I took the train to the bar, the local, thinking I knew what I knew. She would be there. And that was that.
I had calculated the $10,000, the equivalent of 50 nights at a nice hotel, 75 bottles of very fine scotch, an Antarctic cruise or a buyout from a first marriage. Not a big deal.
I felt clarity and confidence in that, knowing exactly what I was doing, intensely so. It was what might be next – the harrowing plummet to who knows where – that I could not grasp. And then it hit me. I should have taken the express.
Chance went inside and checked his social media. The phone created its own light, its own color, its own time. It did not follow the law of gravity that forever bent all living things downward. Everything on his phone was tangled and mixed and yet smoothed out; night and day, big and small, tough and brittle, soft and rough, hot and cold, near and far.
His followers would never know how real he was, since he thinking could not be downloaded. And to him, the followers existed only as projections of his own thoughts, as images. He would never know how real they were, since he had never met them and did not know what they thought.*
*Adapted from pages 5 & 65 of Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There.
That innocent knowledge of the act, in her movements, not knowing what that is, not that half-gaped mouth or maybe that, that dread, needing, clamoring out of lost, separated, entwined. Desperately, awfully so.
He leaned against the dirty pillar, head slumped forward over his phone, unlit cigarette in hand, playing his game, watching his feed. He wore a dull blue polo shirt and was Chinese. I glanced over his shoulder, disinterested, and realized it was not a game or feed but porn, a young girl on her hands and knees, getting fucked from behind, a red background draped behind her.
He glanced back at me – much older than I had first thought, probably in his 60s – and then again at his screen, zooming in on the girl’s ass, and stepped back for the approaching train.
What if you could go to a place where you would experience the greatest moments, filled with sensual pleasure and love, genuine fulfillment, however brief, understanding and compassion in the profoundest of ways but also senseless pain, the deepest of regrets and a constant and genuine confusion for why you were there at all, and you had to stay for 85 years…would you go?
She didn’t look well, a petite woman in her late 20’s, sitting on the subway platform bench. She looked tired, terribly so, and suddenly, she threw up into her Dunkin’ Donuts. It was a full-on spew of vomit, like a penguin feeding its young, once and then again, fully and completely into the bag. She paused, exhausted, her head just pulled back from the bag, looking like she might do it again.
People walked past, me included, not noticing or not caring. She threw up again, expertly, back into the surprisingly resilient bag. She heaved once more, less in her now, paused, and wiped her mouth with a crumpled napkin, stood, looking like everyone else, and threw the bag into the garbage, like it was just a half-eaten donut, before getting on her train.