Monday, July 9, 2012

The Solitude of Crowds

It’s considered impolite in New York City to look at myself on the streets. One must look askew, with deep focus an inch in front of the eyes. I suppose this is for our own protection, like the rule that says we can’t look upward at the ornate belltowers and inexplicable greenhouses and dark-windowed C-Suites along the ridgetops of the city. Such a view would break our stride and jar us from our positions, just like looking at my faces would cause unimaginable distress, for I take so many forms, show such multitudes of expressions: now worried, now angry, now mischievous, now bored, now smiling for no apparent reason.

And the expression changes depending on how I am looked at, something that never can be known! Such bright and impenetrable surfaces, yet they look so familiar and so real. It’s a continuous walking thorn of imperfection, still every face glows with the holiness of a pure soul no matter how distorted the manifestation, whether green-haired waif or gold-bezzeled queen, bearded bum sleeping with mouth wide-open or old man with invisible earpiece dictating terms of surrender with a smile.

Most upsetting of all, I want to be seen. And I want to look back. Such dangerous confrontations can only be done as if looking at the sun, indirectly. A glance is too much. Still I flirt with myself, feel ashamed and repulsed at the sight, lose myself in the liquid of my eyes. I see at last how small and how large the worries of the world are. These faces, like a desert mirage, are a dream that goes on forever, a mirror within a mirror within a mirror, for I need so many different ways to feel, so many uncanny things to think about, so many distinct and eccentric traits to make me feel separate and apart.

There’s nothing sadder than this city of myself, being lost in the loneliness of the crowd. I stop to do the one thing they allow you to do here: look in a storefront window. I see through the foreign reflected face as if there’s nothing there, for behind it is Ernest Hemingway's actual typewriter, and I am comforted that time at least does not exist.


Anonymous said...

This is like a walking tour of someone's insecurity. The gait is quick but under control.

the walking man said...

I thought the pace of revelation was perfect for me. I have a short stride. Any Dickens in that window?

erin said...

wow, the last line was a surprise and kicked my a good way.

the rest of it, the teeming rest of it, the immensity of moving flesh, i have nearly moments of understanding or seeing the individual amongst the crowd as though i am being wrung like a small dented bell. and then it is gone. i don't know what sense to make of it, but you draw it out the way it is. sure wish the crowd behaved differently. what are we missing in this life that we don't have to miss?