I’ve got AIDS, man. Not sure how it happened. Life’s cheap, here. It’s funny, ‘cause this used to be a pretty vibrant neighborhood. Then they starved it on purpose, swear to God. Powers that be, the bankers, Mayor Koch, probably the Fed. NYC, Drop Dead, exactly right. They don’t give a shit. So they let it waste away, like they always do and then they’re gonna come in and reclaim it, buy up these rotted, burning shells and move a more desirable element in. Happens every time. Ha, pretty soon there are gonna be chain stores here, boutiques, fancy shit, you’ll see. Mark my words and hope to die. I do, I think. Hope to die. I’m feeling some symptoms already but it’s subtle, you know? Like a weakness in my bones, spreading joint by joint. Aches that reverberate. Brrrr. Berate. Shivers at night. Voices even, calling to me, telling me, Ray, you fucked up, boy. You wanted to live, live so wild, so free. You called it zest for life, it was a political thing for you, like everybody else here. I’m not gonna say there ain’t been no value in what goes on. Making things, bein’ creative. You could say we’re like a multitude of phoenixes rising from the ashes of a neighborhood the city forgot, buncha glorious wastrels seizin’ hold of the maw of existence, makin’ the air sing, the streets hum with the music of raw unadulterated spirit. Noble, right? But it is, man. Sometimes it comes to me like a wallop out of the darkness by an unseen hand that there just ain’t no other purpose in life. What’s Freud say, something about the ability to work, and to love? I’ll take the love part for sure. And so what is love? To me it has somethin’ to do with community, who you surround yourself with, your extended family, your tribe. Some of these folks out here, they’re pretty misunderstood. On the surface they might seem a little rough-hewn, a little raggedy. They might rub ya the wrong way if you don’t know ‘em. But underneath they’re better quality people than anyone I ever knew up North. Yeah, I grew up Upstate, out near Buffalo. Not exactly an upliftin’ place but I have to say, somethin’ about that air made me who I am today. A guy who can weather the storm. And believe me, there’s a storm gatherin’ inside me. Somethin’s tryin’ to throw my body out of wack, to sink this ship and I assure you I intend to stand at the prow with my head held high. People think I’m a little out of control but they don’t know me and what I can do. They say you don’t really know who you are until life tests you, then you see what you’re made of. I’ve seen it, time and time again. My substance, the way I respond to things, how I carry myself, it tells me a lot. I got this engine inside that just revs up when somethin’ pricks my ears, gets my antennae up, when I sense a threat. And there are threats all around here, big and small. The other day I was at my doctor’s. He’s tryin’ to give me a picture of what I might be facin’, he’s tryin’ to prepare me. By way of reassurance, he starts touchin’ on some of the ideas he has, what he thinks is possible. Says there’s this new drug, AZT, says it has a lot of promise, that they’re thinkin’ it could change the course of this disease.
“You open to this?” he asks me, cockin’ his head to the side like he’s on my team. “It’s a new frontier, I know and it strikes me you’re not the type of guy who wants to be a guinea pig, but Ray, I would not bring this up if I didn’t believe it could really change things for you.”
I give him a look I know he’s familiar with. Feel this energy surging through my veins, guiding me, preparing me for what I got to say and maybe for what lies ahead, too. It’s like a stubborn feeling, a sense of conviction I got inside, feelin’ I trust. Like a radar and it hasn’t failed me yet.
“Yeah, well, Doc, I’m sure you do.”
I’m fixin’ a look on him that’s almost sympathetic. I mean, I know what he’s goin’ through, the position he’s in. Can’t be easy. Guy like that has no idea what I been through on the streets. All by design. This life, I designed it myself, sometimes consciously, sometimes not. Now it’s all I got and that gives my words a certain gravity, a wisdom. People tend to listen.
“Yeah, I’m sure you do but I gotta make my own decisions. I been doin’ some research and it seems to me we don’t need to rush. Shouldn’t be abrupt about this. I’m a strong dude.”
Here I flexed for him once, just for effect. I knew it was kinda silly but I couldn’t resist. I’m a ham that way, sometimes. Dramatic. Keeps me honest.
