Late-Night Musings

It’s one of those times, right now, when you see things and they seem somehow more significant, tied, in some intangible way, to a deeper pattern, some kind of secret that’s almost within reach but skitters away whenever you look directly at it. Those hints, those glimpses, could be anything, and in the end are nothing.

There are two marks on the doorway leading into the kitchen, one labeled “day”, the other, a centimeter below that, labeled “nite”. They are above me as I walk past, an artifact of the Soup Boy days, an empirical resolution of a debate with his girlfriend. Yes, you really do wake up taller than you go to bed. I knew that from adjusting the mirrors in my car twice a day (I do like to have the glass just right), but there they are, the two heights of Soup Boy. I wonder, if you measured carefully enough, if you would discover that gravity is winning. I wonder if the night is a short victory but we never make up the ground we lost the day before.

But it’s not gravity that’s the enemy, now that I think of it. Gravity just wants me to fall, it pulls on all of me equally. That’s what orbit is, not a lack of gravity but a constant falling, without ever hitting anything. It is not gravity that is crushing me, but the ground pushing up against my feet.

Before getting up to look around the apartment, finding things I’d stopped seeing long since, I caught up a bit with back podcasts of Writer’s Almanac. I tend to listen to them in bunches when I’m in a mood like this one. Poetry is always better when you feel adrift, when the Big Mystery is teasing you.

Earlier I spent the evening working on a bit of prose that I really shouldn’t be spending time on. It’s self-indulgent, pretentious prose, which is certainly pleasant to write, but I got no time for that kind of shit. (Except, of course for this blog.) It’s an odd marriage of a favorite anecdote of mine and some of the thoughts thrust upon me by Lost in the Cosmos.

The anecdote:

I was sitting in a café listening to two writers talking together. Also present were a couple of college students, female, obviously very impressed by finding themselves in a foreign city in the presence of Actual Artists, who were having an Actual Discussion. I sat a little back from the table, not commenting and at one point I chuckled to myself at something one of the other writers said. The girls sitting next to me looked at me quizzically; no one else seemed to notice the joke.

I leaned back further and said, “They’re not listening to each other. It’s two monologues.” She turned her ear back to them and realized that her Actual Artists were really just talking at each other. No information moved in either direction. She smiled and we shared the joke, feeling vaguely superior to the others at the table.

In that girl’s view, she was in the presence of Actual Artists, and some Other Guy, one who was mysterious, not a talker so obviously a thinker, one who saw through the games of the Artists, a man of penetrating insight. Was I also a writer? Why was I there? With a little chuckle I had gone from being unnoticed to being the towering intellect of the little meeting.

I was also the only one not hitting on the girls. I would have, believe me, but I couldn’t figure a way to do that without becoming part of my own joke. In the end it was pride that stopped me.

So the story I wrote is based on that, loosely. I was asking myself, “what if I actually was like the Other Guy the girl imagined she was sitting next to? What might have happened next?” There are some good bits in the scene (and some pretty lousy ones), although the characters surrounding the guy are far more interesting than the guy himself. That feels about right.

As I write this I hear the rumble of the night tram in the distance, cautious as it passes over the switches at Starostrašnická. I wonder who’s on it right now, where they’re coming home from. I wonder if they will remember this night, or would prefer to forget. I wonder if they are lonely.

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