I have nothing to say and I am saying it.
My cat is sick and I am afraid. My friend goes with me to the vet and the vet is clearly alarmed. We go to the expensive 24 hour emergency vet and the vet is calmer after an ultrasound. Home, the cat is trippy from pain meds, purring. She won’t eat. At the 24 hour vet I remembered the last time I was at a 24 hour vet and put my other cat to sleep. You’ve got a very sick kitty, the vet said. He was older, kind but firm. He saw this all the time. I avoid 24 hour vets and not because I’m cheap.
When I was a kid I bought into the adult deception they were omniscient, that the rules and restrictions and incapacities I was burdened with would someday be removed and the world would explode with freedom. In men’s group, with the other men all twenty or thirty years older than me, I called this getting the omniscience hat. Some point after high school someone would whisper from a shady corner and I would know to follow down the alley and down the stairs to the dark room lit by the bare bulb and the men would reach into the darkness and reveal the hat. We would all know what it meant. I would put it on and we would stand in silence and for a long breath time would stop. Then I would give the hat back, turn, go up the stairs, and be as powerful as all the parents, teachers, cops and everyone who could drive. I would be changed and I would know. In men’s group I wanted to know why they were holding out on me. Did I have to fill out a form? They laughed. They didn’t know.
Last night the cat purred and seemed happier, though still sick. This morning the cat is in a different spot and stares like a sick cat. No vomiting. I give her the pain meds and the nausea meds and pet her and she stares, but her tail moves.
I have two extra hours. The landlady is happy for my bags to sit on the couch while she cleans before the next person comes. New York is hot, sweaty, dusty in Central Park. Someone collects shot glasses and I get one for them. I pay for it with quarters I got for the laundromat, use them all and feel like I have done something adult. In the park the African immigrants hassle tourists for pedicab rides and the horses diffuse smell. Literary Walk is green. I’m looking for art to buy but can’t find the vendor I remember from weeks ago. Everything is green, the gorgeous women on the lawns wearing green and throwing green frisbees.
It is Labor Day but it does not feel like any kind of day at all.
Two weeks in I realized I had not brought my razor’s charger and my mind ran with this like a gold hot potato. Each day I shaved and heard the motor drop in pitch, working a little harder to clean the skin, and I wondered when I’d be forced to fashionable scruffiness. A new short-term loop played, filling the holes left by the older loops that have been silenced: razor charge, razor, razor. I am in New York for a month with only myself to answer to and I can’t wait to get home to charge my razor. Is this pathetic?
Sometimes I feel like I know what to do.
The man across the street is home. In a month I will have lived here a year and still not met him, not understood what is going on in the proper square house with the porch light on and the shades always drawn. Nobody goes out or in, and the neighbor mows the lawn. Yesterday I realized the overgrown bushes had been trimmed or removed, a drainspout replaced, white moss powder on the roof. The house looks like it got a haircut. The old man moves like a rusted scarecrow, testing the now-visible fence, making small steps in a tight circle. He is getting in the old Toyota truck with the old faded camper top, all crooked in the driveway. He backs out. The house is alone again.
The vet keeps giving different times to expect the labs. If it’s two in the morning, call me. No call so far.
Something is wrong with the energy. The city had a great confusion but the energy was everywhere, fulminant. Everything had a history and a story and was merging into something new. But getting on the bus and leaving the city detracted. The world went faster but under the power of other machines, and the faster the going the more absent the energy. The Newark airport had no energy at all, connected by freeways, every atom dissipating to somewhere else. Brooklyn was like that too, out in the cemetery or walking the other streets: more cars, more parking. There is no critical mass. Going faster slows you down. Here I am home and don’t know where that is. I am looking out the window at the old man’s tidied house and it is the same, only the edges different. What I felt there, in the graveyard of all places, is gone, or reeling somewhere in the upper atmosphere.
The cat sits and stares and seems too thin, but follows me with her eyes.
I am waking up too early after being too tired to go to sleep. I have been staying up until midnight, one sometimes, waking up before seven, getting up before eight. This morning I woke up too early again and did not look at the clock again and wondered when the light would come. I had troubling, bitter fantasies that I wanted to get up and write down to get rid of them. They were not about high school. I think, at long last, that is finally over.
My friend calls and tells me I am doing the right things.
As a kid I did not understand that time moves for everyone everywhere. When I left a place I didn’t understand that people did things and waited and made mistakes and things were built or repaired or neglected all at the same pace as my present, where those same things were all happening, but since I was there the happening was real. Not until high school did I realize that the women working the registers and the bored high school boys bagging the groceries existed in that space after I left, that they were stuck there doing that job, getting tired, earning their lives away while the world outside turned and didn’t do much either. I didn’t realize time followed you everywhere until I got the job bagging groceries. Is that a failing, or typical?
I thought writing this would be a lot faster, but I’m thinking too much.
The walk we take is abbreviated yesterday, with me late from the vet. We are waling the same neighborhood where he grew up, and we talk about what it’s like to walk through your own ghost: the kid that peed in the corner with the other kids enough that it never dried up and smelled, stealing newspapers and putting rats in them, the house where the hippie stoners lived forty years ago. Three days ago I was in a Brooklyn cemetery and experienced a calm clarity unfamiliar to me. How different the worlds are, six hours on a plane.
Part of the omniscience hat’s appeal is its implied freedom from fear. Not only do you know what’s going to happen, you control it. Everything is going according to plan is no longer throwaway dialog from a B-movie villain but a statement of supreme confidence, prayer as tautology. There is no other way for things to go.
I really did have that image, or dream, sometime in college. Someone would appear, or I would at last find that book hiding in the card catalog that told me what I didn’t know. The light would go on and go out of my eyes instead of uselessly in. Somebody had that hat but it was at a better school, a different city, only offered to better people. What must it be like to put that hat on? It would be a trap, I suppose. That’s how those stories always work.
This post is not about anything.