Monday, January 7, 2008
The great unknown
He lived high above a concrete city. Streets of concrete, buildings of concrete, sidewalks of the same. It was a city of grays and blacks and off-whites. From his perch, day was a texture of concrete against concrete, a mosaic, blended together by the unifying idea of being a city. At night, the concrete faded and lights remained. A grid of dots, white, yellow, red, green. The grid outlined the concrete structures that enveloped the day. At first his view was breathtaking. Actually, that hadn't changed. The view was still breathtaking. But at first he noticed it more. Now he'd lose himself in his work, in his books, in his thoughts, and the view would go on without him.
The night clouded his view of the city. His windows were clear, yes, but his thoughts of night when night came were too much. Alone in the day and alone in the night were two different perspectives. Each one contrasted so much with the other, that the view, though the same, was so different. High atop a perch looking at a world, at the city, in such a way, the night cloaked the living and a new living awoke. This life of the city at night, this grid of lights, was so vague. The idea of what he was missing, or his own thoughts of what the city was capable of, consumed him, and the sense he had of himself. It suffocated him in the reverse way. It pulled the breath that he'd already breathed back through his lungs, not as a reprieve, but as a sigh. The life he'd imagined, the one he'd seen so clear so many times, became illuminated by the moon. And its crevasses and craters were far deeper and far more impenetrable than he originally thought or could believe.
The path of his life he had drawn in ink. It never occurred to him that pencil was more forgiving. His life of ink was bleeding. Lead would have better prepared him for the bleeding, prevented it even. Ink was finality, death. Thinking back to his original ink plan, he tried to determine where it went wrong. And each time he did, it occurred to him that it began right where it started. His plan had not accounted for the unexpected. What remained was an abstract mess of scribbles and cross outs that could really use an erasure.
So who was he? He was a writer, a great writer. His words were poetic and his thoughts grand. His use of language and prose and tone and imagery and honesty was beautiful. He had written in his thirty five years enough to substantiate these claims. His writing was beautiful, yes, and he knew it, and he appreciated it. He did not take it for granted, and each word he wrote evoked an idea or thought not by chance, but because he dealt with each word painstakingly to evoke each idea or thought. His was not a life of chance. He had spent it preparing himself for exactly where he was. His was a culmination of every decision he had ever made.
From a young age he knew he was a writer. Not because of what he wrote or the reactions to what he wrote, but because of what he felt. The words were a compromise between his true vulnerable honest feelings and what he was capable of capturing in words. Anyone who has ever felt anything could relate. The writer captured emotion, yes, but true honest emotion, the greatest writers were only capable of coming closest to. His ideas weren't new, his thoughts not so original, but his voice, his voice penetrated even the heaviest of armor. This was no accident. His was a voice learned over time, fine tuned to sound the loudest of trumpets.
New York had let itself so easily to so many others, but he felt void. His cutting words, his yearning even, had become dull. And atop his perch he saw a world unto itself, and he felt incapable. To capture even the simplest moment of the bustle of this place was an enormous task. In the past his truest words captured the simple moments of life. He spoke of childhood love, not true love, but the rationale for wanting to feel true love. He wrote of longing and loss. But these feelings were hollow here. In a city where love and longing and loss were the everyday, here in a city were so many were feeling so much so often, he was overwhelmed. That others had come before him was of no consolation. The struggles of each of us, of everyone, is internal. He was as exposed as a hermit crab in transition between shells. And what he had found was that it is not easy to breathe in the recesses of the living.