Friday, March 12, 2010

Some Things Should Be Like That

In the comic book store.
For so long I looked at it, not knowing what it was.
I went away.
I came back.
Again and again. Circling the table like a shark, tasting this mysterious object with my eyes and fingertips. Still I did not know what it was. Suddenly I realized; no one knew what it was, least of all its makers, and it made me feel glad because there should be things like that in the world, things without measurable purposes, and here I had one in my hands.
That time I didn’t put it down. I bought it and slipped out of the lighted store into the urban night. The darkness was thick despite the few fairy lights that glowed over lampposts or sped by in the streets. There are many places in the city where the light does not manage to reach.
It is also dark in the country, I know, but there you can see the stars and the stillness is what can put the terrors in you. In the city there are no stars because city light is a sort of lesser darkness that eats up celestial light, its brown halo holding at bay the fire and ice of the cosmos so that its own breed of glimmer and shadow holds sway. City darkness moves. It pulses. Here, there are things oozing and swirling, killing and eating and dying very near to you, in the murk where you must not look lest you enter into their order of existence.
“Can you help me?”
A face emerged from the blackness, separating itself from the thick communal dark. It was a cocoa colored heart shaped face that seemed to come bleeding out of the inky depths for a moment.
I heard the voice first, sweet and trembling, like the trill of a little bird. It was the voice that stopped me.
“Can you help me?”
It was only after I had stopped that the face surfaced and hovered timidly at my elbow, petite, neither young nor old but weathered into timelessness.
I knew as soon as I heard the voice that I could help. My hand had dipped swiftly into my pocket and retrieved twenty three cents.
“This is all I have.” I said and she was already thanking me in that voice and asking if I had bought a comic.
“I did buy something.” I said, “And now I’m broke.”
Her face was so sweet and her voice so delicate and I was lying only because I could now see another dark shape behind her, leaning against the wall. I wanted to give her more, but I wasn’t sure it was safe. My pay for a day of work was in my wallet in cash, too much money to open it here on the street.
“No, wait,” I said, “but I do have a little more.”
I dug into the coin pouch sewn into the side of the wallet without taking it out of my purse and filled her hand with pennies and dimes.
“That’s it.” I said and started to go, feeling disappointed with my meager offering.
Then I remembered that I was carrying a bag full of various breads from the bakery where I worked.
“Oh. I do have bread.” I said hopefully and began to dig in the satchel. “How about some pretzels.” I said putting them in her renewably emptied hands.
“Oooh. These are good.” She said and looked eagerly to her partner who was smiling now in a gentle compassionate way, as though he were a saint in a black hoodie leaned against the wall.
The longer I stood with them the further the darkness seemed to recede from our vicinity. They became distinct and less shade like. I was grateful that I was helping. One day, I felt, it could be me asking for help.

Now I slid back into the flow of the sidewalk, back into the ranks of the purposeful marching to their independent destinations.
Drugs or alcohol ushered some into the world of shadows, but there were others that were there because something inside of them was different. I was like that. I didn’t know what that something was. Nobody knew what it was, and there should be things like that in the world, things without measurable purposes, and here I was one of them. But there is little market for such things, despite their rarity, and I knew it might be only a matter of time before I became a shadow on the street, with no past and no future, depending on those that had not yet become me for my daily bread.
I knew it, but it was not yet time for me to step into the darkness and join in the pulsing. There might yet be some other way, so clutching the thing that was not a comic book but could only be defined by what it was not, I hurried on into the underground train station to wait.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home