I had bribed myself with latte and bagel. I was barely awake enough to read, but there I was with my magazine reading about terms for causes of death in 16th century England: “blasted,” “cut of the stone,” “rising of the lights,” “overjoy,” “planet-struck,” “devoured by lice.” Why was I reading about death when I felt so shitty? The latte was barely helping.
Across Brooklyn, all the way up Manhattan, under another river, and the second-to-last stop on the line, way up north there, I got off the train. The way I held my coffee as I walked next to a lady made her turn to me and say, “I thought you were going to hand me your coffee, and I almost took it!”
We chuckled, and I said, “Do you want some?”
“No, I’ve had too much already,” she said.
“Me, too,” I said.
“And if it has sugar in it….”
“Oh, no,” I said, “I’m just cream.”
“Me, too,” she said.
I have the idea that I’d rather be robbed in the Bronx than anywhere else.
I walked past the B train watering hole, where a million B trains were resting up for next week’s commute, and I arrived at the college where I was leading a session at this conference. My peoples were all twenty minutes early. I said hi and started messing with my stuff as if messing with it was very important, showed I was thoroughly prepared.
I decided to go to the bathroom although I did not have to go to the bathroom.
I returned from the bathroom. I wouldn’t say I was nervous, I just recognized that when I walked back in the room, it was up to me to set everyone at ease. I said it was making me feel weird that they were sitting in student desks facing me, and that we needed to make a circle, so we did that, and as usual that improved everything.
I asked how the keynote speaker was. I have vowed to never listen to another keynote speaker, as I do not like speakers, they bore me.Someone said the keynote speaker was very good, very funny, and someone else said he didn’t know we could skip the keynote, which I found funny. Like they took attendance at the speech. Maybe they did. I wasn’t there.
The gospel that weekend was about Lazarus, the story about how Jesus lets Lazarus die, Jesus cries, Jesus tells Lazarus to come out, and the formerly-dead guy walks out in his shroud and someone has to help him take off his death clothes because he surely can’t see.
You have to let things die. Sometimes death asks for permission.
I went on to the second session, where I would merely be a participant, and I took the wrong stairs and down this crazy hallway where Tinkerbell sounds (“turn the page when the chimes ring like this”) and other weird ding-dongs went off as I moved down, below blue and green bulbs that had replaced the usual long fluorescents. If the lights hadn’t been different, and I hadn’t seen the plaque on the wall explaining it was an art piece, I might have thought I was losing my mind.
I made it to the second session and skipped the last session, too, because I am a bad person who doesn’t care if anyone takes attendance and my head almost, but not quite, hurt. I walked back to the train, past the Lehman College cornfield (seriously), found myself a train that was awake, and set my head against the metal side of the train car and closed my eyes for the hour ride home.
At 17oish street a lady pulled her cart up next to me and sat next to me. Until we got to the Village, every time the doors closed at the usual speed, she would moan, “Come on!” or “Oh, God!” as if this was exceedingly painful to her. I couldn’t decide how crazy this made her.
For two days after this I lay in bed eating crackers and ice cream and listening to the radio. My nose ran down the inside of my throat. Once I took a shower and got dressed and then lay down again before I got to shoes. I was not, though, “cut of the stone,” or “devoured by lice.”
When I could stay awake but not move, I watched episodes of “The Walking Dead,” although I knew it would lead to suspecting everyone on the street of being a zombie, the same way I used to imagine everyone was either a cop or a drug dealer while I was watching “The Wire.”
A show of varying quality, I was pleased by a scene in which some zombies, who have been protected and preserved by the man who was a husband or father to them in life, watches helplessly as they are all shot in the head.
It’s sad, but not sad.
There’s always a lot of dead around. They may or may not need permission.
Note: “The” Bronx is likely so called because people were referring to “the Bronx River.”