Most things ended up fuzzy.
The realization came as a shock, though it shouldn’t have, to Marty Sistrunk. It had really been on it’s way to realized for quite a while, long enough so that if one looked at the time line of such events one would probably agree this shock took its time becoming shocking.
Sight, thought Marty, doesn’t just up and go, I mean, I wouldn’t think. I’d think it is kind of something I guess you ease yourself into, like a bath in mashed potatoes with gravy bubbles. You don’t just plop into a bath of mashed potatoes, plopping in all its onomonopeadic glory, because mashed potatoes are a bitch to get up off a tiled floor. You ease gracefully into a bath of mashed potatoes.
After toweling off, Marty dressed, slipping into his favorite sweats, grey, worn thin in patches, elastic wheezing with a slipping grip like in any movie where someone’s hanging off the edge of a roof. Harrison Ford spends a lot of time this way, Indiana Jones, Bladerunner, finger by finger slipping. He pulled a sweater over his head, replaced the large square glasses and rubbed his fingers over the growth of stubble on his face, deciding he really couldn’t spare the energy on cutting that off today. The scraping friction of shaving had always bothered him, the rough cutting sound, the reshaping of the image in the mirror, a constant struggle against time and nature. The whole idea exhausting. There was a period in which he could not watch a Gilletteâ commercial. Every cartoon image of hair being pulled and cut, the deforestation of face, sent tension through his body. Facial hair is a symbol of time, and like plastic surgery, the struggle to stay ahead of it, to lie to others through a body’s manipulation, drained the energy from his limbs. He used to cry when his mother’d tell him the story of Samson and Delilah.
He made his way to the JMZ, heading toward Manhattan. Using his half fare card, he climbed the stairs and walked out onto the elevated platform to wait until he saw the train approach. Oftentimes he wished the subways ran on steam so he could watch the plume rise, trailing the train, marking its progress, signaling its approach, the impending arrival. In pictures the smoke would bulge like flexed muscle, a symbol of strength and intent, an imposition of presence, forced destiny, effect. Imagining the pictures he could hear the chug of the engine, the strained breath of the locomotive, like a weightlifter, like a sprinter.
The half fare MetroCard came with his disability, his flat affect, a reward for taking medications, because he heard music that wasn’t there. He was also entitled to sit in the seats reserved for persons with disabilities, though he never did, never sure enough of his right to claim them. As the train rolled slowly across the East River he saw the sun on the water, echoing between buildings, glaring off the edges of the train windows. He thought of Whitman, asking, “Could you possibly, did you see me? What thoughts would you have, riding this train, of me, of us, of our humanity?” The skyscape whispered symphonies in his ear as his sight, still fuzzy, still blurred edges, rolled along the heights, the glass and steel, the points and distances of buildings, all staking claim to skyline, all winking good morning to each other, bowing slightly in the wind. The music paused over downtown, like the dead keys on a childhood piano, muffled strikes on no-strings. He thought of The Drama, the great play of this age, the actors, the music, the newscast conductors, the great improv, Dan Rather, cliché ruffled hair trying to keep up with the score. He thought of the composition’s symmetry, the erection, the building up of the structure of the piece, two wholes notes, modern chords struck in unison, in self contained, oblivious completion. Two grand statements, they exclaimed and were exclaimed. He thought of Stockhausen.
He turned, looking back over shoulder at the cars lining the side of the bridge, aching for entrance into the beast of the thing, itching, slowly lurching, breaking. He saw the projects’ towering symmetry. Row, row, row of brick, bars of buildings, bars on windows blocking the view. Laundry broke out. Urban, fire‘scaped clothesline, haphazard and snapping in an autumn wind. Sheets, t-shirts, jeans. Multicolored, patchwork, lace fringe. There was life there, in drying laundry, in striving for godliness. He remembered sun bright white of crisp sheets against a summer’s green lawn. They were supposed to smell different, sun dried sheets, though he’d never been able to tell. There was, here, in iron-barred hung laundry, a call to the sun, a request for warmth, a prayer to an Aztec’s sun god, a reaching out from the walls of these new pyramids. A belief in the dawn, in the rest of the day, testified from clothespinned crossbars, from echoes of windowpane on windowpane. Spirituals from the section 8 stacks.
The train struggled on. Clicking rhythm, steel drummed wheels scratching roll till the cymbal crash hiss of air brakes and the movements of bodies swaying kindly in time. That was Essex, the next track’s a 2nd Avenue love song. Don’t change that channel, steer clear of closing doors, tune up boys here’s the pitch, ding dong and a one two, a one two three four.