Tomorrow I will miss the first day of class ever, because my spinal column–the disk at L 2-3–will not allow my physical presence. It won’t allow anything except writhing in pain and begging for death, which I am able, thanks to modern pharmacology, to address without actually dying. Oxycontin in all its aliases has made me a believer.
When I say the first day of class ever, I mean it, I mean since I was a little kid I’ve looked forward to the start of school after a summer of what the military personnel used to call fuck around fuck. Until I was a grown man, and even then, summers meant that every day I played baseball, I played football, I played basketball, I played chess in the mornings for god’s sake, and if I wanted I’d go catch fish in the afternoon, pretty idyllic. But always, at a certain moment in July, sooner or later after the 4th, I wanted to be back in school.
I think it was the sense of stasis summers created. Of course I read novels, mostly what we now call pulp fiction. By the time the deliberate stillness of June and July had settled in, though, the world elsewhere conjured in such fiction, any fiction, seemed less real, more distant, than reality because, well, because there I was doing exactly what I wanted to do. Under those circumstances, who needs fiction?
Put it this way. What if you know, somehow, that your world is limited, even if you’re living exactly how you want to, and you’re reading books that describe the weakened reality of a world elsewhere?
That’s the question I asked myself today, as this summer ends, as I dragged myself downstairs to get the paper.
Here’s how it went, written as an excuse to someone who’s been watching over me for the last few days.
I went down to the lobby to get the paper, that’s all, but the bundle is still just outside the door (at 8:30!), so I open the door and swing around to get it. Well, all the usual suspects are already there on the street, minus the competing mayors, M__ and G__ and C__, so they’re more voluble than they would be in the presence of the Big Men.
S__the White Negro who owns two Volvos and is hoping to make a post-retirement fortune selling hydroponic vegetables to local apartment buildings, he’s wearing a complicated back brace, no self-consciousness about it, and for once he’s without sunglasses, so I can see his enormous, bulging eyes, they make him look like an bipedal insect–of course I think Kafka, but isn’t this experience supposed to be from the inside out?–and there’s also his wife D___, always hunched over because she’s always on her way elsewhere, to an important meeting with local officials, she’s laughing about that brace, and L__, a local super who lives in the Bronx, I know this because I dropped him off on my way to the AutoParts store over there last month, and one of his wives is there with him, he’s got one here on the 123 and another in the Bronx, and, this being Labor Day, there’s Junior, slightly related to C__, who likes to hang around but can’t do all the ball-busting, gang-banging shit required of a mule or a corner so he stays within the unthreatening ambit of this middle of the block.
I say, What the fuck, S___, you lifting weights? “No, man,” he protests, “I threw out my back.” Yeah, well, me too, I say, I need one of those.
“What you need is a parking space,” Junior says. “Get over here, I’m a hold it.” A guy has just pulled out of a space in front of the buiilding. Junior stands in the space, saving it for me. So I move the car, against all doctor’s orders. Somehow the word is out, though, so Junior walks me back across the street as if I’m already a doddering old fuck incapable of ambulation.