Thursday, May 17, 2007
New York Public Library Digital Collection
New York, 1987
It was November and cold when they left the city. The police had shot someone on Washington Avenue, point blank from the car window of the patrol car, and the body had lain in the street for hours covered by a coat. Whose coat? Someone had come with a coat and laid it over the victim, and she did not know who he was, or how old, or why. There was no ambulance, no siren, and children skipped rope and kicked balls across the street near the park where the body lay, mutely witnessing everything, mutely witnessing nothing. Or had she dreamed this? Staring out the back window of the car watching the city shrink, she no longer knew what was real and what was imagined. There was the baby, and her needs were distinct and direct and the rest of the world was like that granite skyline, disappearing below the horizon. She had no idea what existed beyond the perimeter of the life she had abandoned, of what her exodus promised or threatened. She was a particle suspended in time, displaced even from her self.
In the mornings there was coffee, thick and dark, and the rousing light, erasing the charcoal of the night, the rhythmic scratch of the needle on the turntable, the vibrato of the cello restoring the world to order. He lit a fire and settled into the morning, allowing the space of the room to shift around him like a comfortable coat. And then he watched, watched the hushed particles of light suspended in the cold morning air, rising in concert with the melody, disappearing in shadow, a balletic virtuosity of dust. Time eddied and collected and dissipated, and the coffee grew cold, and loneliness settled into the empty spaces vacated by the music when it faded and the needle once again lapped at the edges of the record, and this could not be repeated until the next morning. He had tried. The re-creation of the morning was a product of the hours, a whimsy of time. Throughout the rest of the day the loneliness would settle in his bones, and he would pass the hours arranging objects and printing negatives, until the cork could be popped to deliver him again to the long, abject oblivion preceding the blessed ritual of morning.