This city is done for.
Tom and Zac returned from their road trip with peeling tans and spoke of Austin, TX.
In Austin, TX the air is pregnant with droplets of water too microscopic to be seen but significant enough to coat the skin glossy. Smoke unfurls downward, collecting moisture like a sponge. It smells of marijuana and lake water.
Or so I imagine – I’ve never been.
We sat on Zac’s front porch tossing lighters back and forth. When Zac’s stories gain momentum, his words fall in a succinct rhythm that is impossible to disrupt. His conversations exude a mood akin to what is expected from an efficient, engaging classroom.
When Tom is speaking, it is important to watch him. Otherwise his statements will give the impression of being chronically incomplete. He frequently trails off into incoherent mumbles, but his hands – his hands become more articulate than his words. They carry the point across.
I was thinking of New York and how complicated it is to sleep now. I have to leave the light on. Always, even though it is harder to fall asleep under the harsh glow of the bare bulb. Always, because it is terrifying to be prematurely roused from sleep to the realization that it is dark, and that I am alone.
For several weeks I would regularly awake to find the digital clock blinking: 4:55 a.m. I had set no alarm, nor did I have a regular, respectable bedtime. I eventually unplugged that clock because it felt inauspicious, seeing those same numbers so often in a vulnerable state of mind.
Kevin and I walked to Union Square the other day. The summer breeze carried clay-colored dust from a construction site. The air felt dry and scratchy at the back of my throat. At the bus stop there was a crack in the sidewalk that mimicked the Texas-Mexico border.
These little awe-filled moments are murderous.
When we find ourselves disappearing; diffusing into particles of water and dust; we will discover that there is nothing rueful in absence. What merits contrition are those unquantifiable sources of pain: the mess of memories and other intangible relics.
(If I were to destroy this city backwards, dissolving the indescribable before crushing the concrete, would I be forgiven for leaving?)
After they left Austin, Tom and Zac drove along the border, whipping past rivers blending into fences blending into wire. The air was stiff with dried sweat and a kind of waxy residue left behind by desperation.
Or so I imagine.
6 months ago