8 hours ago
Thursday, April 22, 2010
When The Rock Starts Rolling, It's Going To Roll Until It Stops, Even If It Has To Roll In The Second Person
Some days you go, Wait, what the hell is going on? And no answer is forthcoming, so you just try to keep things from sitting still for too long. You walk back and forth in your apartment, until eventually you are once again at the windows, looking out at the darkness, or what passes for darkness in an inner-city neighborhood. You put another record on the turntable and, though hoping for a full-on shimmy, settle for the lethargic sway of a bored housewife stoned on Valium and listening to some old original cast Broadway show recording.
You turn out the lights and ask more questions, or rather let the questions come slowly and unbidden: Wait, this is the world? This crooked gyp? Answers to such questions, you've discovered, are stubborn things.
Someone's always telling you not to do things, which is difficult for a specialist in disregard.
The response to anything incriminatory you might wish to allege tonight is either, So?, or Of course, neither of which you are in a mood to find satisfactory.
Earlier this evening, while walking your dog, you encountered the sort of young man who will always fancy himself in charge until --God willing-- the world teaches him otherwise. He was shirtless and dialing his cell phone as he stared down at a barbecue grill upon which a group of creepily pink sausages was merely sweating. His hair was ridiculous, a disheveled and heavily-moussed style that's meant to suggest casual indifference but, you feel certain, actually requires a great deal of time and money to maintain. And he was wearing large, white-plastic framed sunglasses that you figured were supposed to be ironic and which were probably purchased from a clearance rack at a drug store or truck stop.
"Listen to me," you heard him say into his phone. "I am trying to tell you that there is something seriously fucked with this fucking charcoal you sold me."
Now, though, planes are once again sneaking down through the darkness. Nights like this, standing at the window, you remember things. You remember riding your Schwinn stingray over to the Coast-to-Coast store and standing before the glass case of jackknives. Jesus, you wanted a jackknife so badly, but there was also something about them that frightened you, and you never have owned one.
You also remember your parents dragging you down to the high school auditorium to hear Ferrante and Teicher. You were maybe 10 years old and thought it was the most ridiculous thing you'd ever seen. You lived in a place where it seemed like 80% of the women over the age of 25 had a beautician's license. All day and all through the night, in the Gormenghast-looking slaughterhouse on the east side of town, they tore down animals into meat.
"Meat is Community," read a billboard along the main drag.
You remember walking slowly home from detention in the early October gloaming, remember walking into the inescapable smell of a tuna casserole in the oven. Somebody was practicing piano in the little room off the kitchen. In the living room the television seemed like an endlessly looping laugh track of obviously fraudulent and crazy-making ha-ha-has. The place was so tiny in those days, everybody on top of each other. There was no place to escape. You'd take a book and go down behind the furnace in the basement to sit with the dirty laundry.
The library alone was your refuge, and books broke your heart in a way that felt different from the way hearts were customarily broken in your world. Yes, the books were what ultimately took you away, and what broke your heart. But it was a beautiful heartbreak that did not surrender longing.
If the people in that town looked at you, you desperately wanted them to know that you did not belong there, that you would never belong. Your mother taught you and your siblings --taught you zealously and well-- that the greatest escape was pretending.
Finally, you remember falling asleep in the far backseat of your father's station wagon, returning late at night from a trip somewhere, the surf of darkness and locomotion murmuring at the slightly open windows; streetlights and headlights strobing the car's interior, disorienting, and the faint strains of some dated pop hit or a baseball game drifting back from the AM radio in the dashboard. Everyone was quiet, and you were so tired that you wobbled back and forth at the edge of sleep.
You don't know why you're remembering these things now, as another day slips away and another long night looms. Maybe, you think, it's because you're trying to recall what it felt like, all those long years ago, to have the unquestioned knowledge that you were on your way home.