As I mentioned in my previous post, and I should go on record as saying that the most annoying thing about blogging is that the newest is on top, and so there is reverse apparent chronology, I lived in da Branx for a few years. I was praised frequently for being "brave" for moving from Goldsboro, North Carolina, to New York City, New York. (The Bronx address was simply a matter of finding an affordable apartment. I would like to say, loudly and clearly, that I loved my landlord there: he was a good egg, a good guy, and an honorable person. I was very lucky.) There was no courage involved. Is a city going to hurt you? What a dumb thing to say.
Anyway, I meant to tell y'all about a dream. I dreamed that I met Death. He was vague, so don't ask me to tell you what he looked like. He was also, by the way, a he. In all the odd protest about "foregrounding" in language and assuming that people must be male unless otherwise specified, I have not once heard anyone protest at the way that most societies (all?) assume that Death is male. This is especially surprising, when you think about it, because Death keeps his pelvis covered, so how do we know Death is male? It's not like there are any secondary sexual characteristics left... or primary, for that matter. Anyway, Death was male, blobby gray but male (look: I'm blobby, myself, and I'm male), and I said, "I have been waiting for you all my life, you know." (I see now that that was a joke, but, in my dream, it wasn't intended to be a joke, and Death, who is reputed to have no sense of humor, didn't get it.) Death said that he wasn't free to come and go whenever people thought about him. I asked him, then, who exactly is in charge of him, and he said, "Mostly, it's you." (I don't think he meant me, particularly.)
I started to think that was a cool answer. In my defense, people, I was asleep. Anyway, I quickly began to have some brain function and told him that was a stupid, 1960's answer. That, unfortunately, woke me up. It was a choice of not getting to call Death on his B.S. or not getting to talk to him.
When I lived in da Branx, I used to play a game. I woke up every morning at about 5:30, and I was on the train by 6:15 AM to be at work. I absolutely LOVE THE SUBWAY! Yeah, I know -- death, trains, tunnels, mysterious houses, etc., but we're not talking about death now, so get your mind out of the dirt.
>Hey! Close the cell phone. Don't answer that text message: I'm trying to tell you about the game I played.
Ok, so I had this game. The objective was simple. Without using headphones before the train was in motion or after it came to a stop, could I journey from my home in Pelham Bay to my work beside the Guggenheim Museum and return at the end of the day without once hearing the "F word" used in anger? If someone used it in a joke, or as an interjection or ejaculation, that would be acceptable, but I couldn't hear it as a weapon in the whole time. I lost. In two years of working, I never won the game once.
I moved from New York to a really dangerous town, Baltimore, and then came down to a suburb of Taulkinham. I went from 8,000,000 people in my town to 394. I think that was brave. I also went from riding the train to work every morning and afternoon and reading books to driving a car every morning and afternoon and listening to CD's. I'm agitated by that, because I can find more interesting books than interesting CD's these days, but it puts me back into Mainstream Merica. Merican's drive, and I drive. Mericans have bumperstickers, and I have one, too. I went to a church where no one noticed to one where I get phone calls about every event and where my denomination was almost a majority to where my denomination is frequently confused with alcoholism.
I also developed a new game. The Branx game wouldn't be interesting, as hearing that word used in that manner ever, here, would be a special occasion. Instead, the game is getting to and from work without seeing Death. Opposums, nature's speed bump, are ubiquitous enough that they are difficult to mourn. Somehow, these creatures must have adapted their reproductive cycle to the natural predation of the automobile. (Q. Why did the chicken cross the road? A. To prove to the 'possum that it could be done.) Armadillos show up, too. They don't belong here, and they're really, really good at digging up plants, so no one frets over their tiny eviscera scooped into their shells on the roadbed. Deer, too, lie beside the road -- their dead eyes gazing down the highway as if they were searching for a destination. Most distressing, to me, are the dogs and cats, and there are far too many of them. Some have collars, most do not. Whether their deaths are grisly or "clean," they are dead, and all the love and joy they could bring is dashed, all the love and joy they had elided.
Do I win this game? Yes. Sometimes I make it. It's not often, though.
The point of these games, though, is not merely satire. The reason I'm telling you about them at all is that both were violence, both force. Both the hate and anger I heard, eructations of unquiet souls, and the dead who lie in the median like passengers waiting for their conductor to stop the train, were compulsions to the world. The book blurred, and the song goes to hiss and noise, when these interruptions come. I cannot then pretend that I am traveling alone, that there is beauty or wisdom to go with me. If I listen to a delicate Brahms air in my car and see the crushed animal, or the animal pointing its broken snout at the yellow line, then Brahms is a liar, and if I were reading Shelby Foote's chivalrous prose when Angie screamed at Tricia that she was a bad person, then Foote fled.
Death said that he mainly waited for me, that I was in charge. What a stupid lie. The bastard interrupts.