What a strange morning.
Around 9:00 I was taking the F into Manhattan from Brooklyn. I managed to score a seat by the window. (Already the unusual begins…) In my rush, I’d forgotten to bring a book, so I decided to tune out to my iPod. It’s the usual New York rush hour mix: a Moby-looking, bespectacled guy reading a book of interviews with Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins, and other underground punk luminaries (I was trying to read over his shoulder without being obvious, but he was much taller than I was, which made it tough.) A woman with a broken compact trying to put on her mascara. (Hey, it’s all fun and games till someone loses an eye.) Lots of people with their New York Times under their arms, fingers moving in a flurry of text messaging. Some moms on their way to work dropping off kids at daycare first. Tourists with their maps written in various languages trying to navigate our less-than-user-friendly transportation system. (“Is Macy’s at 34th Street and 8th Avenue or 34th Street and 6th Avenue and how would I know this?”). And one of New York’s finest who seemed all of about fifteen and looked incredibly bored. Or maybe when you have a gun holster strapped to you, you adopt that stance out of habit.
So it’s me and the teeming mass of commuters. I’m zoning out to “Anywhere on this Road” by Lhasa Del Sala. It’s a very haunting song that Rachel Cohn turned me on to. Lhasa has a deep, husky, seductive-yet-oddly-emotionally-disconnected voice. In my head I’m thinking about the graphic novel I want to work on when I’ve finished with prior commitments. Something dark and urban and spooky. The train’s jostling along. And just as Lhasa sings, “If I can stand up to angels and men, I’ll never be swallowed by darkness again…” something shiny in the deep tunnel shadows catches my eye. It takes me a second to process what I’m seeing. There, in one of the filthy hollows of the subway tunnels under a bare bulb sits a young blonde woman. She’s sitting cross-legged and wearing what looks like a white straitjacket, her arms not visible. She’s got her head down-asleep? nodding out? dead?–and the light’s making her hair into a halo of white fire blown about by the subway’s fierce breath. I just stared at her, trying to determine whether she was really there or not. I wanted to turn to Moby Guy and say, “Hey, do you see that woman down there…?” And then the train pushed on, past fat silver graffitti letters and dark, concrete pylons and into the bleach-bright lights of the Jay St./Borough Hall subway station lined two deep with people waiting impatiently to get where they were going. I couldn’t help thinking of Holly Black’s VALIANT, which, if you haven’t read, you must.
Then we get to W. 4th Street, and there on the platform is a pair of men’s sneakers, one on its side, surrounded by many scraps of paper and what looks like ashes or lint or something, as if some dude was standing there and just self-combusted, leaving his shoes behind. And I thought, man oh man, it’s going to be a weird, weird day.
So I came home and ate lunch and changed my shoes. Because if I self-combust, I want to go out in my favorites.