arise, because I knew I couldn’t hide forever. The rain continued and the gray glow out the window accompanied me through the morning as I began work on a music project I’m involved in – after coffee, of course, and only a minimal amount of procrastination. So, I put on my headphones, recorded, cut, re-recorded, listened, recorded, re-recorded, cut, coffee, erased, gave-up, gave it another try, recorded, cut, re-recorded, etc.
I finished around lunch time. The rain had stopped. The day felt quiet after the rain, and the silence seemed to filter the life-force of the day as it traveled into my room – only a gray light came in, only the residue of real light. I felt isolated – in a warm and fluid womb in which I swayed rythmically, attached to the world only by an umbilical cord with a slight obstruction somewhere in it.
After finishing up the project, I had nothing to do until the evening. I ate, figured that was a good idea. After eating, I was still a bit creatively wired, but the rain came again and I could feel the cold air come into the room – going for a walk was not a good idea. So I sat down and opened up Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 – a gorilla of a novel about parallel worlds. I liked the book – so far, I was only 700 pages in – but I couldn’t concetrate. The radiator kicked on. Hearing the radiator knocking in April is a bit of a drag, like seeing the box of Christmas decorations in the attic in June. Knock, pop, knock, knock. I stared just over the top of the book. Knock, pop, knock. Then the refrigerator joined in. Click, click, click, click. By then I was holding the book in a reading position simply for posterity. Finally, the sink – drip, drip, drip – a metronome keeping time in this womb, with no crescendo, no birth. Drip, drip, drip. Underneath it all was the constant ringing in my ears due to the tinnitus that I’ve had all my life – so loud and palpable, millions of tiny screams poured into the ears. I looked out the window. So gray. Soundless. Nothing come through. A fish in a fishbowl.
The upstairs neighbors came home. Their heavy footsteps burrowed down, through the ceiling, to me. I could hear the wooden studs of the ceiling creek. I could hear voices, but no words. At 4pm, my neighbor, James, came home and started yelling. He was probably a few drinks into his loud and rageful descent into his alcohol weekend. I could hear him clearly. “Alright! Whoo! Yeah!” He doesn’t say much more than that on late Friday afternoons. He saves the speeches for the darker hours – when he desperately tries to convince himself about something of ultimate importance, but slurs too badly to understand what he’s telling himself.
1Q84 centers around two star-crossed lovers who are trying to find their way to each other but are in parallel worlds, so to speak. They’re so close, at times – they can hear each other, sometimes even see each other – both just on either side of the barrier that seperates them. The search becomes more about finding and understanding oneself, and, that only in finding oneself can one find their compliment. It’s a very good book, but reading about parallel universes and dreamscapes in the middle of a cloudy day made me feel more isolated. That gray light out the window. It didn’t feel like it came from a world I inhabited. There was the slightest membrane, seperating me from everything else – plyable, like elastic, but utterly impenetrable. I put the book away.
Later, I hopped over the threshold to my apartment door like Neil Armstrong, into the hallway, relieved to know I was – indeed – on Planet Earth. I locked the door and headed out into the dreary evening.
I hopped the D-train. The D-train is always cold. It has metal walls, instead of insulated plastic walls like the other trains. Yet, I didn’t really feel the cold – more like I was simply aware of the cold. I sat amongst a large Mexican family, laughing and joking in Spanish. But they sounded so far away. Correction, I felt far away – like a peripheral character in a novel, who I can’t get interested in, and can’t figure out why he’s even in the book. As we crossed the bridge into Manhattan, I thought about all the tourist-y things I said I would do, here, in my last week in New York. I didn’t do any of them. Just like the last time I left New York. And the time before that.
I got off at the West 4th Street stop, then meandered about in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. The sky still offered light, but the streetlights were already on. They shined in the wet gray air, along with the traffic lights and headlights. But all electric light seemed to die just beyond its source, creating only isolated pockets of unatural color, as if the ingredients of the moment had failed to mix.
Steam rose throught the grates in the sidewalk, eagerly filling in the spaces between each light. People passed across my view of the world, in and out of the steam, from every direction, but I still felt seperate from everyone. The isolation had a rather narcotic effect. I floated through the steam, the park and people, possibly toward oblivion, when a rough looking fellow with a scowl reserved for mugshots called to me and demanded I play chess with him. He sat – shivering in his dirty clothes – at the outdoor chess table.
“Hey! Wanna play chess?” said the man. “I know you do.”
The peices were already set, he was ready to battle. He just needed another human to play. I was too cold.
He gazed at me as I walked away – baffled – like he was holding up a sign that said Free Gold. Further down from him another man whistled at me and asked if I wanted to buy some pot.
He shook his head, forgiving me as if I knew not what I did. I was grateful to him, however – and to the lonely chess player – their attention tethered me to the planet, satisfied my hunch that I was not yet a ghost.
The night that ached to be was finally born. Around 8pm, I met up with my old friend, Ben, and we went to see the movie Evil Dead. The movie was awesome, everything I like in a horror movie – build up, copious moments of dreadful shock, and release laced with laughter. But what made it an experience – something more than just a movie – was seeing it in a crowded theatre. Normally, I hate noisy crowds, but with a horror movie, part of the fun is jumping at scary scenes in unison, then laughing together over the fact that you just got sissy-fied. Everybody was in it together, united for an hour and a half. I was watching the credits roll when I realized my ears weren’t ringing anymore.
Ben and I have been watching horror movies together for about 15 years – since we were college students in Texas – and it never gets old. After the movie, we went to a coffee shop to have one more cup of joe together, before I left town. Ben told me about a tenant that was found dead in an apartment on the floor of his building.
“She’d been dead for nearly three months. They found her in the doorway. I thought it was just a really bad garbage smell,” Ben said. “But nope, it was human. It’s sad, but it’s not even news in New York. So many people die alone in such a crowded place.”
That was as much of the past as Ben and I discussed. Instead, we talked about ideas that we’d like to create on stage or make into films – projects we wanted to do together. We didn’t need to talk about the past. Simply being with each other confirmed all that had happened in regards to our friendship was real. The past bolstered the moment we were in – and in that moment, we confirmed our existence.
It was well after midnight when I took the slow train back to Bay Ridge. The train rocked back and forth and time sloshed about like water in a bucket. The subway car was filled with the aroma of whiskey breath, marijuana and farts. Most passengers were laundry bags, bouncing at the mercy of the moving train, exuding a goofy, drowsy smile. But for a few others, the novelty of their drunk had worn off, and to take its place was the old familiar anger, contempt and longing over something so wonderful, so beautiful, that seemed just beyond reach only a few short hours earlier, but at the end of the night, was nowhere to be found.
Sometime after 1am, I was certain I belonged in this world. Then I went to bed.