Saturday, June 16, 2012

Me and my shadow

Some days I get up and stagger out to the kitchen without a purpose except to live a little bit longer and see what happens. I look out the window. The lawn needs mowing. So what. Why should I care about the height of the grass? Is someone out there with a ruler? Is someone judging me by my lawn? Maybe my old man is gonna come up out of his grave to give me a scolding. "What's the matter with you? You don't mow your lawn?" Effin neighbors. Maybe I should've laid gravel out there.

Yesterday, I was sitting on the bus minding my own business, reading a manuscript, a pretty good one for a change. The characters were doing believable things for believable reasons in a well-drawn setting. It was, as the savants would have it, immersive. The story took me out of myself. It made a long bus ride short. Or was it the other way around?

After who knows how long, I looked up merely to adjust my eyes and get my bearings -- it seemed as though we were stopped at the entrance to the tunnel for too long a time -- when I found myself staring right at a young woman's breasts. She was wearing a sleeveless black top and a bright purple bra under it that pushed her breasts up and gave her a pronounced cleavage. They were tanned and held a fine sheen in the soft light. It was a lovely sight. Then I cast a quick glance at her face above me and she huffily looked away, seemingly pissed that I had been looking at her. If the bus hadn't been so crowded I'm sure she would've turned around and shown me her back. Was I supposed to feel bad? I thought to myself, okay, honey, why did you wear this outfit, low-cut, tight, showing skin, if you didn't want people to notice you? You didn't catch me at anything.

It preyed on my mind, though, that I had taken pleasure in the moment. No matter how innocent, staring at a woman's breasts has got a sexual component to it, just like the way one dresses. I remember one time Quist was watching a good-looking girl walk by us on the boardwalk at Jones Beach. I must've been about twelve or thirteen. He pursed his lips as though to whistle but shook his head instead. "Hmm. Look at that chassis." He was talking to himself. Once she passed, her bottom swaying from side to side, he looked over at me and arched his eyebrows. "What? Just because a man reads the menu doesn't mean he's gonna eat what's on it." At the time, I took this to be an important lesson in manhood.

I looked back down at the open manuscript on my iPad. Shite. I had lost my train of thought -- the characters, what the hell were they doing in Baghdad? Let's see. One was a doctor, the other a journalist, and it was early in the war, and they were on the trail of an old flame of the doctor's who had disappeared, and the Shiites were gathering at a shrine, and the Americans were stealing artifacts, and it all seemed a bit cluttered and inconsequential now. I wanted another look at those lovely breasts. I couldn't -- it would've been too deliberate a sex act. Instead I stewed and sweated, neither able to read or to look around blankly. I was trapped.

The bus started moving again. As it picked up speed, the woman shifted her weight and I remembered what the poet wrote, that two people holding each other make one shadow. The bus rolled into the mouth of the tunnel. The world is full of symbols -- it's best to discard them and stay tuned to the Reality Channel. In the morning my shadow follows me as I head east down into the city. In the evening it's supposed to lead me home. Occasionally it gets hung up in the sensual world, which is okay too.

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