7B – Spirit of Gravity

“Anja!  Will you dispose of your jumpsuit?  Look.  Look at your picture!  You must change your appearance.  Why not cut your hair?  Buy new sunglasses?”

“Will you bloody well calm down?”

“Anja, you could be arrested!”

“So why are you scared?”

“Here, jump in these clothes of mine!”  Gabi presents Anja with a loose T-shirt and a pair of cut-off jean shorts.  Anja obliges her by trying them on.

“You know what?”

“What?”

“Let’s talk about where we’re going when we leave.”

“I’m not leaving New York without Eric.  They can jail me.  They can crucify me. They already have putting me in a fucking tabloid!  But I’m not going to leave this city, I’m not going to leave this building, without Eric.”

“His name’s in the paper.”

“I’ve got to stick this out, Gabi.  Look at what I’ve done! But I know one thing: you could get your second month security deposit back, now.  Or at least in the morning.  That’s fifteen hundred bucks.  If you’re going to leave, though, I still don’t see why.”

“Forget me.  We can’t let my boss know I’ve moved out from him before I get my paycheck.”

“That’s your business.  I don’t know why you’re plotting to leave just because of me.  You never used to be that way.”

“You can’t tell, Anja, both of us may need it.”

“I need Eric.”

“Anja, I’m scared!”

“Gabi, you went over the most heavily guarded border on earth inside a suitcase, I’m sure you’ll be able to deal with this.  All that has happened so far, in terms of the law, is that Eric has run into the subway.  That’s a misdemeanor.  You do the planning, Gabi.  I’m going to take a bottle of wine to the rooftop and catch the sunset, and stay on the look-out for Eric.”

“You can’t Anja, they’ll see you!   You’ve become a tabloid item.”

“Gabi, never say that to me again!  I know how to hide from spies, don’t you remember?  It runs in my family,” Anja adds, bitterly.

“Stay down here, Anja, we’ve got a lot to discuss.”

“In an hour, come up to the rooftop and try and find me.  No, I mean it.  Try to find me, and I guarantee you will not be able, and I’ll do it without jumping in the watertower.”

“No, just come down in an hour and be careful.”

“All right.  I’ll be on the roof.”

Anja scales the stairs, jumpsuit stuffed under her armpit, stealths her old ledge-slink, fits snugly into a corner, watches the sun set, swigs wine, and ponders the rush of her life in the last week and a half, while watching for Eric.  She needs time to pluck the thorn of her father’s memory from the soft of her past.  Why rave against a dead man?  The problem with, or virtue of, death, is that it should cancel outrage.  Do the dead hear the living’s plaints? Why waste time reproaching a corpse?  Double-timing the enemy, indeed.  Double-timing the dead.  And her mother remarried — to a landlord!  Should she yell at her mother, in her mind, “Are you going to torture yourself again?” What does Anja know now of her long-suffering mother? Of Germany?  Her own country has dissolved, Germany has changed.  And what of her rapist?  She can’t remember the face of the guy whom Eric chased.  And what a fool to allow that art-fake Elizabeth to take Eric’s keys back!  Why, if Eric does return, he can’t even open the door to his own room!  Anja should break in it tonight.  But suppose they (that omniscient “they” incarnated by tabloids) photograph her!  This is her punishment for inspiring Eric to chase her own fear into a tunnel.  She has made herself a spectacle, a goldfish in a bowl.  This is her sentence imposed by fate for torturing and losing Eric to her past and to her fear.  Now she must wait for Eric and face her deepest earthmare.   But where should I go?  Where would I go if Eric were with me?  Ah!  It’s time to change countries, continents, time-zones, identities, faces, fates!

And see what I must let go!  Dusk falls over New York, each lapse of light like a negative snowflake, a graphite zero over concrete, steel, aluminum, sometimes copper or iron as the light plays silver then gold against the canvas of rooftops.  A bottle of red wine and a rooftop!  Omar Khayyam, move over.  Who needs plush pillows, couches, TVs, stereos and indoor lighting?  Who needs a divan, Omar?  Who even needs cathedrals and crosses?  Spires, obelisks, skyscrapers are the pyramids of our time.  Shall it be the beige wedge of cheese called the Flat Iron, or the Parthenon?  Or hell?  And hear the aura, the mass of brakes, engines, tires and sirens which promise a past which she will never experience again, the magnificently free New York when people mind their own business.  Anja glances up to the watertower.  Some call it a Gravity Tank.  Those who worship water pressure, utility, what things are good for — weigh down and reduce every aspiration to the money it can make.  Gravity.  Gravity is death.  Gravity sent Eric running after what brought her up here, and which once put her down.  Gravity pulled Eric below the pavement.  Gravity sinks her spirit, almost destroyed her mind.  Didn’t Nietzsche say the only devil or demon was the ‘spirit of gravity’?  What demon urged her to send Eric down the path to hell?  Stars fall in John of Patmos’ Apocalypse.  They tumble around her shoulders but they cannot trickle through the pavement to reveal her to Eric.  Nor Eric to her.  And look at her tower!  It’s just a gravity tank!  Her village hut, her chapel, her tower, mocks her despair, mocks down all hope.  Firefighters can twist their nozzles into the stand-pipe around which the staircase revolves.  She and Gabi can shower in their penthouse.  Eight floors of toilets can flush away feces to a secret rendez vous with the grand tabloidetry of New York sewage, the big ho-down, wing-ding, shindig, of shit, where the vicarious stars crush the vicious herd, and it’s all so grave!

Wine must be getting to my head, Anja reels.  And where has gravity sunk Eric?  Could he be lower, now?  Gravity grabs her ankles.  The gravity of alcohol weighing her thighs.  Well, let gravity at least take her jumpsuit.   She will toss it where she would have fallen had she jumped that night when Eric stopped her.  Anja unfolds it, listening to the tires roll, the sirens moan, a horn bleat, watches the sun irradiate a building face red as black swallows lift from an electric generator across 2nd Ave, and, hypnotically shift directions across the horizon, which looks like burnt autumn leaves, maroon and auburn, and she lets the yellow costume sail down to the alley to the spot where she would preferred to have landed rather than condemn Eric.  How funny it seems!  Anja toasts the ashcans, an old bicycle, a styrofoam box, a lead pipe.  She stands up unsteadily, goes to the little house where she hid her pole vault pole and looks to the facing rooftop under which the alley looms, and rehearses vaulting it in her mind.  If only all this timber and newspaper and sundry other junk had been picked up by Slavko that night.  If only she had a free run on the tar paper!  But gravity, or is it the bottle of red wine, helps her set it down, and descend the one flight of stairs, open the door, and walk past Gabi and collapse onto her mattress and fall into the gravity of sleep.