Friday, July 9, 2010
About three minutes before it happens I am standing there, waiting for the light to change, and this young Mexican dude wanders out into the street and nearly gets hit by a truck. His gray Giants jersey flutters in the passing wind as he wheels around and looks directly into my eyes. A woman's voice is flatly reciting a passage about water and boats over droning pedal tones from a church organ as a choir repeatedly sings out the numbers one, two, three, four... and I think: This is a dangerous place.
Walking through the streets of San Francisco with Phillip Glass blaring through my headphones and a three beer buzz can be a transporting experience. People flow by me with an exaggerated sense of purpose that is brought about by the intense, repetitive nature of the music. Glass is a kind of one trick pony, but it is a hell of a trick and when it works, there is nothing like it. A theme is stated, usually in a single voice, usually a weirdly pretty little melody, that begins to morph through various shifts in meter until it becomes clear that the melody is subservient to the time. The most easily apprehended part of the song fades and is replaced by the asymmetrical glass legos that form its structure. He also uses a lot of spoken word, often more than two distinct passages at a time, that seems to stand beside the music rather than within it. The effect is disjointing in that alien postmodern way that seems to be the native currency of so many recent artists. The speaker breaks off her repeated lines with an audible stutter and joins the chorus, which has been singing nonsense syllables or numeric variations, and is subsumed. It all seems ridiculous and pretentious until it works.
I have some of the loose paranoia that often accompanies a genuine hangover but I have learned over the years how to manage it and the cool climate is helping. Still, the faces of the homeless seem especially angry today and I can feel them coming up behind me even when they are not there. I shove the Bose earbuds deeper into my ears and move across the busy street. I have no place I need to be. My brother has a nice room at the Hilton and I don't want to get too far from it. My calves are burning from all of yesterday's walking. I barely register the movement out of the corner of my eye.
King Of Thai Noodle House & Sports Bar has $2 beers and $5 Thai dishes. I can't imagine how they stay in business. The dishes include a variety of curries, Tom Kha Gai soup, which is the only evidence I have for the existence of God, and some quality hot wings. The food tastes very good. The choice of beers in the two dollar range is great. Sierra Nevada, Stella Artois, Anchor Steam, and, of course, Coors Light, for when your breasts begin to feel tender. My brother and I spend a good two hours talking to a tennis pro from the UK about the subtleties of Premier League Football (soccer) as our beautiful bartendress, Grace, whips up a near endless supply of Lychee Mojitos. Grace may end up being my latest Facebook friend, if I can find her. Various sports are on various HDTV's and it is difficult not to think that this is a good night at a good place.
Everything seems out of context. Two bellboys run past me waving their arms. I can hear a woman screaming over the music in my headphones. I look at her and she turns away. Other people begin to move tentatively around me as I take off my headphones. I look down the alley. It is difficult to process. Some part of my mind tells me that there isn't enough blood. This is before the rest of my mind realizes that there is a dead body in the street. Someone shouts "He jumped," as I move to the body. Too many ideas appear in my mind, fully formed and seemingly out of nowhere. Should I try to help the person? Would that go against their wishes? Am I simply gawking? Why isn't there more blood? Yes. The body is surrounded by fluid, but it isn't blood. I have to get the fuck out of here. I push my earbuds back in and walk away. I get around the corner, turn around, and go back. More concerned faces flash by me. I take another look. It is out of context. It is like a dining room table in the middle of a football field. A siren goes off in the distance. I have to get the fuck out of here.
Nietzsche said that the thought of suicide got him through many a rainy night. I couldn't agree more. It is one area where we can exercise control. It is an option, and I suspect that part of the reason that I have never taken it is similar to what keeps me at the poker table for just one more hand. Past the joy, or usefulness, or potential, or even awareness, I just have to play one more hand. Of all of the methods of suicide, I would have to put jumping from a building near the bottom. It seems too public. Also, there is the possibility that you will live on for a couple of minutes, in delirious agony, as your body comes to terms with your decision. I have read that a disproportionate number of jumpers are failed actors, musicians, etc. attempting to claim some of the recognition they couldn't get any other way. This is too direct. Humans tend to want direct, easy answers to what are invariably complex processes. But these interpretations don't usually hold water, even in less complicated arenas. And sometimes people just jump.
I am on a train. I am fighting the urge to throw up. I am also fighting the urge to get off of the train before my stop. I need a cigarette. The attendant tells me to get my feet off of the seat. I can't find anything about the suicide online. I am honestly unsure if it happened. I wonder if I should have not posted it on Facebook. It seemed like it was too much for me to keep to myself. I get off the train and walk home. Cigarette after cigarette. I rush into my room and look again online. Part of this seems silly. Why am I so upset. It is indulgent. People seem to empathize. I can't find anything online or in the news. I feel bad about how I might be perceived if this turns out not to have happened. I feel bad about feeling bad. There wasn't enough blood. I am weak. I go to sleep and dream of more water than I can manage. I wake up and go to my computer. Still there is nothing. I try different methods. Finally, there it is. Everything is out of context. I feel better. I feel bad about feeling better.