“I’m a strong dude and I can take a punch or two. So I say we got time to play with. At least a little. And I know some real knowledgeable people whose insight I trust. These people are tellin’ me I should go the natural route for now. I been drinkin’ some teas, found this guy in Chinatown, Dr. Zhang. Place is incredible. He’s standin’ at this desk and you just walk in and tell him what your problem is. A little weird with the AIDS ‘cause it’s a new thing and he ain’t that familiar with it. But I went in there and I told him about my symptoms. The shivers, some of these rashes that have been springin’ up, that persistent cough, pain in my ass, no pun intended. He’s lookin’ at me, got an expression on his face, almost like he’s angry, he’s concentratin’ so hard. And then he kinda grunts and starts pokin’ around in these jars on the shelves, it’s like a library of herbs in there. Shelves about 10 feet high, goin’ like 20 feet back, 3 aisles of ‘em. Looks a little musty, but I’m givin’ it the benefit of the doubt. Goes down one, grabs somethin’, comes back, disappears down another. He’s shovelin’ the herbs in a bag. Comes back, scrawls down somethin’ on a piece of paper, turns out it’s instructions. “
“`You make tea,’” he says, starin’ at me with his beady eyes. Somewhere underneath there’s a little warmth lurkin’ there, transmittin’ itself to me. I’m a good judge of character, Doc.”.
“`Steep 5 minutes, drink quickly. You do this every day, two times. Come back to me in 2 months, tell me how you feel, maybe we find something else for you.’”
I actually had to stop for a second here ‘cause I’d been talkin’ so much, had to catch my breath. I got no illusions that I’m 19 years old anymore, or that I’m at full strength. I know I’m fightin’ somethin’ off. But the thing is, I got confidence. Not talkin’ about swagger. I just believe I’m capable of handlin’ this, and I’m pretty sure that goes a long way. I look at the Doc again. He’s just been listenin’, not interruptin’ me like he sometimes does. He’s patient probably ‘cause he knows this is pretty heavy conversation, that I’m pourin’ my heart out and barin’ my soul. He’s used to me, though.
“I thank the guy ‘cause he obviously put some thought into this and head out, not expectin’ much. And you know what, Doc? I do. I feel better. I been drinkin’ the tea like he said and every day I get a little stronger, got a little more spring in my step. No lie. Sure of it, Doc. “
Somethin’ passes over Doc’s face I can’t discern, like a flicker of recognition, like he sees somethin’ in me that resonates in him and it’s gonna guide what he says next. My mom always used to tell me I was so intuitive about people it was almost like I was clairvoyant. I know what they’re gonna say before they say it, but it’s more than that. I know why people say things. I can look into their eyes and see their whole past unfoldin’ before me. I can sense what kinda day they had, how they been feelin’ lately but also what makes ‘em tick, why they are the way they are. And that serves me in good stead, prepares me pretty well to face the streets every day. Right now I watch that flicker dissipate and then somethin’ else passes over his face, takes hold, more like resignation, like he’s acceptin’ where I’m comin’ from and he disagrees but he knows he’s gotta let me try.
“Okay, Ray, but you have to promise me that if we don’t see significant progress in the next couple months, you will trust me and give this a chance, okay?”
I nodded yes, tryin’ to show the Doc some respect. He shook my hand pretty firmly. He knows I still got a grip, and he knows I still want to use it. Then he did somethin’ he’s never done before. He hugged me. Tight. I could feel his heart beatin’ and he was a little warm. Breath flowin’ out of him like summer heat, hangin’ in the air, pregnant, vapor of the gods. For a second, I wanted to collapse, right there, just sink into his arms. Not afraid to admit I get tired of bein’ a man, the man all the time, holdin’ my head high, standin’ strong in my feet, rooted to the ground, stridin’ down the street with purpose, lookin’ everybody in the eye when I’m talkin’ to ‘em, never waverin’, never lettin’ anything drag me down. Takes a positive attitude to survive on the streets. You’d be surprised. But then I let go and I lean back and I got him by the shoulders, lookin’ at him with gratitude.
“Thanks, Doc. You’re the best.”
