Friday, May 10, 2013

Evening (Conclusion)

The Mask had started to slip—a demon’s face revealed in the terrifying visage and uncontrolled rage of my father. Cracks began to appear everywhere: the growing isolation, the fear and confusion, the complete blank of my future. I couldn’t imagine what I could possibly do in this world. Where would I be able to work or live? I didn’t feel capable of anything.

The familiar green face of the Q-20 bus started to rise as it came up the hill to my left. The Q-20!  The words “College Point” lettered across the banner on top of the windshield. Back in those days they used to have a roll of canvas set in the space above the windshield with the numbers and destinations in black letters that the driver would operate with a hand-crank. Yes, it was the Q-20, alright, there was no doubt about that. The Q-20 was the very first bus I had ever ridden and the name alone carried a weight of memories that stretched back to my early childhood. Slowly it revealed itself, like a ship on the horizon, the green and white colors assuring me of it’s identity, as it rose up the hill at the end of 14th avenue. It came to a stop right in front of me as the old, accordion doors opened up as the driver pulled a lever.

I took a seat near the back. It was half empty, just a few passengers—no one I recognized, fortunately. The raking sunlight blasted through the windows and created a flickering effect that seemed to hypnotize me. Familiar landmarks washed by my field of vision; the overpass, the small patch of woods by the highway exit. I had been down this street since ancient times—the route forever stamped into my mind. Now I traveled it in a fever, hardly able to focus on anything for more than a second.

A woman stared at me from across the aisle of the bus. She must have seen that there was something wrong with me. I averted my gaze and looked to the left at the scenery flying by. I could still feel her gazing at me and the tension became intolerable. I was pinned down like a lab specimen, unable to move as time slowed down to a standstill. I felt like screaming. I couldn’t concentrate. I heard murmuring from the back of the bus and I slowly realized that others had become aware of my existence. I thought I detected a mocking sound in the air. The traffic conspired against me—long waits at intersections, missed lights, passengers getting on and off— all prolonged my torment. This was not only excruciating, but it also interrupted my fleeting and precious experience of the transition into Evening. It just wasn’t fair—why couldn’t they just leave me alone in my misery and contemplation? I thought I heard the woman say something but I couldn’t be sure if it was directed at me and I was too afraid to turn my head to see.

Gears meshed, wheels turned, cylinders pumped back and forth. My neck ached from the unbearable tension. I hated this little town filled with sadistic louts with no minds to dream with. The bus turned right onto Union Street—just as expected—the corner bar, still there; onward past the empty lots and the Garden Jewish Center as the road forked at the bottom of the hill. Up the hill we went, bearing left as the apartment complexes came into view. Up ahead, the towers of Flushing High School loomed above the tree-tops. Then the wide expanse of Northern Boulevard, as we passed the familiar row of  stores that are forever etched in my mind: Robert Hall Men’s Clothing on the corner, Aqua-Pet Hobby Den, Gum Kew Restaurant, and the great, dark, gothic facade of the YMCA. All these are now long gone save for the YMCA. Up the hill, and then the right turn onto Roosevelt Avenue as the last stop loomed up ahead at the corner of Main Street. I was drowning in a sea of memories as all the old buildings floated by in a haze of atomized and illuminated dust particles.


The ancient town of Flushing still retained most of it’s former character at this time, before the complete transformation of a few decades later. This was still the old town of Flushing that I knew from earliest childhood, still holding on as the decade of the 1960’s swept through everyone’s lives and altered things forever. In my state of near delirium, the intersection of Roosevelt and Main, the buildings, the stores, the people, all seemed atomized and daubed with a thick coat of crumbling, phosphorescent paint. I moved through this gauze of pain and longing, back there in this dream town, at once familiar yet unknown to me now. A thousand scenes floated in my mind as I struggled to tear my gaze away from all this. I heard the murmurings of voices long faded from memory, reverberating down the old brick and concrete, the tops of buildings, the cornices, turrets, and architectural ornaments from another era, long before my time. My Time! Stolen from me by a wicked jester! The Precious Time! Irretrievable Time! A fine, luminous dust: all that’s left now! Once taken away and then it’s too late. You can never get it back and it’s all too late, far too late in the day, as day turns into Evening, pulling you along, calling you: hurry up! You’re already woefully late! All your classmates have already moved on and left you behind—they’re somewhere else now, out of your reach. You failed at some point along the line—you fell out of step: you’ll never catch up! As Day turns to Evening and Evening to Night . . .


