Thursday, May 9, 2013


ll of my friends had fallen away one by one. They had all moved on—to college, careers, and activities that I could not be a part of. I had been left behind somehow, still half-stuck in childhood, unable to make the leap into young adulthood.

The objects of my childhood still populated my room: the comic books, baseball gloves, scale-models, science fiction novels, stamp albums... they all seemed lifeless now, disturbing, as if they had all died. There was no pleasure in them now, just a vague feeling of uneasiness about the future.

I was woefully out of step. In fear and despair I had slunk back to the trails and pathways of my childhood: the marshes, the rocks by the water’s edge, the remnants of the old railroad tracks down along the shore...

I sought refuge in the town itself, in the inanimate things, in the backdrops of life, in the faces of the houses, lit up by the red-gold light of the last, slanting rays of the sun, in the saturated colors of the purple and blue shadows. The faces of the old homes were familiar, yet somehow altered by my nervous condition. It was almost as if I couldn’t quite trust them anymore. Some of these houses had harbored me in times past, but entry was now forbidden, as all that was in a time that had passed.

I re-traced my steps through the winding trails of the tall marsh-grass, perhaps disturbing a pheasant which would suddenly burst out of it’s nest in a great display of noise and beating of wings. I sat on the rocks and stared out at the bay, thinking of the times that I used to go fishing with my grandfather years ago. He was gone now and I was alone . . .

There seemed to be a gathering of forces that day, meteorological and barometric, of wind and weather that rose up to compel me out of the house. I was lured out by a certain luminosity that I could see slowly forming in the sky and reflecting on the streets and buildings and on people’s faces.
The hand of the Deity had brushed wide, slashing strokes of fiery, red-gold paint that streaked between the houses and yards and trees and splashed upon the faces of the old, familiar homes across our street. The supernatural brilliance and luminosity overwhelmed my senses and made a fearful spectacle in front of my troubled eyes. Lost in a luminous solipsism, tormented by the beauty of the approaching twilight, I wanted only to connect with life. To be a part of something—anything—before it was too late!

The window panes in the houses across the street had started to catch the falling sun and blazed like mirrors. They caught the dying sun and shone it back at me like a warning: not much time left! Hurry if you want to take part in the Eveningtide!   

I could not bear to stay in my room that evening. I had hatched the idea in a state of nervous agitation. It was a desperate plan: a plan, moreover, that would surely end in failure—a foolish plan, pathetic and childish even! The alternative was too grim to consider: an agonizing night spent in my room alone with my thoughts and fears. I was consoled by the thought that even if the plan failed, at least I would be on the move—I would have my illusion of purpose, of activity, of life.

All these things conspired to drive me out of the house and into the streets. A few people milled about on the street, their lengthening shadows stretching across lawn and pavement, their faces catching a scrim of reddish light from the inexorably sinking sun. I left the house and struggled to make my way up our street, which seemed to be slanted uphill in a peculiarly exagerrated manner. All things familiar, but now seen in a new, terrible light. My old friends, the trees, were lit from within by the hazy, yellow glow of the street lamps. The black asphalt turned to a purple-violet where the trees cast their shadows.

I had the feeling that the otherworldly spectacle was mocking me, torturing me with a luminous beauty that stood in sharp contrast to my desperate loneliness and isolation. “Here is the Pageant, the Parade, the Magic Theatre, and all the wonders and fearful beauty that serve only to remind you of your own impoverishment!”  I felt as though I were moving through an illuminated box, a strange stage-set, or miniature house, lit by an unnatural spectrum of hyper-saturated colors. But all this was fool’s gold, glittering false promises that were impossible to keep. A feeling of acceleration took hold of me and I hurried on as fast as I could.

A few figures moved slowly through this brilliance, as if in a trance, the contours of their forms indistinct, as if obscured by gauze. They were lit with the same fiery spectrum as the houses and trees but they seemed thin and vaporous, incapable of speech and were merely objects in this frightful and gorgeous tableux. I thought I recognized one of them and started to raise my hand in a greeting, but saw that I was mistaken. It was no matter as my gesture went unnoticed, as if I didn’t really exist. Why didn’t they scream out in astonishment at this spectacle?  There was a silence that saturated the whole scene, as if any sounds were unnecessary and would only distract from the spectacle. There was not the slightest breeze to disturb anyone’s reveries, just a stillness that enhanced the brilliance of this light and shadow play.

I felt shame—I knew that I wouldn’t hold up under scrutiny. A sense of desperation took hold of me, of time running out. After all, evening was fast approaching and the transition from day to night was the magic time: it wouldn’t last very long—like most things! 

