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The following is not actually part of The Subway Diaries (or any other Dreamscape) but it seemed to embrace the ethos (not to mention the setting) of the category so well, that we include it, here, for your enjoyment.

05.14.91

I sit, as it were (crouched, really, my back braced to a wall), in the twilight dawn of subway station X, the twilight dawn that stretches, dim, through all these lonely and darkened corridors during any period of the night, every night.

Can you feel the breeze? It comes noticeably from my left, from the north, ruffles my hair... would ruffle these pages were I to relax my hold. That’s the air pushed ahead through the tunnel by the next approaching train. And look! Up the track, still in the tunnel: two yellowish eyes come a’rattling and a’screeching its approach: a #9 train, heading south? Well, thankie much; don’t mind if I do.

Now I sit in another expanse, internal and metallic and mobile this time, descending the colon of the beast, a long smooth chromium turd sliding down down, to dump me downtown, as it were.

And Look! Stuttering through the girders and briefly glimpsed as they rattle past: every station a book-in-waiting, if only I would take the time and...

Ah. The ride smooths as we coast from 116 → 110 on steady rails and no propulsion, superconductive it feels, steady as the night. Now we slow, pause, ka-ching, doors open, souls descend and disembark, or vice versa, as the case may be... ding ding... "Stand clear of the closing door!" to lurch us on our way.

Look!

The yellow/orange plastic pre-formed curves designed to palm the average NY bum. (Or “transient,” as I believe correct terminology these days, or "unsavory," by others [Cam!...]). And my bum too! It could be Mickey Ds, in here, with the form-fitting molded orange and beige plastic of it. But listen!

A rush of air. A higher whine. The low-slung murmured gossip that animals make to pass the time, distract the mind, from the terminable darkness.

Oh, hark. Why have we stopped now? No tiled aquarium glow to be glimpsed, just blank blackness outside the scratched and plastic windows, maybe a hint of grimy tunnel wall pressed close up to the glass. But still... feel that? A hum. The deeper, burning, glowing surge of electricity held in check. Do any of us really know: the thrumming power that feeds the grid?

Oop, on the move again. And someone laughs as we lurch and leave the station (103rd). Out of 22 passengers in this car (yes, I counted) I am not the only caucasian. Another sits opposite and ½ way down, his chin propped on knee-propped fist… no socks, white t-shirt, shorts (it’s damned hot, remember). And me, now, as we arrive at 86th (“Stand clear of the closing doors…” ding...ding. Swoooooosh. Hummmm.) Yes me. I'm glad you asked: red socks, red t-shirt, khaki shorts… I write. For no apparent reason, I write. I am a “writer”, pen to paper, thus. But when I pause (which I don’t often) what then? For example, as we hit 79th and I glance up to take assessment… When I pause to lick the quill and look around. Still a writer? Definition unclear.

"Burden of Proof" (by Scott Turow) is the novel the man held; the man who (bearded, bespectacled, marching resolutely from one car to the next, bracing himself occasionally from swaying) passed, just now, in front of my knees and, for a moment, through the world of my perception and description…

Hark! 66th street… south, south and south some more we go (59th next). Ding ding.

… but am I still a writer then?

I am surrounded now it should be glumly noted. And it ain’t no fun. To my right, to my left, and above, hanging one arm on the crossbar. If one of these scurrilous fellows so much as side-eyes they can read every word and meta-word (and meta-meta-word) I scribe. Well, fuck ‘em all! To hell with them! I scribble on, undeterred, and determined, it might appear, to set a new, and, as yet unconceived record, to be the first, foremost and probably ONLY person to scribble virtually unceasingly from 125th Street (ah, respite from the prying eyes: 42nd Grand Central brings an equally grand exodus, a general emptying of the train, the good from the chaff, as it were [chaff, including me, left on board, as only those heading TRULY downtown stay] and I can breathe again with some space and lucidity and privacy around.) Yes UNCEASINGLY, is what I was saying, I shall pull meaning from the void and press it in ever tightening spirals and hieroglyphs to this page, to be exhumed someday and marveled at by future sociologists and historians alike. They will ogle and gasp, unable to believe, equally unable to deny: the only person, I propose, ever to write perpetually from 125th Street to Christopher Street, unstopping! AND, as 14th St is now behind us, it appears I might just make it since Christopher is next and no more power outages in sight. Still, man plans and god laughs and when's the last time a power outage was predicted never mind spotted, so I won't count it yet, not yet, but now! The train slows! The aquarium glow. Most importantly, I can’t miss my stop (that would be a disastrous and dastardly turn of events). CHRISTOPHER STREET. Ding ding. Jayson, out!

The Subway Diaries i (25/85)

March 29, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

→ Later

So the massive gutting of 73rd St. Apt continues, with us ripping up closets and spewing forth the contents into boxes + bags and carting out some 20 bags of trash down to the basement where poor Martin Torez will no doubt have a stroke upon discovery. Word just arrived from uptown that the phone is on! But the most affecting news pertains to yesterday when I managed to transfer a check for the exact amount of $500 to him. See Robert (Jules third cousin X-times removed), who still pays monthly rent on the place, tho he hasn’t set foot here in many years, and has no intention to ever do so again – he suggested we pave the way, smooth it a bit with the superintendent, Martin Torez, epoxy, if you will, our acquaintanceship with some cold hard cash. The whole thing felt tremendously awkward, borderline illegal, not to mention expensive, but Robert says this is how it’s done and even, I guess, called ahead to let Martin know I was coming. The transaction proceeded w/high wire tension as I hemmed and hawed and finally blurted out: “and I have money for you! I think Robert mentioned…?” 

“Yes,” he replied, noncomitingly, eyeing me with bland curiosity “So,” he said, when I handed him the check. “What is it exactly that you want me to do?”

“Nothing! That is, Robert said, well, I understand how a situation like this, with the landlord and all, can be awkward and…” I dribbled away under his steady gaze.

“Well what’s the money for?”

“Nothing! We’re just…”

“If you’re coming and going and the neighbors see you, he’s going to find out.”

“Oh, I know! I don’t… I mean, it’s not like we’re doing anything… illegal or anything.” I followed this with a painful squeaking giggle.

I’m such an abysmal liar! Earlier when I first came face-to-face with Martin, in the threshold of his doorway, so much passed between us and around the words we spoke. He was curious and very, it seemed to me, aware that I was there for more than casual greeting. I, valiantly attempting to maintain an expression of benign openness + good-intentions. When I crouched to write the check, I stammered some humorous anecdote about the prodigious quantities of rubbish, and I glanced up at him hopeful for some connection or sympathy and it seemed an appropriate position for our exchange: me on my knees, begging him to accept me and take my side even though I was clearly lying to his face. But before this, when we were face to face, me w/big silly grin, him curious, he said, “So when exactly is Paula coming back?” and my eyes were off and running, scurrying around the walls looking for a nook to hide in. “Um, er, a…” I disguise my discomfort by rummaging frantically for a pen, patting down pockets, muttering: “pen… pen…” “Well you see,” I said to the checkbook. “We don’t, that is, uh…” Peeking to see whether his face had clouded. But it didn’t. Just remained open and curious about this odd specimen of a twitching, lying individual before him…

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