Back in black. I hit the sack. I been too long left to be back. That how the song goes? Can’t remember at the moment. Anyway, so I decided I needed somethin’, decided I’d been clean long enough, decided I’d earned the right to escape for a little while. So I hit one of these stores we got on the Lower East Side where they just sell cleanin’ supplies. And the place is, surprisingly, clean. Spic and span. Smells like damn detergent, and that’s because that’s half the stuff in there. Rows on rows of detergent, like a bodega designed by Andy Warhol. Now that’d be cool, right? Talk about reclamation projects. If they had any sense, when they rebuild this city, when they finally get around to throwin’ some dollars at this neighborhood, start carvin’ out their tranche, buildin’ that master plan to lay ravage and waste to what’s been stewin’ here in this godforsaken petri dish of beauty and potential and chartin’ out their blueprints and renovations and freakin’ glimmerin’ facades, they oughta at least be creative about it. They could take these bodegas, these thinly disguised drug marts and turn ‘em into mini-museums. Each one could have a theme and be designed by a different artist. If you couldn’t get Warhol for the Pop Art Detergent Shop you find yourself a young artist who’s technically skilled and a gifted mimic, wants to establish him or herself in the commercial realm. Commission ‘em, pay ‘em good money. Ah, that’d be cool. Ah ha ha ha. Think of the possibilities. You could have a Christian shop with a bunch of nativity dioramas. The Joseph Cornell Crechery. Ah ha ha ha. Homeware store, buncha painted plates from that overblown hack Schnabel. Julian’s Disheteria. Give these millionaires somethin’ to do when the bubble bursts. None of ‘em gonna be around in 20 years. This market, it just builds ya up and knocks ya down. But I can’t be feelin’ sorry for a guy like that. Probably eats at Raoul’s every night, goes uptown. Lunch at the 21 Club, dontcha know. Freakin’ dry martini with a twist. How can you live with yourself? I fail to understand the order of things. Why do some rise, while others go completely unrecognized, like dust motes driftin’ randomly through the ether, anonymous, untouched, never given the acknowledgment that they exist? It’s almost criminal and sometimes it gets my bile up, ‘causes me to spit a little vitriol. But then I follow the advice of some of those new age friends I was alludin’ to earlier and take a deep breath. In and out, through the nose. Measured, soft. Purse my lips sometimes and blow, flutter it out and it transports me to somewhere peaceful, where I’m content and the grass is rufflin’ in the breeze and the sun is restorative. And then I’m ready again to face another moment.
“What you want, son?” This Puerto Rican dude is facin’ me from behind a makeshift barrier that looks like plastic and has kinda a foggy cast to it but is probably reinforced in some way. Little square window about a foot tall and a foot wide through which I can hand him money and he can hand me a little bag a’ narcotic heaven, somethin’ to dream to, somethin’ to send me somewhere gauzy and light, somewhere I can float and tread softly, like an angel of darkness.
“We gots the good stuff tonight.” Guy’s got a smarmy grin on his face, little gap between his front teeth. Scrubby mustache. Squat rounded shoulders and a striped shirt. Friendly now but somehow I can sense he’s mockin’ me in a way, like somehow no matter what I do, how I strive, how I prove myself to be a solid man in this hood, he’s never quite gonna accept me, consider me part of the fabric, someone he could tell a joke to or share something private.
“Dead Man Walkin’. The Sweetness. Power of God. So what you want?”
“No ‘Cross My Heart and Hope to Die’?” I’m kinda jokin’ but secretly I hope this is actually a brand, that would be amazing, wouldn’t it? These names, they’re so visceral, I think these guys oughta work on Madison Ave. , they are that gifted with the nomenclature, but of course that’s not the way it’s gonna turn out, ‘cause Madison Ave. only comes here when they’re lookin’ for a fix, roll up in their town cars with the tinted windows. Ballsy ones actually come in, do a little slummin’, feelin’ so cool, so hip, like they’re down on the scene. Truth is, anyone who’s got a sense of humor and a willingness to put themselves out on a limb and live outside their comfort zone will always attain respect in the hood. People just perceive something about you. They hone in on your essential nature whether they realize it or not, and their actions follow suit.
“Naw, man”. He looks like he’s getting impatient. I see his buddy off to the side, rifling through something but also periodically gazin’ over at me with his slightly hooded lids, like it’s time for me to go.
“Alright then. Gimme some of that Sweetness, my good man”. I pass a Jackson through the shoddy aperture. He passes me back a bag, winks. Nod and I’m out.
Lookin’ for a little comfort, lookin’ for a little grace. Hopin’ I can tolerate the process of locatin’ that oh so elusive state a’ grace an’ transcendence, story of my life, story of any life now that I think about it. Ha. And nobody seems to ever learn. Why can’t we live and let live? Why do we stand in judgement of one anotha? All I ever asked for was a little peace. So I push and push, tryin’ to find that undisturbed corner, that proverbial place of repose, clean, well lighted. Naw. It’s gotta be shadowy, obstructed, hidden. And I’m always feelin’ intruded upon, stressed, oppressed. People got nothin’ better to do. It’s fulfillin’, for them, stokes their fire. There are a few German expressions for that, right? And they say Germans ain’t self-aware.
