6B – Darkness Visible

I look into the dark glove of my flesh and see nothing.  Not even my own hand.  I can almost touch the dark, it’s so humid.  My body casts no shadow.  It’s my grave!  The shadow which encrypts me.

Is my mind still alight?  I see no pictures.  Only the thought of Anja.  Not even a thought but Anja’s absence.  She’s not here.  I’m alone!  What will happen to her?  To me?  Help me!

Don’t go crazy, Eric!  Cool out. What if I fight and go mad paying attention to a life which I can’t get back?  When I can’t escape?  Will I gnaw my own arm off?  Both arms?  To escape and die a bloody carcass staggering armless to the next subway station to die on the tracks or stairs?  How would I hop unto the platform?  I would have to die on the tracks! Like I’m dying here!

Anja was right.  It’s not funny to be down.  Not good.  No, hold on Eric, take it and try those chains again, try ‘em, rattle ‘em, until your wrists bleed.  Houdini would do it.  Houdini would rise to the sunshine with Anja.  Up near the top of the world, scanning a horizon of spires.  I want the sky too.  I want the light!  Gimme the goddamn light!

It’s not the world you valued, Eric, but your fear of losing it.  Of losing, period.  Being humiliated.  Coward!  Life would have amused me only if I could stand in for myself on the cheap …  Where are you now, Oscar Wilde?  I have nothing to declare but my own chains!

I could crawl on comatose, my own double, crawl for the light.  Crawl around in a circle like a dog tied to a hydrant. Or be a second Eric, an angel. Everyone pretends they believe angels, why not me?  Anja would laugh at you now, Eric.  Listen to yourself!  Didn’t the Manicheans say there are two worlds?  That darkness is evil and light life?  Matter’s nothing without light.  The universe?  Dead without it.  Plants, animals, consciousness, the enigma of why we’re here, why we breathe … photosynthesis, the works.  Everything is nothing without light.  No universe without it.  I’m not even here.  Oh, you wish you weren’t here!  Darkness ages my bones, my inner body reflected in negative –   I’m just a big NO!

A double outside myself and my body, yes!  I’m watching the phantom which mom and dad called Eric — my ear and cupped hand raised in expectation! You-ho! – please come get me — end up enslaved, chained to a steel post!  I’m anonymous.  I’m not even reviled, except by myself.  Oh yea, you’re a real expert on yourself.  Better mind yourself — because no one else will.  No bank account, children, no real work ties, no tight friends, “He made no ripple, of no value, really, for history.”  An historian might say, “Who’s he? Why bother?”  Not known enough for anyone to care, to rescue me, even to tell my story.  If I was famous people would miss me.  I would have an obituary in The New York Times. My disappearance would be on the local, even national news.  If I mattered, there’d be a man hunt.  Manhunt! What an interesting concept!  Volunteers would comb subways.  Light would be turned on the situation.  Light!  But who am I?  Would the coward on the random bank or store video please materialize?  Squat here, die in my place?  I could lose myself, and live in another edition of my skin, a copy, be that other guy … and let this me rot here.  Anja hit it.   There’s nothing to me.  Not now!

Never really myself, always in potential.  I constructed stages through which I would progress.  I would develop by an absolute, that is baseless measure, all during my time on earth, to another level.  What other level?  This? This is the achievement of a lifetime!  I should get a reward.  A P. fucking H.D.  I mean, I’ve really made it!  Yes, I used to walking around, in the light, blowing up everything which would commit me.  If I wanted someone else do the work, I would find a way so they would have quit me — then stick them with abandonment, and betrayal.  A quitter who commits mild crimes so someone will have to quit me. I’m a chained pile of clichés!  I had my intentions.  A will to dominate my chaos.  The chaos of me chained to a rusting pole in the wet dark to rot for another’s crimes!  Don’t quit now!  What of Anja?  There she is — the blame target.  Will your blame quit for you your will to live?  Will the finger you give her, or the guy, who in cruel self-defense, imprisoned you exactly as you would have him imprisoned — will hating their guts set you free?  Give your teeth and jaw the strength to gnaw through your own bones?  Like a wolf in a trap?  I could hate my way out.  What a solution!  I will just sit here breathing fire, scream, rattle my chains, just hate everybody!  Hate like a maniac!  How dare you chain me!

