A Drunk Driver
I was nearly face down on our couch, reading something trivial and considering the large ink stain on the cushion beneath me. To cool our apartment, we’d opened the windows and were running an array of fans at high speed. I am at my most fatherly when attempting to cool our apartment: I pace around and attend to the imprecise temperature readings taken by my hands as I wave them in the air; I imagine, from a position of nearly total ignorance, network news infographics illustrating the movement of the night’s chill through the open door, or the disruption of stagnant pockets of warm indoor atmosphere as the box fan creates a new stream of convection, or something. I fiddle, I revise my conclusions about what works, I close windows, I reposition the fan, I increase its speed even though it makes it impossible for me to relax: skin draft-daubed, papers rising and falling in the extremity of my vision.
It had been a long and delightful day; we were tired; we didn’t play any music, so in the warm electric light we had only the white noise of fans and the tentative sounds of whatever they moved. The city was quiet. It was late Sunday night.
Then there was an incredible sound: a crash, but so close that its depth and intensity communicated -as movies and television do not- something of the forces involved. I thought it was an explosion; I thought something had fallen from the sky.
Outside, perhaps 30 feet away, we saw that a car had crashed without braking beforehand into a parked car; its air-bag had deployed and its driver was motionless. Those unusual sounds of mechanical exhalation that follow a crash were all we heard at first, and then the sounds of our neighbors all bounding outside. One made it to the car first and began to ask after the man, whose drunkenness was immediately evident.
As he came to, he did something foolish: he tried to flee. The street was filling with neighbors in pajamas and slippers, and it briefly appeared that he would run them down with his wrecked sedan. Instead, an enormous and enraged man charged the car and threatened to kill him if he didn’t stop, and then the engine, mangled and smashed, died.
The drunk driver emerged from the wreck now to confront the crowd of perhaps 20 of us, and as he did so he shouted something I’ll remember long after I forget the policewomen who didn’t need to know what we’d seen but thanked us anyway, the novel and fleeting communality of our typically icy building residents, the way I’d felt almost totally sorry for this idiot menace.
He shouted: “Fuck all y’all white 80s people! Fuck all you dot-com-ers!”
And despite being too drunk to handle a very ordinary left-hand turn, too drunk to know not to flee or fight his victims -the owners of the parked car were present-, too drunk to keep himself together in any way at all, he was, I noticed as I looked around at all of us, a fairly astute social observer, especially considering how distracted he must have been when he stood, wobbling, and scanned our faces for the first and last time.
Jellyfish at Sea
Everyone in the city has been torn apart. I gingerly step around torsos dragging their viscera along the sidewalks. The women in the financial district, in blouses more beautiful than the finest fabrics available to queens a century ago, look like jellyfish: stringy red and black tendrils of intestine slither after colorful caps. They move at half the speed of the men in their midst, for each holds a purse of inventive form with one hand while the other, manicured, straining, pulls her along. They pool at corners, waiting for lights to change. I see one, exasperated, attempting to hail a cab, but she is too low to the ground, and besides: there is no traffic.
A group of working-class men have propped themselves against the wall of a bar and are smoking, but their fingers are wet with blood -theirs, others’- and they struggle to keep their cigarettes lit. They silently gesture to one another with sitcom expressions on their faces: can you believe this, they ask. Another wasted Winston.
I peer into the windows of a diner where waitresses still carry trays of food, slippery with blood, to parties of legless businessmen. In their wet booths they slide off of the vinyl seats and collapse underneath the tables, apologize to one another for these slow and sopping collisions, then clamber back up, mouths open, like dying birds begging for food from dying mothers. What they eat falls through them.
On the televisions, news networks gamely remain on the air, although anchors cannot stay above their desks. They cut to footage from some poorer part of the earth: scenes of mountains of naked torsos piling high atop one another, seemingly attracted to something buried within the crowd, wrapped in the dead just outside of the core, or perhaps to something above the mound, just out of reach unless a few more can lift themselves atop this heaving, breathing biomass and be subsumed by later waves, surely suffocating but at least in their death providing height for the rest.
I cannot ground myself. I cannot focus. I see starving children. I see weeping old men. I cannot account for their suffering. I cannot stand the sight of the streets, the camps, the dunes, the forests: full of blood, full of disintegrating life, teaming with death. I feel my legs giving way.
What I SawJohn Frusciante
Every day I’ll post a song to which I was rocking out during the previous day. Today’s selection is:
What I Saw - John Frusciante - Inside Of Emptiness