Posts Tagged ‘zeitgeist’

Secrets onto Paper Airplanes

It wakes me up again, a question that will not answer itself. You open my hand on the street in front of a bar that is covered in graffiti. You mark a black X on my palm and tell me that tomorrow it will mean something; that this is inevitable, and that it is also necessary for me to be confused.

The world presses on me; the people, the things they say, all so repetitive, all so alone. The cars (where are they all going?), the ads, the signs all screaming at me to pay attention. To what?

In a better world there are longer, greater distances, there is wide wilderness and anarchy. The city becomes a tiny speck, fragile as an outpost in the north, and the next city is a five day flight. But instead, this is the world we’re given (or that we’ve made)—crammed with people and even more crammed with symbols.

I want to kiss you in a riot, slip a piece of rubble into your pocket, from a wall they are tearing apart. When we meet again, it will be in a desperately crowded dance club. It always is. I will think you are dancing, I always do, but no, you will be fixed in the middle, barely swaying, almost standing still. I will go up with you to the roof, we will locate Sirius, Arcturus, Vega, Capella, Rigel, Procyon, Betelgeuse, Altair, Aldebaran, Spica, and Antares, all the stars the city, with its own blazing lights, will let us see. By then I will have planned an escape, complicated and unlikely. All that will remain for us to do is run, run and in our mindless, thrilling haste give it every chance to fail. We will post our secrets onto paper airplanes and watch them coast down to the street, wishes that must never come true.

Without Ever Planning to Meet

I want to meet you without ever planning to meet, just happen to be beside you on the subway the moment you choose to grab a stranger’s hand and change your destiny.

There’s a toymakers’ convention in town. It’s off the green line, a wrong stop for us both, a place neither of us has gone before, and therefore immune to our preconceptions.

We need to change our clothes, so we buy some second-hand stuff, but without tribute or irony: anti-definitions. Moving through the alleys, we find a cat that wants us to chase it. It leads us straight there.

It would be easy to crash this event—we could simply walk in. No one ever checks. But it isn’t sneaky enough, it lacks the spirit of crashing. We enter through a service door. At the end of a tile corridor, we’re in a city of lego. Around the floor are the best tricks of digital technology, of magnetism and mechanics.

We take photos. It’s impossible to capture, exactly, such places, such inventions, because the camera only picks up what struts the imagination. Even children know this. But we do what we can. In the hotel’s print shop, we make them into postcards to slip them under the doors of the guests. A postcard is a false memory, an imposter. So we label them that way, falsely.

Late afternoon, we return to the loop. We find a protest, teach an anarchist to sing. No revolution will succeed without its song. We break into the SPCA with toys for the animals. It is negligently managed—no one is even there. We find two gentle dogs they are about to put down. We set them free.

At sunset, we ride a glass elevator in the financial district. We share pies on the street, run in the park until we puke, find the oldest, cheapest apartment that we can, run up the stairs, shower until the water goes cold, with our clothes, a bottle of whiskey, and kissing to keep our lips warm. We vow to get ourselves fired for our honesty, to live on selling whispers.

We need new names, but won’t know them for at least a year, and we will refrain from our own voices between sunset and sunrise.

Counted for Five Hours

I hear that one hundred thousand people pass through the nearest stop on the Metro every day. Numbers keep me up. I’m a quant, but that only makes things worse. Always estimating, always calculating the bounds of certainty. Very big numbers give me vertigo. I have this problem worse than most because I can relate to those numbers.

Last night, I stayed up counting. Not like “one, two, three…” More like the combinatorial explosion. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I wanted to put myself back into perspective, set my measure up against the combinations. We can call it counting. I didn’t intend to go at it forever. I intended to awe myself to sleep. You know that sense of tininess, of urgency, you get when you are immersed in a cathedral, a symphony, a planetarium, or in a small, quiet boat at night? That’s what I wanted. So I counted for five hours. I fell asleep as the sun was rising. I saw the street lights go out. How many lightbulbs must there be in the world? I saw the dawn’s first joggers.

My last girlfriend only ever wore sneakers. She would count her steps running, walking, jumping. At one million, she would buy herself a new pair. So that Metro statistic reminded me of her. She must know exactly how many steps she has taken over the past six years. I never asked her if she remembered specific ones. The thirty-six thousandth step. The ninety thousand, five hundredth.

It’s on the escalator into the metro I’m pressed the closest to strangers. Only a hug is closer. The only direction to escape, the only open space, is in the mind. How do you measure the distance between yourself and another, between disjoint imaginations? You, outside a bar with a friend you had never thought would hold you that way. The man ahead, in a spreadsheet, now seeing that he will lose his home and his retirement years.

If I slide my fingers into your hair, how many strands of it will cross my palm? How many times will your heart flutter because it knows you could fall in love right now if you were ready?

I want the rooftop at night. I want the streets before they are full of cars, the wide open space of a museum where the exhibit is space itself. I want to count the things that matter, list and hold them, and start by counting the shivers that go with a first kiss.