You’ll fall into despair! Roads deceive you, call you down false routes, back-roads to places long dead in your dreams. The corner of Nowhere and Nowhere, the Avenue of Deceit and Despair, Wrong-Turn Road, Somewhere-Along-The-Line Road. I return every night in my dreams: streets meld and morph—elastic roads take you where they want. The bend in the lane takes you back down that familiar route right back to unlived times and unsavored places and all the precious things that you missed out on are revealed to you now.

The drama was reaching it’s apogee as I surveyed the unholy illumination at the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue. A fearful spectacle! I paused and looked back up the hill of Roosevelt Avenue, then down Main Street towards the great old face of the RKO Keith's Theater, still intact, long before they gutted the interior and locked the doors forever. I turned again and glanced up Kissena Boulevard, towards the library and the old Prospect Theater. No time!

The light was receding very rapidly now as I waited on Roosevelt Avenue for the Q-27 bus. Purple and blue now dominating as the oranges and reds and yellows were pulled by the retreating sun around the curve of night. I got on the bus and it headed down Roosevelt towards the fleeing red and orange sky, and by this I hoped to buy more time, but I knew that we would make the left turn up ahead, as the route was deeply inscribed in my memory. The apartment buildings loomed up ahead, with the taupe and clay-colored bricks that told me to try very hard to remember when I had first set eyes on them. When? Twenty-five years ago? Echoes of places that were maddeningly familiar, yet too vague to pinpoint and the bus kept moving and there was no time to rack my brain
trying to remember. We lurched ahead, past more tantalizingly familiar buildings—but again, no time to linger. The view spun out in a movie-reel projection, too fast to contemplate, too fast to recapture. People hurried on, scuttling here and there as if their lives depended on it. Up Kissena Blvd. we went, as a feeling of despair took hold of me. The scene was half familiar and half unknown as I perceived that many changes and alterations to the landscape had occurred when I wasn’t looking or perhaps I had been distracted and hadn’t noticed. Maybe these changes were made only at night, to deceive people, to make them not notice them as if it were possible to sneak the changes in so as not to unduly upset your feelings at being raked along with the inevitable destruction of all that you once knew.

On and on, through a darkening twilight as we passed the graveyard on Utopia Parkway, strange vistas and hopeless views, all jumbled up in my increasingly distorted senses. Drawing nearer and nearer to the college as the night grabbed hold of the bus and sucked us into despair and fear.


I got off the bus into an enveloping, ink-black cloud: the deserted campus! I knew right away that my plan had failed. 

I walked into the wide, circular area that was the main entrance to the campus. A few stragglers were making their way down the hill towards the avenue as I stood in the middle of the circle. I stayed there for some time, slowly turning and staring at the deserted buildings on the now lifeless campus and looking up at a low-hanging and hostile night-sky that offered no relief from this emptiness and isolation. Even so, I kept staring up into the blackness trying to reach out to indefinable things, memories, forgotten hopes, familiar sights: but the sky was of a low and oppressive nature, no stars or constellations visible—just a gray-black swirl of  clouds that filled me with a vague fear and unease. It was time to go back home . . .


The blackness of the bus windows was disturbing and nightmarish—all glossy, liquid-obsidian panes. I couldn’t see outside. I wanted to drink in the night-scape of the passing streets and houses but the black-mirror panes threw my own image back at me and caused an end to my rapturous views of the town. I was confronted with the starkness of my own pale and blinking image—framed by the glossy blackness and glare of the internal lights of the bus. I was revealed to myself and thrown into stark relief—forced to contemplate my own image: the observer becomes the observed and the duality was forced upon me.

The bus was cut off from the outside world—the magic light show had come to an end—only the stark and hideous reflections in the impenetrability of the glass remained. The bus had become a world of it’s own—a night-chamber cut off from everything else. I was turned in upon myself and conscious of myself as an object and hyper-aware of my own naked psyche reflected back at me, hurtling through the night-suburb, rushing back towards the house with it’s dead relics of my childhood and the fear of entombment in the
lifelessness of the now altered childhood home.

I am left with the deep fear of a black and morbid mirror that throws back at you the image of your pale and trembling face as you churn on and on through the dense night of a city known to some as Absentia, forty long and luminous years later...


/// loneliness /// nostalgia /// alienation ///

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