Monday, March 14, 2005

my mind is racing as it always will

Tomorrow, perhaps a return to days without self-absorption. Tomorrow, I'll write about the absurdities of Bono possibly being named the head of the World Bank, or write a joyful tribute to the courts in California that saw reason on the matter of gay marriage. Tomorrow, all those things, spreading out like a promising dawn. Today, only contemplation and melancholy. Read no further, please. The rest is because, sometimes, it has to be written somewhere.

It started with a broken cell phone. The cell phone that's a joke really, so old and worn, the first cell phone you ever bought just snapped in two, two minutes after landing in Newark. An ominous start. The rest blurs. New Jersey one night, a morning spent worrying, buying toothpaste and scowling at the ladies who lunch. A 2.5 hour escapade to the Bronx. Take NJ Transit to Penn Station, Penn to the 2, the 2 to the Bx21. Past the projects and smokestacks, Manhattan fading from memory into the greyness of the Bronx. The Bronx, which might be permanently enshrouded in that weary grey, if it could be. Cold, biting winds. A night with strangers, putting on a face, trying to pretend that being here is not a defeat in some ways. But it is. Walking into a building that reminds you too much of your college dorm rooms. Shuddering. Feeling that same sense of resigned familiarity- yes, this might well be the best you can do. Knowing it's ungrateful to even think it, and yet, thinking it just the same.

A sleepless night, a morning blanketed in snow. Snow that billows in the air like it was shot from the machines they some times had on the lame mountains of my youth. Because there is no sense that nature has anything to do with anything here. Not having seen snow for so long, you're not filled with nostalgia. Just more weariness. Into a morning, and then an afternoon, of pretending not to feel destroyed by your very presence at this place. Awkward conversations, empty laughter, you can't wait to be free.

An hour ride to Manhattan- take the Manhattan express to 5th Avenue and 80th. Tourists congregating by the Museums, cabs in every direction. The money has colored everything a little greener, a little cheerier. Step out onto the street, and immediately, like the freezing gust you expect, a surge of energy overtakes you. Manhattan is alive, demands attention, propels. Manhattan cabs, how you have missed them. Take one cross town to the upper west side in mere minutes. The key is waiting. You take it to the 18th floor. The city welcomes you. The Bronx ignores you, Manhattan welcomes you. Come on in, we're open for business. Down Broadway, the same stores, the ones you find in every city, but somehow here, it's as if this is where they were always meant to be.

An Italian restaurant, could you be more cliche. And oh the nostalgia now. The long trudge, take the 1 or was it the 9 back to Penn Station, and run to catch the train. Only to wait in Newark for 35 minutes to get back to the place where you started. And feel Manhattan slip from your reach, like it's done so many times before, so many years ago. It was your refuge, and yet it rebuffed you, the paradox of the pulsing city.

The baby, the baby, you have to see the baby. The Seinfeldian reference is the chorus of your life suddenly. You're inhabiting an old life, but it doesn't fit anymore. And yet it can't be shed. It has its requirements. You have to see the ba-by. Babies, as it turns out. The first, not cute, and not even friendly, going through a stretch of stranger anxiety. You respect the kid's obstinance, but wonder why you've been asked to coo over her. Telling them then that you have to go, but the words are in a foreign language to these ears. Impossible. Where could you have to go? $35? We'll chip in, we'll pay. You are stuck. And there is another baby. And you're off, being carted around. And truth be told, it's just as well, because these people are a known quantity, warts and all. And when you're keeping it together with dental floss and chewing gum, known quantities are about the best you can manage. So your perfectly laid plans fall to complete disarray. The second baby, a little misshapen, but affectionate. You decide he's tolerable. Two glasses of wine. An outing to a chain restaurant. A glass of vodka. Two more glasses upon your return. I had too much to drink, I didn't think- that's what you wanted all along, to be numb, to stop the thoughts from pounding in your head.

Dreamlessly sleep, wake and realize it's the day of your departure, and you don't even care. Go through the motions, say your goodbyes, and get on the plane. The Fortress of Solitude encapsulates you- in it is everything and nothing about your life. The experience vastly different, but something unplaceable is exactly you. It's the them's and the you's. The people that live in the fantasy land, the matrix, where everything works out, and it all pays off, and then the you's. There's a bitterness that you didn't know you had in you that has suddenly emerged. It's the sort of grudge you can't bear when you live in San Francisco, one that comes out of its cage when you visit the Bronx or New Jersey. It's the ring, it's Lethem and Ellison, telling you that maybe, just maybe you've ceased to exist.

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