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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 (47/85)

April 13, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

I worked in a state of relative discomfort today: achy + almost feverish, all due, I surmise, to the sudden + unexpected appearance of one Zain Abassani, coming up behind me in the doorway of West End Cafe and seizing me in a classic Zain embrace that literally lifted me off the ground and past the bouncer into that legendary locale of collegiate iniquity. The night progressed from there in a predictable course toward profound inebriation comprised of Tequila, beer and, eventually, straight vodka.

Good old Zain! It does a body good to see him in full, vibrant, Zain (zany?) intensity – gripping his gut w/passion tilting his head as he tries to sort out the various absurd suggestions the world keeps imposing. “You’ve changed,” he told me. “You’re not willing to invest intense focus into trivial and silly subjects.”

“But I am!” I said, amazed at the injustice because nothing seemed more important, at that moment than investing all my energy + focus into supremely silly subjects. “I do!” He had glimpsed my true character and retracted it all in the same breath. But that’s Zain and we got quite drunk together and he told me typical Zain hyperbole about sexual conquests + politics, fueled as much by the repressed islamic society which he struggles to transcend as by any personal inclinations. “I don’t know,” he confided, leaning close to the table, hands side by side, palms flat, as though addressing his cuticles. “I don’t know on what level we are talking.” He glanced up suspiciously and I nodded vigorously, urging him on. “This is very personal for me; I don’t want to reduce it to some post-college drunken anecdote.” His voice rising at the end, almost whining at the idea of such injustice. “You know?” Oh yes. I nodded away soberly but grinning a mile wide inside because it was so damn good to have him back.

He’s in New York on a journalistic scholarship; attending seminars and interviewing senators and traveling business class (he was quick to inform me numerous times) on the American tax-payer’s bankroll. He’s here for ten days. I hope he survived the night. After downing his first martini (vodka, up, olives) he opted for a double shot of Glenlivet on the rocks. After literally falling over backwards in a display of extreme drunk dorkiness, I left him, in the rain, outside a shuttered 4am West End Cafe. He was still muttering invective as I climbed in the cab. “Maybe you won’t see me again,” was the last thing I heard, his voice, again, pregnant + shifting w/the possible truth of it. He could have been saying it as much to himself as to me.

[This just in: The brain is not a place to store things – thoughts, ideas, memories – the brain is a prism or a lens constructed solely to refract the world into beautiful patterns. That’s a direct quote by me and none other. Quite accurate, too.]

Of course Zain will reappear – he’ll be lonely for sure. Although his tremendous ego + bruised pride (Zain’s pride is in perpetual danger of being bruised – very delicate and sensitive, and enormous) could keep him from calling for several days and when he does he will no doubt be angry + disappointed with me and w/himself for not being stronger, not to mention embarrassed and subsequently bitter for wanting/needing company.
[NOTE: I just wrote the entire preceding while sitting in the E.C. (Employee Cafeteria), in the bowels of the Met. A cavernous, windowless, boisterous and intriguing locale and deserving a full, precise description, but not by me, or not right now, because my arm aches and I need to go.]

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