But the search continues, ‘cause I never give up, and I got stamina to spare, fools. Marchin’ down Clinton Street with a spring in my step ‘cause I got a date tonight. Ferra, one of my alltime faves. Classic downtown babe and practically reekin’ of dignity. What a woman should be from my well considered standpoint. Tougher than leatha in her public facin’ pose and tender as a calla lily in the presence of those of us she happens to trust. Ferra, the flamin’ Ginger with a glorious temper to match. If you call her manipulative you just don’t understand, or you’re simply intimidated. What she’s got is pride to a fault, and the passion of a restless soul—she’s hellbent on unearthin’ the meaning of things and deeply committed to what ain’t obvious. I love her, I do. As much as I can love anybody. Which is a lot, in a way. I can love people a lot but I don’t want them to feel like they can depend on me ‘cause I’m temporary just like anyone else. I’m ephemeral. I might waft up like smoke at any moment ‘cause I do live in the now. Got to. In part ‘cause of my disease but I acknowledge with a certain amount of contented or at least resigned self-recognition that I’ve always been this way, and it’s probably what brought me to where I am in life, for better and obviously worse.
Anyway, I’m gettin’ closer to the meeting point so I wanna tell you a little bit more about Ferra ‘cause she gets pretty self-conscious, surprisingly enough. Got a demure, bashful side. Which is kinda what I was referrin’ to before. The wondrous dichotomies of the downtown female. God knows I’m a connoisseur. But Ferra, she is nothin’ if not honest about who she is. Wears it on her sleeve like a precondition for friendship. Accept me or get lost. And she’s brilliant and well-read and can hold forth on anythin’ from federalism to sportfishin’ to restoration comedy but she also recognizes she’s a commodity and she makes no apologies and has no persistent sadness about this. Blames it on nobody. Just tryin’ to survive. For kicks and probably as a copin’ mechanism though she wouldn’t dare to admit that, she writes a column in this downtown zine called Pretty Decorating, named after the homewares shop on Avenue A, been there since this neighborhood was teemin’ with strivin’ immigrants, or so ya’d think if you’ve been inside pokin’ around the commodities stacked to the ceilin’ and talkin’ to the salespeople there, vintage neighborhood characters you just want ta hug, vanishin’ breed, they are. She writes about the clients she services as a dominatrix. Gives ‘em names to protect their identities and also for entertainment’s sake. Smothered Pretzel Man is one dude. Pegging the Peg Leg, that was a story unto itself. Family Guy Flatulence Huffer was a goddamn mouthful and I can’t help but pity the guy a little. Shit is hilarious at some points, depressin’ at others. Like, what drives you as a man to that point, where you gotta expel these uncontrollable toxic desires in private? What, you got no other outlet in your relationships? You can’t trust nobody, you can’t just ask your girl, like, hey, I need you to understand this urge I have sometimes, if it’s okay maybe you could straddle my face until I can’t breathe and tell me Mommy knows best while I’m wearin’ your panties with the cum stain? Like what’s the big deal? We all got urges, we all gotta balance our darkness with our light, it’s like a finely tuned instrument, the human subconscious and we gotta treat it gently, be aware of its yearnins’ and also its limitations. We gotta cherish every kernel of who we are. A ladylike Ferra, she’s sacrificin’ herself, she’s exposin’ herself to what spills over when a guy feels constricted and the funny thing is she doesn’t get to have the same kinda catharsis ‘cause she’s gotta hide her own reaction to all that goes on in that dungeon.
But fortunately Ferra finds her outlets elsewhere. She calls that her day job. Her art’s somethin’ a little different. Been makin’ movies, playing roles in films from some of these practitioners of the Cinema of Transgression. Scott and Beth B, Nick Zedd, Richard Kern. If you called her characters thinly veiled versions of her you’d again be missing the point. In those movies, she gets to show somethin’ she hides the rest of the time for purposes sometimes of self-preservation, sometimes simple professionalism. There’s a warmth she finds onscreen that for me and a lot of other folks around the way is downright compellin’. She’s like this fraught soul that sometimes has to kick someone’s ass but is reflective and ultimately regretful about it. That might sound trite or cliched to you ostensibly but in terms of the visual language of cinema trust me when I tell you it’s profound. Those feelings she has lurk beneath the surface but they flicker on her face in this liminal way. There’s a subtlety to her performance and somethin’ I can cling onto that resonates for me and that I believe brings us togetha. Whether I’m kiddin’ myself or not remains to be seen. Tonight’s just one more chapter in that unfoldin’ story and I’m just along for the ride. Like I said, she’s portrayin’ and undeniably incarnatin’ that iconic, timeless New York female I was talkin’ about earlier. Forged out of uncompromisin’ experience. Helplessly realized and at the same time a matter of choice and an emblem of character. Make no mistake about a gal like this.