I’m going to faint.  Now wouldn’t that be sweet, to go limp and let fear win?  I gotta get out, so I faint!  Knees don’t need to buckle, I’m already down. Just a little nod of my forehead — a nod of my will — and whoopee! That’s the quitter!  That’s the old nobody.  Or I could sleep.  Pretend I would rather hang out here.  Like, on a park bench.  Or in my room?  “I want to collect thoughts about life, you know, just hanging out.”  Blow, kill time.  Face my own death, watch it unfold slowly, sack out.  I could sleep ’till I lose the strength to stand. Or like a prisoner in a Nazi or Serb camp who lets himself die in an act of resignation, a bowing,  a way of creating my own space of will — the space of my dying — draw back on my horizon like a transparent chart, and decipher the invisible points of my attenuated destiny, the constellation of my spent possibilities — see an absolute void.  Am I, talking aloud?  Yes.  I’m talking aloud.  I’m talking aloud about how I am as much a victim as someone in a concentration camp when I really chased someone down into a subway, ran past Anja and Danny, who both told me to stop, and got chained and left to rot at this goddamn post.  I made love to that girl –  I’m guilty for that — I knew she’s crazy,  I liked it.  Guys like crazy.   I fell for her illusion because I couldn’t stand my own life.  I fled from her and myself, to die.

A hole is shot in the bottom of my soul.  I am leaking out.  How strange!  you laugh Eric.  Is it your soul or just your jaw, laughing?  Some teach the soul migrates from body to body, but how could the soul be more or less the size of the body?  Same size?  Will my soul look like me?  Why should it?  I wouldn’t dare look.  Am I going mad?  If my soul is leaking out, what’s left when I’m gone?  Skin, skeleton, teeth, guts to be infested — I’ll rot right here.  No need to eat for a week but more than a minute without breath.  The air is filthy, rotten.  Microbes passing in and out of my lips.  There’s rat turd and dead rat rot sticking to my lungs.  I’m screening the little particles to cultivate disease.  “The spirit is the poet of breath. The soul — my chained metaphysics of death.”  I rhymed.  Death/breath. Wow!  Anja would be proud.  I too can write a song!  Maybe I’ll sing?  I’ll sing Anja’s song.  “I’m a watertower girl!  In my watertower world!”  God, how did I sing that for?  An hour?  Strange, I thought I heard something while I was singing.  Maybe I should try crying?  I’m like one those coal mine parakeets who just peep away, until the gas comes.

What brought me solace, when I was alive, but hoping to become wise? Where is wisdom now?  I don’t feel any wiser.  Do I look wiser chained to a pole in a subway tunnel?  It’s that ole absence, that old familiar Eric, mocking.  “Eric nods, maniacally, ‘yes I know that.  I understand that joke.’”  Ever notice how the corniest pop songs are oracles of ineffable wisdom? “I can’t live in a world without love.”   How long can I sing that song?   Let’s see!

Take forty pounds of bone, fifty of muscle and another hundred of fat and gristle and just add breath, voilá.  Before I become an artifact: a rented conscience with the rented face to scream and follow down, follow the fear, follow down O (oo lá, lá!), so nimbly, love, with all its pleasure – she’s so fine –  only to praise the silent fireworks ‘for they fade … into the memory hole, O memory hole, fuck’n dat ole memory hole …  O, my beautiful crazy baby!  O my beautiful, crazy girl — can you save me?  You save me?  Hey baby!  Where are ya baby?

The skin on my arm stretched over muscle and the tendons which bind me –  It’s strange how I always took my arms for granted.  And the mobility of my legs.  I used to really get around!  Hey, maybe I could walk in circles around the pole?  I’ll try that!  This ain’t bad.  Sit down, Eric.  You’re getting dizzy.  Why can’t I still take living for granted?  Everybody else does.  Everybody?  Eric?  Everybody?  What do you know about anyone?  Anja would snort through her nose to hear you say that.   Well snort away!

What do you know about the guy you chased into the tunnel?  Anja told you he was her attacker.  If he’s chained you here, someone who could rape would surely not have the humanity to let you go.  You are a witness.  But to what?  If he didn’t rape Anja, or, if I cannot prove it?  It was legitimate self-defense on his part.  I could have meant to kill him.  This is not Kansas, as that T-shirt said.  I mean, in New York, a regular cowboy fistfight you might have in the country could produce a gun.  He-men are deadmen in New York — and it doesn’t matter how big you are.  Could be as big and stupid as a Rhino.  Who is going to adhere to the Marquis de Queensberry rules in a subway tunnel when anyone could be concealing a gun?  A bottle?  A razor?  A pipe?  Cuffs?  Wait.  If he knew I had a weapon why would he merely chain me to this pipe?  If he looked violent to him, I guess I really tried and probably did look mad — if I was mad and had a weapon — he would never have stopped.  He knew I didn’t have a weapon!  No, but he was spotted by Anja and Danny.  And the people on the platform.  That photographer.  Count them out.  Unless they can make the papers or get a reward.  They’re not going to say anything to anyone.  Perhaps just their friends at dinner tonight. “Hey, you know what I saw?  A guy chase another guy straight into a tunnel.  I even got a picture.”

