While trying to track down something else yesterday, some smudge of information, something I was never able to find (leaving that unreachable itch of curiosity and frustration raging in my head), I came across a passage from Nietzsche that I'm certain I must've seen before, but which had obviously not stuck.
I guess it's that eternal recurrence business?everything always comes back to him.
Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me until much later that the passage in question was actually quite important. More important than I figured at first, as I was passing over it. So of course, when I went back to try to find it again, it, too, had mysteriously vanished. I don't even remember which book it was in. I keep getting stupider. But to roughly paraphrase, he said that those people?especially artists and writers?who are constantly talking about themselves, who are always "revealing" themselves, may, in reality, be hiding themselves.
That made a lot of sense. Especially lately, because it seems that the more I talk about myself, the more I seem to vanish. I barely notice I'm there myself anymore.
I've been spending a lot of time hanging around subway stations recently. Waiting, usually. Waiting for trains. Waiting for Morgan to get off work. Waiting for the noise to stop or the doors to open. Waiting for the time to pass. And while I wait, I hand out patently fraudulent directions to foreigners, praying they'll never be able to find me again.
Waiting, I've come to realize (while waiting), is a characteristic of the closeted optimist. Waiting implies that you're expressing some hope, some honest belief, that something is going to happen. Anything at all. And if I didn't have that hope, I guess I wouldn't bother waiting. I'd just go home and watch Stroszek again.
Point being that it was Tuesday, and I was waiting in a subway station.
More specifically, I was sitting on a bench against a wall just inside the turnstiles. Two other people were sitting there as well, but they didn't seem to have anything to do with each other. In fact, they seemed nearly as invisible as I was. I'd been there a little while without much happening, letting myself get washed around by the incessant, almost hypnotic and transcendental, white noise. Hundreds of voices, trains, incoherent announcements, beepings, the scrapings of feet and wheels, the wailing of children?all of it mashed together into a single Noise in which I allowed myself to get lost for a while. It's about as close as I let myself get to "meditation."
It took a while?peeking out from beneath the brim of my hat to concentrate on a small, hazy patch of tiled floor directly in front of my feet?to realize that I was surrounded.
It was like the opening of My Three Sons?there were four pairs of shoes in a semicircle, all the toes pointed toward me. I looked up and found myself squinting dimly at a smiling, chubby Puerto Rican man in a baseball cap and what I presumed to be his family.
"Hello," I said finally, almost posing it as a question.
"I see you on the television, no?" he asked.
"Yeah, I guess so," I said. I had, indeed, made a brief appearance on the television about a week earlier.
"You are a writer, no?" he continued, narrowing the possibilities, making sure he had the right man.
"Yeah," I confirmed again.
"And you are going blind, no?"
"Yes...yes I am," I told him. That was all he needed.
His face broke out into a wide, bright smile.
"Well, congratulations!" he shouted, reaching out and tapping me nervously on the arm before giving me a firm handshake. "I saw you on the television!"
"Yes, thank you," I smiled, shaking his hand and looking around at his family, who were all smiling now, apparently relieved that their father wasn't getting them into "the bad trouble" again.
When he let go of my hand, he waved, backing away, and I waved back, as they continued down to the platform.
Nobody's congratulated me for going blind before, I thought. Except for that one crazy lady.
I went back to staring at the patch of tile. Well, at least it was better than that guy last week.
It was a week earlier to the day. To the hour, come to think of it. I had stepped off the elevator after leaving the office, and was reaching into my bag for the cane when I found my forward progress impeded.
I stopped trying to move forward and stepped to the side, realizing then that I had slammed into an elderly?but still very husky?gentleman.
"Very sorry, about that," I said. "I didn't see you there. I'm sorry."
I never cease to be amazed by the reactions I get to that. Being in the position I am?that is, blindly colliding with as many people as I do?I should start keeping a catalog. One old lady recently screamed and screamed. That was a new one.
This guy was a new one, too.
"Are you okay buddy?" he asked. At first I thought it was a serious question?a polite inquiry into my well-being?until I realized that he was repeatedly jabbing me in the shoulder with a rolled up magazine?and jabbing me hard. "Eh?" he asked, the rage creeping into his ancient voice. "You okay, buddy? Eh? Eh?" He kept jabbing that magazine at me.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I deadpanned, a bit bewildered, ignoring the urge to start fencing with my cane. "Just fine," I said as I turned and walked away. My shoulder hurt like a sonofabitch for a few days after that.
But all that's irrelevant.
Half an hour afterward, I was back in the subway station, sitting in the same seat, on the same bench against the wall, staring at the same patch of tile. Waiting.
A few seats down, a young woman in a heavy winter coat was jotting down figures and working out small equations in a quadruled notebook.
I tried to get lost in the wash of white noise again when suddenly a single voice rose above the tide, clear and frenzied.
"Whoa, lookit 'em go!" someone was yelling. I looked up for an instant to see several heads turn, stare briefly, then look away again. I continued with the tile, but focused my hearing a bit to the left.
Another crackhead, I thought. Haven't seen one down here in awhile.
"Away!" he was howling. "Run away! They'll see you on Channel 13, and you'll be like, 'Hooo! I won!' Yeah, I got super powers. Lookit my muscles! Lookit 'em go boom!"
Jesus, I thought, as I continued to stare at the floor. This guy's pretty good.
Then he noticed the woman with the notebook.
"Hey! Hey! Pencil girl!" he yelled, "Draw me! Draw me, pencil girl!" She stared at her notebook, pretending not to notice the attention. "No? You won't? You want to know why you won't draw me? Because I'm toooo dee-licious! Too delicious! When I go to the clubs, all the girls say, 'Dance, tasty boy, dance!' Woo-hoo!"
I'm so glad I stopped taking speed, I thought. That could be me. I still hadn't looked over at him. He hadn't come through the turnstiles?we still had that separation?but I knew if I made any sort of eye contact, I was doomed. I was in no mood, so I concentrated on becoming even more invisible.
"I put the voodoo on you!" he bellowed at someone?or maybe no one in particular. Maybe the pencil girl. "The hoodoo-voodoo! Yup, the hoodoo-voodoo!" With that he burst into an explosive and wet guffaw. "And I'm delicious, too. Got me the super powers."
It sounded like maybe he was getting a little worn out. Or maybe he'd run out of material. Whatever the case, he was starting to repeat himself. That's no fun for anybody. I could tell the show was about over.
"Hey?come back here?don't you run away from me! Woo!"
He gave it his best, dragged it out as long as he could, I'll give him that. And it did go on for another good 10 or 15 minutes. As the stretches of silence between his outbursts grew longer, I finally squinted over to where the voice seemed to be coming from. That's when what some dead philosophers called "the ol' phenomenological shift" took place.
Because this was no simple cracky, as we've come to know and love in this town. This was a kid, for one thing?and one who didn't look all that dissolute. He was only wearing a white t-shirt, despite the chill air?and a pair of those goddamn ridiculous big pants. What's more, he was Asian.
Another goddamn chigger. But one who?to his credit?had me fooled there for awhile, despite the contempt I felt burning in me now.
He had run out of air, apparently, so the screaming had stopped, but he was still over there, dancing wildly, waving his arms about in front of the token booth, as if he'd been momentarily?and mistakenly?possessed by the spirit of Ike Turner.
I looked back toward the floor, and waited some more.