While I been givin’ you the skinny I ran the gauntlet. Traversed what I tend to call No Man’s Land, Clinton St., crossed Houston and made it onto Avenue B, which has its jarrin’ moments but is a little more populated late at night and maybe a little more welcomin’ of all different types, more naturally diverse, shall we say. And now I’m approachin’ the southeast corner of the fabled Tompkins Square Park where so much goes down, the heartbeat of the neighborhood and definitely the public square, where the community converges, makes merry and sometimes despairs together, as one, when necessary. And god knows we got no shortage of occasions for that these days. It’s like one ongoing epidemic down here, if you didn’t know, and it takes many forms. Mass depredation in droves. Walkin’, talkin’ phantoms seepin’ out of doorways, minglin’ among us. Sometimes you forget who’s alive or dead, and it ain’t necessarily obvious, either.
And you could call the Horseshoe the preeminent local waterin’ hole, the port in the storm. The uninitiated and the generally noneloquent types who like to cut to the chase or are from my standpoint overly literal just call it 7B. But the Horseshoe feels right to me. We’re all cowboys out here, remember. Stakin’ our claim to somethin’, the land, somebody, some kinda territory, maybe somethin’ abstract, a vision. So the Horseshoe feels right as a name. And it definitely feels right tonight when I swing open the door and see Ferra, almost immediately. Of course, that’s not hard. Did I tell you she’s 6 feet tall? Alternatin’ between muscular and curvy in all the right places as far as I’m concerned. Wearin’ somethin’ cute as usual that suggests she cares, maybe. Tossed off and beguilin’ coexistin’ as one. That’s the quintessence of it. Some kinda corset or bodice and then these snug wool ridin’ pants, looks like. “Ray!” She don’t even wait, just grabs some dude’s shoulder, asks him to save her place on the barstool and comes over and just kinda yelps and jumps up into my arms and she’s straddlin’ my waist like she’s about to drive me down the goddamn road. Feel like I finally came home and that’s crazy ‘cause I never really had one that stuck or felt endurin’ to me growin’ up or later. Always restless, never really able to trust my surroundins’. Tremors again and it ain’t the disease this time it’s the feelins’ she arouses in me and I ain’t even talkin’ about sexual right now I’m talkin’ about someone who’s like a sister to me. I adore this Chiquita. Chirp Chirp. Ah ha ha ha. She makes me feel like a kid and a man at the same time. Don’t know if that makes sense or not but I don’t care right now.
“Oh, Fer, Fer, Fer, how I’ve missed you my dearest chickie wonder woman.” I’m huggin’ onto her for dear life, truly, givin’ her all the strength I possess as of this moment, or maybe she’s just drawin’ my untold reserves out of me like a lightnin’ rod, like my desperately fightin’ body’s some kinda sieve and all the stored energy in there, all the reserves are just kinda dribblin’ out, bein’ called forth for one more valiant attempt at respectin’ a lady’s honor by showin’ her a good time.
I whisper in her ear, and I’m hopin’ I don’t sound tired. Not in terms of exhibitin’ any kinda symptoms, providin’ some kinda unwanted glimpse at how my health’s holdin’ up, but in terms of bein’ predictable.
“I got more”
She just gives me that look, the one that says she knows exactly what I’m talkin’ about but that words won’t suffice ‘cause anything she’d say would be somethin’ we’re already both thinkin’. She wears it on her sleeve, she’s transparent but she also sees right through you in this unflinchin’ way that reminds me so much of myself. Instead, she just takes my hand and leads me down the long bar westward past curious gawkin’ faces and congenial nods of greetin’, past patent leather and peekaboo lace and the odd straight edge argyle and we push into the bathroom like we own the place and if we don’t exactly own it, if that seems a little arrogant or deluded, well, it would be no exaggeration at all but in fact a statement of reality which I will be happy to verify by public consensus to say we are among the significant shareholders, in the metaphoric sense.
