Sunday, March 12, 2006

Pitch

In New York and far from my home, friends and family, I think I may have eaten 150 meals in a row alone. I can still hear the sound of silverware on a plate announcing my solitude as I cut and ate. The streets and traffic patterns were strange to me, like the food and almost everything else I encountered. But the language, uhg, that was the worst. Every word and sentence came to me like stirring setting cement with a twig; all my concentration poured into ancient primary school recollections of English grammar just to get a pack of cigarettes, ask directions. By the time I got home in the evening the honking horns and police sirens themselves seemed derived from another galaxy. Through my loneliness an unexpected ring of the phone or a knock on the door would tense me into sobriety.

One of the calls I got was from my landlord. She was back home and held this apartment as sort of a vacation retreat or perhaps a souvenir from earlier days. She was bright and sweet, and I think knew I enjoyed a reprieve from the language. But this time she was different. She wasn’t just sad or even frantic, but seemed to me to be most certainly crazed. I heard it in her voice right out, as if she was speaking as much to herself as to me. There was a lingering base cord as she referred to a gun. A gun! Something far less ordinary in my parts. Then she spoke of her daughter in the past tense.

The young couple was visiting the beach for a weekend and had decided on a moonlit stroll. The perpetrators descended in pack. The boyfriend was pistol-whipped and held from behind, forced to watch as his beau was savagely abused and raped for hours. Afterwards, stabbed and bleeding, they had suffered difficulty in finding help on the abandoned causeway. In these few hours the girl’s sanity was lost, and soon afterward his suicide compounded all.

Of the few interactions I’d been engaged in for weeks, months, this was what I had to take back to my humming lights, footfalls in an odd apartment shelved with strange illegible books and grotesquely bloated television and refrigerator.

As sensitive as I am I was left in a daze. I drank. The next day I went out to shop and buy paint. I remember flying through the air spinning on a horizontal axis, looking back to see the totaled car, feeling my bones gnash as I was loaded onto the stretcher.

I remember a tone of depravity which had soiled my being, passing from those words to me like a greasy handshake. I guess that day there was a dark voice also, the one that told me I was crossing safely, the one that wanted to wear white.

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