Sunday, December 5, 2010

Insanae et vanae curae invadunt mentes nostras

Fiction Excerpt

New Yorkers are no longer conscious of their personal space, but their consciousness was harshly and quickly eroded.  Each hated his first rush hour on the subway as much as the next: having a woman's purse rub against his crotch for several stops, a sour armpit in the face -- in fact, the bums, though most are crazy, are more protective of their space; they intentionally muddy their boots in the park to prop them on the seat beside them, collect cigarette butts to scatter around them, or skip a rare opportunity to bathe, though it's uncomfortable, so their extreme stench on a late night train will send boarding passengers fleeing, allowing a peaceful sleep.

The Night Cafe by Vincent van Gogh

This harsh erosion, combined with the bizarre social dynamics of the city, turns people inside out.

I'm not just talking about how distrust or fear of being attacked will cause people to pass a dead man on the street more than once. I'm talking about how people's having no intimate community, not only allows secrets and the opportunity to live multiple lives as business man, drag queen and serial killer, but more subtly it removes the inside voice (inside a room voice and inside a head voice).  I passed a woman today, perfectly attractive woman in spandex and a sweater, jogging and singing Christmas carols to her dog.

But it's not just the killers, freaks, and crazy talkers.  The city can remove shame and guilt, which form the greater part of the foundation of common decency. In a small town, public drunkenness, one-night stands, and outrageous cursing at a neighbor's negligent infringement have consequences.

All this combined with the filleting of conversation to its bones for efficient excessive business communication disembodies the soul, disembodies the mind. I walk in others' thoughts, am robbed of others' guilt, and use soulless language more than is healthy. We are the Hollow Men.

No wonder the arts flourish here! We need them, not to guide us through our inner life, but to be our inner life.  The comedian becomes our shame, the dancer our soul, literature our mind -- but you see? more and more contemporary art is created by disembodied souls. What happens when we look into a mirror and nothing's there?  Nothing, if we're used to seeing nothing. But a fever threatens to sweat out what remains of our soul if we once saw ourselves.


  1. Eh, it's Disneyland here, compared to the '70s when I moved here. I used to wake up every morning and gaze out my top floor walkup window over the cockpit courtyard to see the World Trade Center all dazzly in the morning sun, then go back to sleep because I could.

    I loved the irredeemable subways, the crushing noise, the crazies, the crowds, the anonymity. It was safer than being known. No one here thought I was crazy or odd. I enjoyed being a bit mundane. For once I felt like I fit right in.

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting, Krystie.

    The soulless Disneyification of Manhattan further disorients the jaded perspective of the narrator in my story from which this is an excerpt.

    And, personally, I'd like to think I could enjoy the "soulful" New York of the 70s, but my Midwestern temperament likely wouldn't be able to hack it.

  3. This is great. Your protagonist poses some really interesting ideas--looking forward to seeing more of him (if he chooses to share).

  4. Thanks, Rona. I'm excited for this piece, but I've been working on it for some time and see no end in sight -- though I have thought about debuting it here in a series of posts. Hmm...

  5. oohh...I like the series of posts ideas. I already like where this is going. Great job, babe!