This morning in the elevator, a small Japanese woman in her mid-40s—likely a legal resident, or even naturalized citizen, but definitely an immigrant—sternly, but with an incipient sense of desperation, said “basement” as we were ascending. I looked at her and apathetically shook my head to confirm what I considered obvious and should’ve been felt, literally, on a “gut level”: that we were going up. I assumed she would work out the logic in her head, that, if her destination was indeed the basement, then every subsequent floor of ascension was taking her away from her goal, and that she should immediately exit at the next floor to retroactively make her way down. But yet, from 5, 7, and 9 we went up, until she said, again, “basement,” this time with a pronounced question mark and child-like wonder, looking extremely confused, which likewise confused me. This was not a cultural issue. There are elevators in Japan. Numeric signifiers of floors in buildings are universal. Up, as a vector, is absolute (relative to the earth, of course). I looked at her, my gaze piqued, yet somewhat askew, as if trying to look around her eyeballs and into her thick head. I said, my growing sarcasm veiled as austere patience, “yeah, we are going up…you might want to get off now and start making your way down.” She obediently nodded, with a faint sheen of just having her mind blown on the very eyeballs around which I had incredulously tried to have a gander. When she abruptly got off a random floor, her small body triggered the door open, and my fellow passengers dramatically sighed with the very exasperation they were undoubtedly holding in this entire time. Let us not ask ourselves why she wanted to go to the basement. Was this the work of the devil? Was he lonely, and did he simply want a visitor? I should not judge. We are each condemned to eventually find the hell we believe in, no matter what lofty level. I got off my floor, perfectly, and went to work.
A few days ago, on television, or the internet, I can’t quite recall, I saw a “hipster nerd” DJ, whose ostentatiously thick glasses—if they were indeed prescription, and not simply for effect—in my imagination rendered the large sweaty crowd in front of him completely blurry, thus collectively inhospitable, which is rather illogical, given that the former prescription addresses the latter condition. But, this was in the exact kind of romantic pathos through which I tend to see the world. I considered writing a short story called “The Nearsighted DJ,” about a guy who spends his early-life savings on high-quality audiophiliac turntables and speakers in an attempt to connect with others through repetitive and grating music, but is optometrically condemned to a radius of obfuscation. In order for the story to work, though, the DJ would have to have expired or inadequate lenses, since, again, in a realistic setting the very spectacles on which my conceit relies would “correct” the audience members from a holocaust-like mound of dead bodies to individual people with unique contours. I pondered which editors might like the story, if they themselves at times felt metaphorically shut out behind a field of misaligned foci, and if such people might give me a chance at publication; something to tweet, something to like. And as the days grew—each ultimate 12:00 a.m. indistinguishable from its succeeding 12:01 a.m., sort of like an incessant looping beat which informs our sense of the spiritually auspicious “present moment” by neglecting, via hypnotic beat, the transpiration of time itself—long and watery into each other, these days, my inspiration slowly dwindled from the narcissistic fantasy of legitimate authorship, to a lesser one, this blog post.
This morning when a pigeon abruptly fluttered past my face I automatically said “dipshit,” like I actually annunciated the word, and its commentary sincerely inhabited me. I soon, of course, felt absurd for anthropomorphizing haggard urban fowl, and grimly went on my way. About two blocks later, a derelict man was standing in middle of the sidewalk, hunched over and teetering either in inebriation or its hangover, and struggling to bring a cup of “to go” coffee to his lips. As I passed, I inaudibly uttered “get a fucking grip,” in a heat which soon cooled to the notion that I might be a dick. The entire problem this morning were not these two incidents, but the entitled conceit with which I had perceived them; that is, as perilous subjects of some calm critique emitted from the eyes of an omnipotent being. Maybe this is how God endures us, not in the Stratocumulus distance, or some closed-eyed spiritual ether, but as a rogue pedestrian. A ghost, facing us. And maybe he was hurt as a child, perhaps by the Big Bang, its expanding ripples of subatomic particles breaking a rib or cracking a clavicle before opiates were discovered. Maybe now, as a grown man, he tells himself stories about being a God, in the greatest novel never written, or even started, whilst carrying toilet paper back from Walgreens, whose endless rolls, as a blank Torah scroll, would one day offer the scatological testament of pure chaos.