Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The City is a Wonder Town


With a concussion the light upon impact, I am told, is the result of the back of brain bumping against the skull.  I once got a slight concussion by running down a dark hallway at night. I ran directly into another boy. We couldn't see an inch ahead and so we had no idea the other was there. It was a game, a short lived game, but even with the intention of running full speed at each other in the dark we did not have a sense of the space and we did not know how close we were to each other and we thought somehow we would miss one another so we didn't even run with our arms out in front to brace off potential impact. We ran dead on and our heads collided. It hurt. The light was there streaked inside my eyes.  I cried but I was also laughing because it was so dumb, it was such a dumb reason for my head to be hurting so bad, but I laughed and cried so hard that I almost puked. I sobbed and moaned a little and wheezed between laughs. The other boy was fine, at least he hadn't seen stars and he wasn't crying. He was laughing. The hallway lights turned on and he helped me to my feet and walked me to the playroom. I laid down on the antique bed in the playroom and the white of the bedspread floated up around the pinpoints of  small pastel flowers that seemed to ground me within the blinding rest of it.

 Still the word concussion has a different phonetic meaning for me. The sense I get from the word is at odds with its meaning, even though I have had several strong personal interactions with word.  The word has more to do with waves for me, with the sense of being pulled from within, by my own stomach, drawn down in the current and wound under the force of the water. Being engulfed, ducking wave by wave those white tracers flash inside my eyes.  The root, I am told, is latin, concussionem: a shaking. The flights that cross the Atlantic break low below the cloud cover on their path to JFK. The waves back off.  They break a little further. I am surrounded only by the roll of their foam as white as the white bellies of the jumbo jets.  I wade out further to meet the growing waves until the horizon is invisible behind the jumble of surf.  A wave surges and I drop below rising in the foam, addled, dizzy, shaken.  The softness of the water is something apart, my fingers sweep through it. I am alone out here.  The day is grey and the water is cold.  Wallowing, while the lifeguard huddles on her stand underneath her umbrella, tucked inside her sweatshirt waiting out the drizzle.


Still the light.  I arrive each morning in lower Manhattan and walk up the subway stairs. I have observed since April what seem to be the rarest traces of light.  There are locations I can count on as long as the sun is out. But it changes with the seasons and with the smallest bit of cloud passing through the sky. The light makes these improbable momentary leaps, cutting from the East or the West and bouncing off each of the high office windows until it bends so low it scrapes the ground and people move through it in waves.  Unaware of the momentary bath of shadow, the coin of light, or homing to it, like I do, finding some deep ventral imprint pulling them along the lines of it.  The overcast days and the days without my camera make the crowds harder to bear.  There's the hope that the next day the sun will return, my batteries will be charged and I can to stop myself from hustling forward in the crowd waiting to cross West St.  I can stop and look all I want.    

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