I took a subway I don’t normally take, my friend who dropped me off at the station had asked me if I was okay, and I was as always touched by the suggestion by a man that I would not be all right, as I always expected myself to keep myself all right almost all the time, and anyone else worrying about that always makes me a blush a little, pleasantly. Told me I would have a wonderful time. Something got into me, I was walking a long way to a party I had just heard about and had no reason to go to.
I got off the train in part of Brooklyn I sort of knew, and walked toward a part I had never been to. Through a brownstone neighborhood, one of the nicest parts, and then closer to a big highway, where I had to look for where I could cross, and the sidewalk and the cars fast looked like a the sort of place you would kidnap someone, just across that, though, there were two bars I would have liked to visit had I not been on a mission. I was wearing flats, a dress shorter than I had first noticed, my bag was relatively light. The moon was whole and wearing cloud scarves.
My phone had 10%, it told me sharply. Af 0% I would have no idea where I was, I had seen no cabs for a long time, the last part of the walk, along Van Brunt (a Kansas City street, too, one I had certainly never walked on, no one would, streets are only for driving, there), it was industrial, warehouse spaces, big blue aluminum sided buildings, the Brooklyn cruise ship terminal, which was haunted empty, the street I was going to was Pioneer. With your phone dead, but a little bit of money, a sweater if you need one and an open mind, you are truly free. Right? That was what I had been missing, feeling as free as you can feel here, which is dizzyingly free. When you’re a person who can blend into things, who looks unremarkable enough.
The novelist I met in Paris. We also went to a photography exhibit, we had nothing greater or deeper, and nothing romantic, but I was grateful for company and advice about where to find some brown rice and tofu in that white white city.
It was a giant space with a dozen art pieces and a couple of films running, and an outdoor graveled area with the bar, hardly anyone was there, if I had organized it, I would have been pacing and thinking, This is a disaster. It wasn’t a disaster to me, though, I had gotten there, as I had promised myself I would.
I ordered wine, I chatted with the guys behind me who had also just ordered, in the way of groups of men, one of them selected me (how does that always happen, and isn’t it mysterious, sometimes I choose, sometimes I am picked, with my sisters it can be even stranger). He asked if I wanted to get food, I said yes, we walked a block and ordered squash something and they brought sauces to dip it in, and a bowl of soup, he deferred to me and made the protein tofu. He mentioned he was Jewish, he mentioned he was a doctor, and I thought, I am in someone else’s fantasy, baby. My perfectly pleasant time.
The woman who was taking the same train as me, from Philadelphia to New York, she was a writer, Irish, Buddhist, and gay, we talked about all those things and she terrified me by jogging across the train tracks when she thought we had missed our train.
We agreed it was nice to meet each other, I went to see the actual work in the gallery, for a minute. We had talked about there are four drugs they give you for anesthesia, one to make you paralyzed, one to make you unconscious, one to relax your muscles, one to make you forget.
On the walk there, I had passed this church tower with a clock in it, a little like Big Ben, by which I mean it reminded me of Peter Pan, seeing it was how I knew I was walking back to the subway the right way. The temperature was the perfect one that no one shivers or sweats a bit, the world seems made for us, and to get to it, I had to go up long, shallow steps, cross one of those bridges with chain link sides and wire on top to keep you from jumping out or off. And then walk back down, although the church was closed up it was so brightly lit, its flat brick sides against the darkness of everything else. And there were strings of white lights hung in front of it. And a poster of the pope, who was just across the river from me, at the time.
My Vatican tour guide, a friend of a friend, who asked me to dinner, and I was so grateful, I had eaten alone for a week, she wore purple blouse, and she said, “Benedict, he’s not as bad as they say.” After the dinner, I ordered a cappuccino, and although every other cappuccino I had in Italy was the best cappuccino of my life, that one was the worst.
The woman next to me on a flight to Orlando, she had also been to the Vanderbilt mansion in North Carolina. Isn’t it amazing? The woman who, when I got off that flight, handed me a wet wipe when she saw my hand was covered in ink, exploded good pen from the pressure changes on the plane.
Image: The Clock Tower, Charles Meryon, Metropolitan Museum of Art.