I dislike people as a general rule. People are things ahead of you in line, stealing the cab you hailed, shoving past you, inflicting their neuroses upon you like black magic. I think most people dislike other people. It’s why we misuse car horns, our elbows and wear sunglasses in the shade. It’s also why people consider New York City to be the greatest city in the world. Everyone is bothered, and everyone suspects that they are bothering everyone else. There is a peace about that understanding, as there is in any understanding. Keep moving or be moved.
Sometimes when in a crowd I pretend I love everyone. I take in a deep breath and exhale like it’s a good spell. It hurts really bad like sunburn, or like not having skin at all. I played this game Friday night. Oh, it was a crowded and loud swirling soup of the worst chaos. While I was still pretending that I loved everyone, the bartender pointed at me; I nodded over to the guy next to me and said, “he was here first.” Turns out, we were drinking the same potion. We knocked our plastic cups together. For that second, our only second, he was a member of my tribe. He offered a familiar gesture that acknowledged that I’m reasonable concerning the notion of fair. I looked down from the balcony where the people had been shoving each other to see the stage. If they were ever shoving–a hypothesis I now recant–they were now engaging in an act of using allotted space cooperatively in response to a shared stimulus. They were dancing.
Afterward, out on the street, a girl put her hands on the cab we had hailed. Her tribe got in a street fight with our tribe, and she shoved me. Then a civil war broke out in my tribe. Too much potion.
The next morning the sun was too bright, and I needed to walk. I couldn’t even think about my game. People were mass. There is a place in Union Square that I imagine belongs to me. I hated a slow man shuffling into the intersection while talking quietly into his wrist. I made up a mean story about him, a spaceship, and inadequate mental health care. Once he was out of my way, I saw that he was comforting a green bird perched on his arm. Still, people were things buying young trees in pots and bottles of fresh cider, local honey and wine. People had short dogs that I almost stepped on. People were holding hands and taking up too much horizontal space. People were rising up on me like they were on escalators while I was trying to get down. Keep moving or be moved, I thought.
Eight hare krishna monks had folded their bodies on a blanket and were chanting with drums and tingshas. A man wearing blue jeans and a saxophone stood by them and played jazz along with their hare ramas. They were from very different tribes, but there was only space for one noise. Imagine it, if you can, a sad sax working with happy monks, the discipline of monks cheering along the renegade of jazz. I stopped moving. I took off my sunglasses so I could hear them better. I needed a moment so desperately that I almost mistook reality for desire. I almost made up bad stories about cults and upside down hats meant for heads but beg for dollars instead. I almost forgot about pretend-love because nothing will make you feel so alone as letting yourself believe for a minute that you aren’t, and it hurts like sunburn–getting that close (or whatever word is so opposite to distance that space isn’t even implied) to light (or whatever word is so opposite to existence that you or I don’t even apply.) People captured the moment with cellphone cameras. Their hands raised up in the air like submarine periscopes so their future eyes could spy on the event without the threat of having actually been there–the far left jazz player blowing at the ground to the monk at the right with the bells and his smile directed at the sky. Their whole human span, a crowd raised up their machines. I just got really badly sunburned, and I wasn’t even trying to love everyone.
The slow man and the green bird strolled by like familiar aliens. The bird had a white ribbon tied from her foot to his finger. She opened her wingspan full length but she didn’t try to fly anywhere.
posted by holly.