“Oh yea, well you know what I saw yesterday?”

“What?”  “A guy going to the bathroom on himself, chained to a pole.”  ”Big deal.”

Etceteras.  And what if Anja is wrong?  And, I chased the wrong guy?  Wow!  That’s a thought.  I’m not sure I can live with it.  Live.  Who am I kidding?  She would not tell the police.  Not Anja.  And Danny?  Danny would not tell the police — he’s got half a pound of pot in his apartment and hasn’t filed taxes in a decade.  He and I both know he will not call the cops.  But Anja doesn’t.  Would she try to keep him from calling the cops?  She might rope him into his chair and leave him.  Pull out his phone.  No, she will just dump him.  She will take the chance and, wait, she could occupy my apartment.  She could be sleeping in my bed right now.  I left the keys!  Did she ever really love me?  Does she think me dead?  Anja, do you love me?  Do you love me?  Did you really know her?  She’s trouble, that’s clear.  Will she try to kill herself?  I barely saved her once.  Didn’t she say she would do it again?  Didn’t she say that?  Are you prepared to be free if Anja kills herself?  Suppose she’s leaping from the ledge right now and you can’t do a damned thing!  She said she would.  You know with just as much certainly that Danny will not call the cops that Anja will take her life.  You could get out, if you ever do, and life would be worthless to you.  Eric, you are responsible for her death if she kills herself!  You didn’t have to chase that guy!  You have never done anything crazy in your life.  Are they still back in the station?  No, they probably just went home.  They’re waiting for me.  Waiting in vain.  Get me out of here!

The dark is nothing but a hole.  No psychic cotton, for this, man.  Hey, baby, you rattle’n my chain?  Goddamn, if I could just dig a hole beneath this pipe and maybe it’s not sunk too farther down, I could pass these cuffs under it.   Well, here I am, digging.  Digging with fingernails in the muck.  Digging in the shit / you will come rejoicing / digging in the shit. I always made fun of religious songs.  And here I am, breaking my fingernails at making this little trough around a pipe.  Hey!  This is just great!  Remember Uncle Bob, who had emphysema, turned upside down by your other uncles to let his black lungs drain into a pail?  Remember the 3d Christ in the hallway which asks, “Why have you forsaken me?”  Indeed.  Why have I forsaken me?  I bet my pupils are completely dilated.  I bet I look like a mad owl.  Christ, my fingers might be bleeding, getting infected. They certainly sting.  I must look like an owl or a possum and slowly as I dig my fingers, bleeding, on my way to gangrene, then to Hell.  God, I’m hot, and thirsty.

I’m rehearsing my death.  My face is a plaster cast crumbling off, flaking. It’s like me, “Eric”  as a figurine. A puppet.  I can see him, the old, free Eric, now on an a stage before an audience of popup friends with frown-smiles, everything in slow motion, and upside-down.  No, I’m the only one in this audience.  I’m on my knees. On my ass, begging. I’m shitting myself!  I’m fucking begging him to get me out of here!  Get me out of here!

I wasn’t meant to die like this.  How was I meant to die?  How should I know?  Not like this!  I want the light promised by Jesus!  What light can ashes, mud or clay promise?   I want the sun blazing and exploding with yellow light before me.   What if our sun was violet?  Or red?  Wouldn’t that be strange?  But light, really, though they say it carries the full spectrum, is colorless.  The source might have a color.  But light itself?  Consciousness?  How could I have been so blind?  Why didn’t I worship light?  Why didn’t I chain myself to a pole and do a dance to light every night and start a religion to which only I belonged to greet the light, even though light will not listen? Listen to me!   Listen to me!

“But I have!”

“What?  Who said that?” Not ten yards away, he hears an abrupt clapping of hands. “Who’s there?”  Startled, Eric tries to scramble to his feet.  The cuffs catch him and he falls back against the pole.  The clapping ends.  Dripping water.   Just his own breathing,  “Hey!  Who’s there?”

“Listen to me!” The voice in the dark mimics Eric’s.

“Who are you?”

“You know.”