-- William Gibson, All Tomorrow's Parties
It's been an odd few weeks. I've been writing again, and listening to Kid A quite a bit. Been busy with work, but managing to read a decent number of books. Pete went out with his orkers tonight, and managed to bring more home than he left with. There may have been cell division, it's hard to tell. Now one of them is in his bed and the other two are on the couch, complaining about work and watching Napoleon Dynamite.
I went for a walk an hour ago, which is something I haven't done in years, I guess. solios and I wander the city every pumpcon, but that doesn't count. Back when I lived on Lombard St., I'd often walk up to and around City Hall, then back home. Usually at 0230, when Jason and his far more dubious friends would get home to smoke a bowl and pass out in the living room.
It's windy tonight, and cold. But that's why I moved here, so I left the scarf at home and the coat open. Walked up Front St. through the Korean War Memorial (which is fenced off for some reason), then down Walnut through Old City and all the emptied bars with the night's trash piled on the curb. Down 4th St., through Society Hill.
In this dry winter with the wind up, the trees make all the noises you would expect them to, if they were lording over two hundred year old cemeteries hidden behind ancient iron wrought fences.
The metal bars twist and claw, and you can't quite tell if they're meant to keep grave-robbers out, or the quiet dead in. You can feel the city's age here, where you can still smell the Delaware on the air. You walk by half a dozen churches, and you know each has its own plot of forgotten bones and headstones with the engravings all worn down by time.
It's easier to believe that the constant torrent of humanity flooding through the streets wears the markers down than it is to think that years of simple, natural elements could rub away the memory of someone's life. It's impossible to shake the feeling of a permanence whittled down with every breath.
The wind alternates as you cross the streets, buffeting you from every direction, blatantly ignoring the one way signs and stoplights. It catches the dead leaves, and they hiss, rattling over broken concrete and brick.
You pass by an apartment buildings basement windows, and behind the grates something growls a machine growl, blunting blades on stone; there's no explanation for it, closer to morning than midnight, and you hurry on.
The neighborhood is deserted, except for the rare passing cab, a pool of light and noise, engineered chaos in this deepening chill. But you never see the drivers, even when they honk to see if you want a ride. You never see their faces, and it's easy to convince yourself the cabs are driving themselves. Or that they aren't cabs at all, but constructs of the city, creatures building themselves up from shards of cobblestone and rotting tree roots, the city's shed skin, gathering itself into new, unobstrusive forms; old, old dust, conjured and given life through psychic osmosis, leeching will from a quiescent citizenry.
But then some kid drives by in his dad's Beamer, blasting gangster rap from its stock speakers, rattling the door panes more than anything else, and you are annoyed enough to feel relief. The spell is broken, at least until they drive on.
Until you look down a side street, and see it twist off at ninety-degrees, halfway down the block.
Only you know that's impossible, because 5th St...
You shake your head and move on, and by chance, look to your left, to the east. And you see someone keeping pace with you two blocks down, on 2nd St., with their coat flapping out behind them much like yours. Locked in step. So you stop, daring them to halt as well, but just as you do they disappear behind a parked car and you lose them.
And of course then you hurry to the next block, but they're gone.
Vanished, and you're left with nothing but the wind, and you start looking forward to the detritus that will be slathered all over South St. like an evening's overindulgence. The cops and the last of the hardcore party kids. The tenders and waitresses wishing each other good day, because why not; heading home or to their own after parties at other bars.
You walk past a final cemetery and leave the sense of the old city behind, and walk into the neon and buzzing street lights, the broken bottles and yes, more trash piled up on the curb.
Out of the demesne of the city, back into where the humans live.