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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 (60/85)

April 23, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

Two unpleasant occurrences this afternoon. A) Justin had invited me to cross the park w/him + Trish – an invitation I accepted readily even tho it meant forgoing my prefered routine of sitting here, like I am, and writing… I thought it would be nice to walk in company for once. I like Justin, tho he is a tight wire in so many ways, he has a tremendous ego, and he’s fickle beyond belief committing himself to various lifestyles w/passionate allegiance, only to turncoat a second later: Trish 1st and foremost, cigars, not using minoxidil, then using it every day religiously, then not again, simply because it was too expensive. The hair care product is trivial but an excellent illustration of his character. I told him, last winter, about PPs new formula of crushed rogaine mixed w/minoxidil, the paste applied directly to scalp. While clearly intrigued, Justin ultimately scoffed. “I guess I’ll be the last bald man,” he said. “The question is how long do you want to spend each day in the bathroom? I mean, come on. Are we men…?” I applauded his stance wholeheartedly and left w/new allegiance to our brotherhood of bald men who live life outdoors, or at least outside the bathroom. Not two weeks later, however, Justin is extrapolating on his own system of minoxidil application – not at all simple, and involving tinfoil(!) wrapped around his forehead, and a wet washcloth to catch renegade rivulets. I called him on his hypocrisy, but he justified it with: “I want to hang on to my hair.” A few weeks later I queried as to whether he was maintaining the rigorous regimen. “No,” he said, no trace of apology or embarrassment. “Too expensive, I couldn’t afford it.” “But what about all that ‘are we not men?’ stuff?” “Oh yeah. That too.”

And the same went on a less complex scale, with cigars. For awhile he couldn’t pass on an opportunity to light one up or at least pontificate on the joys of cigar smoke. He brought me to a  special store where they sold special makes and models… repeatedly offered to indulge me w/a gift. Then he stopped. “But WHY?” I asked. “You enjoyed them so much.”

“They’re toxic,” he replied. “I was contaminating my body.”

And now Trish. Back and forth he goes. Some days providing an absolute litany of horrible habits she practices, hygiene the least of them – her underlying motivations to use him for money, for a cheap apartment… he speaks as tho she’s vile, evil. He cheated on her and justified it by listing all her negative traits A to Z – that she was using him and dissing him repeatedly, until I lost all sympathy for her and asked what the hell he was getting from the relationship.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“Hopefully some good sex, at least?” I tried.

“You think I want to stick my dick in that?”

Two days later I ask him how the relationship is going. “You’re not going to believe this…” he giggled, slightly embarrassed finally by his own inability to define. “We had one of the best nights ever. We’re getting along really well. I think she was menstruating before which made her bitchy.”

“Unreal!” I laughed with him remembering his paranoia about her using him for his apartment. “And you constructed some intricate conspiracy theory.”

He looked at me like I had stabbed him. “Fuck you,” he said, turning away.

What he doesn’t realize is that it’s not her, it’s him that keeps shifting, altering. And this, I’m proposing, due to deep insecurity; the fear that he doesn’t know, that he’ll make a ‘bad’ decision. Another example of all this came just this afternoon in the locker room. Talk evolved to mention of security cameras and how some establishments installed them in the locker room. Pacho – thick carribean accent – told in broken english that he worked at Prudential and they had cameras in the locker room and that he, for one, preferred it. “No matter what you leave, you leave your stuff right on the floor, nobody take it. It be there when you return.”

“But Pacho, then you can’t have a Heineken, you know?” said Justin. (Heineken being the pilfered beverage of preference by most support personnel in the restaurant and often consumed, in quantity, in the locker room.

“I don’t want no Heineken,” he laughed.

“What about loss of privacy.”

Anyway, it’s better. Believe me.”

Pacho was heading for the door. “So, Justin, there’s your counterpoint,” I said. “Any rebuttal?”

“That’s fucking stupid!” Was his rebuttal, so loud and vehement that I thought he was joking. “You’re responsible for your own fucking stuff. You leave it lying around, you deserve to lose it. You leave it lying around you’re a fucking moron!” All this at high volume and directed almost as a challenge at the departing Pacho who didn’t pause, laughing goodnaturedly: “Okay, okay, see you later.”

But the point was that Justin was not capable of stating his opinion calmly but had to make his opinion sovereign, dammit, and if anyone suggested otherwise they would have to answer, perhaps physically.

So then Trish came, toward the end of  service and I heard them kissing their hellos and Justin mentioned my companionship through the park. Then I turned to Bjanca and heard no more. Two seconds later, Justin says, “Well, Jay, it looks like Trish doesn’t want to see you. No, I guess I shouldn’t say that, that’s mean.”

“Really?”

“I don’t know, but you’ll come anyway, right?”

“Not likely. I don’t want to infringe on anyone’s experience.”

Justin was clearly perturbed by the direction his plans had taken. “That’s what I hate about her!” he went on. “Any time we spend together has to be just us together or else it doesn’t qualify.” He suggested again that I come anyway, even tho she had made it clear she preferred him alone. “No dice,” I said. “I walk through the park daily. Don’t worry about me.”

“But you’re going anyway, right? We work together. Of course we’re going to go together.”

“Why would I want to?”

“It’s the principle of the matter.”

Well the principle of the matter is that Justin did not have the guts to stand up for his decision. What he should have done is either told her: “Look, I already invited him, he’s coming. Deal w/it.” Or, to me: “Trish really wanted some time alone w/me. Dig?” Which of course i would, no question. Instead he tried to straddle the line and sidestep and leave the discomfort between me and Trish.

This will backfire. He will become increasingly resentful of her having forced her preference on him, he will blame her, she will blame him for not being clear, etc etc and around it goes.

The second thing that happened? I’m glad you asked – B) the dog that came bounding down the slope at me in full ferocious growl-attacking mode and it was pulled back just as I registered and responded w/adrenal heart palpitations and severe gonad shrinkage. The owner called the dog back as though it happened all the time. Called out, “Sorry.” Went back to his book.

I don’t need it. My day is fraught enough without heart attacks and/or fang scars.

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