Jumbled Thoughts on a Saturday Morning

It’s raining faintly, the kind of rain that’s just wet enough you think you need an umbrella but also the kind that when you put the umbrella up the wind grabs it and turns it inside out so really it’s better to get barely wet with no umbrella than think you’ll stay dry through the struggle. I once lost an umbrella this way—it flew away. Someone could have gotten hurt.

Yesterday was my last half-day Friday at work until next summer. I cut out on time, even five minutes early, and went to my writing spot to work on this chapter I’m stuck on. An entire afternoon was spent facing one sentence. I couldn’t make it past the one sentence, and the day ended upon giving up, feeling like a complete-and-total failure, and knowing the book is due in a month and I am s-c-r-e-w-e-d if I don’t step it up. But I didn’t want to think about that then; we almost went to a movie. Then we didn’t go to a movie and instead rented one at home and I read my copy of Vogue because it is too heavy to carry outside the apartment. I’d like to think that yesterday never happened.

This morning I woke up on time, a miracle. I washed my hair. I walked through the rain mentioned above using an umbrella for one block, taking it down at the next block, putting it back up because I was too wet, then down again, because what was the point? A cop cruiser pulled up alongside me and I felt panic for no reason. They had a loudspeaker on saying: Wake up! Wake up! I realized they weren’t talking to me and so looked to my right, to the doorway of a church where a man had crashed with his pants down around his knees. He slept curled up on his stomach, exposed out toward the street. I got a very graphic view. It made me upset. When did the man lose hold of his pants, and what happened the whole night he slept like that? I was worried for him. He wasn’t responding to the loudspeaker so one of the cops jumped out and tapped the man with his shoe. “Buddy, it’s time to get up. Buddy, buddy, buddy, get up.” The man finally got up. “I’m up,” he said, like it was his mom waking him for the school bus. I kept walking. But I held it in, mulling it over. Don’t you do that when you find a broken man asleep on the street with no pants? You think: what is wrong with ME, to be so unsatisfied when I have my pants and a place to sleep out of the rain? And beneath the construction overpass three people with nowhere to go have built a living room with plastic tarps and discarded furniture, and the radio is on, and they have three different kinds of coffee tables, arranged shoved up together so they can put their feet up, but for now they sleep, and the radio blares, and I feel like I’m peeking into the window of someone’s apartment. How long will they get to keep their living room before the cops make them move? And I’m thinking this. And I’m upstairs soon after, dry even though the cuffs of my pants are wet from dragging through the wet sidewalks, even though my socks are maybe a little wet by the toe. When I look out the window at the city now, the skyline is shrouded in blue, misty fog. The top of the Empire State Building is missing. The city looks smaller like this, the view stopping so much sooner than it usually does. The fog is closing in.

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6 thoughts on “Jumbled Thoughts on a Saturday Morning

  1. e September 2, 2006 / 3:58 pm

    very glad you still have your pants. your post reminded me of this…

    “This is a neighborhood of padded mud, wheels gone all the way, kisses like the electric wires inside eels, nervous knives, pretty pistols, mothers, gods, fathers, cops, leaning with shame. The deteriorated winter is yellow and its cruel dust is everywhere, on the handlebars, stair rails, steeples, all broken off rooftops that smell like moldy sausage. The boys shake out their cards in the dark but there is only one girl in the whole city and she is pregnant. All have the same mother, went on the same vacation, father toot-toot like oranges against the skyscraper; could be that man, could be that one. An avalanche of fathers that kill you with snakes, with beliefs that are the invention of snakes.”

    not sure why.

  2. Helen September 2, 2006 / 6:00 pm

    How undignified for that poor man who had crashed out on the pavement with his trousers down. I mean, he was probably boozing, but you still wonder: “What happened in that person’s life to lead them into that state?”

    I loved your descriptions of New York. I felt as if I was there.

  3. Niki Aguirre September 3, 2006 / 5:34 am

    Such a lovely sad description of living in a big city where homeless people are a reality; on the other hand you have your own dreams and desires running parallel and that sounds even sadder. I experienced this not long ago when I became so wrapped up in politics and wars and the whys of human suffering that I could not stand to write even one line; what was the point I asked? And I can almost see the same question in your post. We write because it is the only way we know how to cope – we write to create beauty, order and sense in our own stark, inexplicable cruel worlds. Your words about the man without pants are a lesson in dignity and shame in just a few paragraphs. So continue wondering and questioning but also writing – you have a purpose and so much talent – that can never be frivolous.

  4. everythinginbetween September 3, 2006 / 12:22 pm

    That description was both breathtaking and heartbreaking.Thank you for it.
    Courtney

  5. slynne September 3, 2006 / 6:08 pm

    The thing about this is that the world is incredibly uneven. But that is why you write, to create another reality, to look into what happens in the lives of others. We write to give other people something other than suffering to focus on, or to focus people’s attention on the suffering they’d rather ignore.
    To write even though we know that there is no perfect world is the noble thing.

  6. nova September 4, 2006 / 10:59 am

    e, what city do you think Steven Jesse Bernstein was describing? LA? Seattle? I don’t think he lived in New York, although that sounds very New York…

    As for having those doubts… some days it’s harder than others to justify what I’m doing. But I can’t do anything else. What would I be if not a writer? A career copy editor!? Ack.

    I love the comments above. Thanks.

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