But let me tell you about my plan! I had almost forgotten to tell you, distracted as I was by the Magic Lantern that illuminated everything around me in our old town, back there in the time of my sad and distressed youth. This was a Friday evening, and the normal routines of the weekdays gave way to the promises of the weekend. I no longer had refuge in my weekday activities of school and it’s related undertakings. I was faced, suddenly, with no structure, no prescribed route of activities and tasks, no foundation. I was on my own. No friends, no destinations, no ideas whatsoever as to how I would fill my time on this weekend, back there in that evening of phosphorous and illuminated dust-motes sparkling in the paintbox hues in that terrifying time.

But I keep digressing! The plan, I tell you, was pathetic and childish in the extreme. I knew this and it did not deter me in the slightest. Allright then, this was my plan: to go about my business as if it were actually a weekday, instead of the weekend! I would get on the bus and ride it into the town of Flushing and then transfer to the Q-27  and take the trip to Queensboro Community College as if I were going to attend classes as I would during the regular week. Ridiculous! I fully understood that, but I went ahead with it anyway.

I reached the top of our block, up the inclining street and stood at the top of the hill on 14th Avenue. I could see the bus stop a block away. I looked back down the hill at the sight of the old town, with the view of the water of the Long Island Sound in the distance, and the Whitestone Bridge on the right. The vantage point gave a very peculiar view of things and was astonishing in the way it seemed to transform the town and surroundings. I could see our familiar red-brick house with the green roof and white trim. It seemed unearthly, set into an impossible landscape, bordered by memory and regret and lit by the fearful hues of a disturbed and desperate evening. It is not often—maybe only a few times a year—that these conditions come into being. The light and atmosphere must be at just the right concentration; the barometer and temperature at just the correct levels to produce the awesome effect. When all these elements are in place, that is the time for the onset of Evening: a light and shadow play of great luminosity, of flickering images and a sped-up sense of time.

It was that time when the day and night are equidistant: that brief moment of grace that reminds you that your time on this earth is limited. You must hurry! Grab hold of life! The Spectacle won’t last much longer, night is fast upon us! It’s all going to go away and you won’t have anyone to share it with.

Time at once stood absolutely still and at the same time raced into the night. You were both suspended and hurtled at the same time into the terrible transition. You were caught, captured on a whirling film-frame, lit by an unearthly projector, trapped in the play of light and image. A panic sets in as you race against the fading light. So much to do, but no time! I was propelled along the streets by my own sense of panic and desperation. The entire history of the town seemed to play itself out before me as the transition into Evening inexorably played itself out. I wanted to linger and look back at the terrible and beautiful sights that enveloped me on all sides. No time! I saw a girl walking across the street—I thought I recognized her—I had a desire to both greet her and at the same time to turn my head and hurry away. No time!

I quickly roused myself from these reveries as I realized that precious time was passing by and the town was the past—the dead past—and I needed to find life! I wouldn’t find it here!

The hopelessness of the situation filled me with fear and agitation. I felt foolish and ashamed. I hurried on my way to the bus stop. I dreaded the thought that I might see someone who knew me. I didn’t have any explanation as to where I was going or what I was doing and I didn’t think that I could create a convincing lie—I had no faith in my ability to convince anyone of anything.

Guilt! I was doing something that was very wrong and I didn’t want anyone to find out about it. I was in a nether world and I was pretending to live, even though I had no idea how to do it.

The Past rose up from all the streets and sidewalks and houses and overwhelmed me with a flood of voices and images. The familiar telephone poles distracted me with their thousands of rusted staples from a lifetime of signs, notices, and flyers. The old blue and white mailbox on the corner . . . It was absurd to have this sense of nostalgia at such a young age, when I should have been embracing life to the fullest. But there it was, nonetheless. Every minute, every second, seemed to be inferior to the one preceding it. My Fall had not occurred overnight, but had progresed very slowly and evenly in well-measured increments.
I must have once existed in a pure, unsullied state, where I hadn’t yet made any mistakes—where things were still O.K. Where the family was intact
and doing all the things that families are supposed to do—all the rituals, all the activities. Before things started to go wrong . . .

Before Guilt and Shame had appeared and begun to cripple me. Before Confusion and Fear took hold. Before the odd stares of the neighbors
began to signal that something had happened. Before the failing grades and adolescent terrors of Bleecker Junior High School, when it was pointed out to me that I had fallen out of step. Before the mocking voices and chants of the Predators informed me that I was not going to fit in. Before my teachers started to regard me with a certain concern and pity . . .

There must have been a time when things were still right. But when was that? It was before all the trouble—before all the pain and longing. But it was a very long time ago and I couldn’t get back there and the memories were growing very dim. It all had seemed so glorious, so bright: blazing suns, and a wash of colors and lights and every street and avenue was designed and laid out to lead you to more riches and . . . There was a sense of wonder back then, a connection to Nature and the elements that started to slowly recede and evaporate. 


/// childhood /// loneliness /// nostalgia /// loss

1 comment:

  1. Not for the first time, you've inspired me to extended comment and perhaps a complete post/essay ... More later.