Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Night Visions

You find yourself imprisoned where cold grows so frigid that it becomes scalding, long suffering the pendant arrival of a bus on an avenue wide like an ocean, wind plucking your heavy trousers stiffened with chill, flapping about your calves under your thrift-store overcoat; you hid inside your earbuds from the desperate urban congress of a thousand bodies shivering in unison, cold beggaring stillness, yet you are still.

On the bus there's been some mistake -- your magazine scans cyrillic and you close it disconsolately preserving the morning's dogear. Tomorrow, or next Thursday, it will be English, or your facility with the foreign tongue will have returned, unannounced, unheralded, one of a dozen faculties that come and go without warning, unbidden, unlamented, un. Like you, drifting in and out of milieux, wallflower and gadfly, authority and dilettante, gravitas and humor. Un.

Hustling down your block, smooth soles slipping atop the icy veneer without warning, penetrating a wall of private sound, something silly, Scandinavian, incongruous, small children crowding a doorway, at play or in violent confrontation, playacting or enacting (un) assault, "motherfuckers" and "bitches" . . . as you pass, sidelong in every way, you try to gauge the exigency, the emergency, whether to intervene, and despite your suspicions that the fists are angry and the victim pained, the assailants' ages and inertia propel you past, to finish your cigarette on your stoop.

You pass a dark figure traveling the other way a few houses later, enshadowed and hunched, and you turn, guiltily, to see whether he imposes, but he doesn't, his occult moral calculus arriving, by whatever path, where yours has. Vaguely mollified, you proceed to your stoop a quarter-block hence, where you linger on your stoop, remove your aural armor, finish your cigarette safely outside, shuffling in the wintry rime at the stairs' edge.

"R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-tat-tat," one child repeats incessantly, strafing his friends into hamburger. "Is you a cop or a robber, motherfucker?" one of the impossibly small children quizzes. "R-r-r-r-r-r-r-tat-tat." "Is you a cop or a robber?" "R-r-r-r-r-r-r-tat-tat." And so on.

A child rolls on the street, while another throws a length of PVC foraged from anywhere over a fence nearby to clatter on concrete out of sight. A child screams inarticulately, sounding pained, but what can you make of this, which mimicks child's play's universality beneath a patina of something more local, culturally isolate, inaccessible.

Your cigarette burns down, and you roll it between your fingers to loose its burning end like pinching the third mint from the end free of its foil roll. Your fingers numb, uncertain, unmoored, uninvolved, you turn the cylinder with your key and slip into your house, where familiarity embraces you and forgives you -- un -- all you don't understand.

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