And then before I know it I’m pullin’ the bag outta my pocket like it’s the holy grail and feelin’ those butterflies battin’ their wings, that sense of bein’ engulfed and the abandon you have momentarily when you’re about to be totally, completely satisfied viscerally, when it all seems so inevitable, so destined to be, somethin’ you can justify because of all the pain you been through that you never called upon yourself, that was visited upon you by those who shoulda known better, that you had to endure for no good reason but that you turned into a parable, a lesson, somethin’ you could hinge your life upon, somethin’ you could harness for your own purposes as time goes by. And she’s sniffin’ and snortin’ this lifeblood, this bridge to the next moment, this elixir of sustenance and release and lassitude and oh, sweet torpor ah ha ha ha and our bones are ringin’ and vibratin’ and the pleasure is washin’ over me like the tides used to do like some kinda mysterious elemental force at my Grandma’s beach on the Long Island Sound, roilin’ and undulatin’ with seaweed and scurryin’ hermit crabs and sweet wrigglin’ bikinis and pastel pebbles worn to smooth perfection by the sea, ebbin’ and flowin’ and for a moment, a moment that seems to stretch out and become undefined and malleable and porous I ain’t sick I’m boundless and formless and capable of anythin’ and I grab Ferra and she brings her lips to me and I’m clutchin’ her face in my hands and practically cryin’ with the joy of it, of bein’ so warm and so close and of sharin’ what’s coursin’ through our veins, and I’m feelin’ her breasts, these taut, palpable, surgin’ mounds of delicious flesh and I hear a distant knockin’ and a yellin’ as someone’s bangin’ on the door but it’s like a resoundin’ memory to me now, a disembodied voice on the playground, somethin’ transformed by time, somethin’ I can respond to in due course and I’m pullin’ down her pants and diggin’ relentlessly into that slippery flesh blossom between her legs, my hand’s bein’ swallowed up by these lush, voluminous hungry lips and then I got her up on the sink and I’m rollin’ my wrapper on (Love that feelin’. Like a robe for my dick) and I’m thrustin’ into her like a blind, enthralled, singleminded animal and the sink’s makin’ a knockin’ noise for some reason and we’re purrin’ and gruntin’ and just meltin’ into each other, holdin’ on like I said for dear life and life is just passin’ us by and I can see it, like a passing cityscape that’s reflectin’ back at us, omniscient, and the sweet, sweet juice is pervadin’ our bones and coursin’ through our veins like an all envelopin’ lethargy and a surge of omnipotence all at once. And the bangin’ on the door is comin’ a lot closer now, I look back as I shudder and cum and the thing is shakin’ in the frame, don’t know if I’m just bein’ paranoid now but I think I can hear footsteps, like management’s comin’ ta help. And I’m liftin’ F off the sink when the whole thing just comes off the wall, it just dislodges and collapses onto the floor. F is lookin’ at me, I’m lookin’ at her, we’re at a loss for words but tryin’ to figure out what to do next, how to evade the situation. I feel an uncontrollable urge to laugh and I’m strainin’ to stay calm at the same time. Like a caged animal, ready to scream, pacin’ back and forth, vacillatin’ at will. How could the fuckin’ thing break so easy? What were we thinkin’, though? I can’t get my head straight. Every thought is comin’ fully formed, like a jewel with all its facets polished, blindin’ me, but I’m havin’ trouble with accessin’ what’s there. I’m strainin’ to perceive reality, to navigate the high and discern what is actually manifestin’ before my eyes. It’s like travelin’ through the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a plastic bubble. You see it all with supreme clarity, but you’re isolated, cut off, on a different plane from everyone else who’s experiencin’ it tactilely. So I take her hand and I look at her and I unlock the door and it sounds like the unlatchin’ of a mausoleum. One, two, three, I mouth as she watches me expectantly. Time is prolonged indefinitely and I can hear myself breathin’ softly, steadily. That’s good, that I’m breathin’ at all. I grab the handle and swing the door open partway. Seems like the whole world is in the bar right now. We wriggle through and by the time I hear the yellin’ we are swimmin’ anonymously through the sea of bodies like an inexorable salmon spawnin’. Swimmin’ upstream, gaspin’ for air, tryin’ to matter in a world to which we are inevitably a matter of overwhelmin’ indifference, no matter how they try to portray it anotha way. Pushin’ to and then through the door we are at the threshold of somethin’ new or at the very least a change of scenery. The night is callin’ us, like an incantation. Psalm of the streets. Beckonin’ to us, envelopin’ us in its chilly embrace. Trust me, it whispers.