It's always around this time that my head is the clearest--when the rest of the world is out cold. "3:16 a.m." flashes ominously on my bedside alarm clock, but I pay it no mind and light my spliff. Let me paint a picture for you. A dumptruck on the corner of Mulberry and Houston. A black homeless guy with dreads singing a not entirely off-key rendition of "I Got You Babe" on the steps of Nolita House. The mood is light, the air is playful, and you can feel the approach of Spring. Even the gutter rats seem to be regrouping.
I am noting all of this from my omniscient perch of a fire escape, with the joint between my lips burnt down to a stub. I feel like a contented teenage boy without the masturbatory fantasies. The thoughts circle and swirl like a concentric top, but unlike before, they don't overwhelm. I welcome them, entertain them, dance with them before they float away on rings of smoke assuming shapes like clouds.
Cable bills, travel plans, the pained expression on her face before the elevator door closed---none of this matters. Not in an immediate way. It almost seems like someone else's life; like I am strangely privy to the personal effects of a movie character. And I am grateful for this....for the detached calm that is allowing me to instead focus on illusions of bent light and the warmth that is slowly filling my lungs.
One thing's for sure, tomorrow at this time I will be gone. Half-way across the country gone. Call it cowardly or evasive if you will. I just call it living my life the best way I can, which is the only way I know how.
To all those who are quick to judge (you know who you are), understand that I will not abandon ship without dotting my "i"s and crossing my "t"s. There will be a farewell note--signed, dated, the works. I will try to avoid condescension and platitudes, but I disclaim there may be the occasional slip-up. As a final touch, the piece of bright orange coral we illegally snatched from that protected reef on our trip to Barbados might finally serve its purpose as an austere yet optimistic paperweight. Or perhaps this is a bit too sentimental a prop. I digress.
The homeless man's song just got louder which I find strangely comforting, a sign of affirmation. A ghostly limb peeks out of the covers, half bathed in moonlight. I take a deep breath (which dangerously resembles a sigh), snuff out my joint, and get back into bed.
Photo by Tom Zuk.
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