11/04/2015 02:00 PM
Sucked into cyberspace
I’m on the train. The tunnel opens. To my right a brown field of reed grass, with a path mowed through. There are tire tracks carved into the wet earth. They curve ahead but with no visible destination, like a thought. Someone had to examine the durability of the swamp, perhaps. A hunter’s vehicle.
And yes, there are geese swimming, brown, like the reed. It would be a photograph of moody beauty, in sepia. It is autumn.
This is the swampland of New Jersey. Iron bridges further off, across a tongue of salty waters. Brown tears of iron grime running down their sides.
There is a township we slide through. Yellow and orange-leaved trees. A red bush like a kiss interrupts the geography of the streets. The trees have dropped their frocks in those neighborhoods I will never walk.
My phone alerts. I entered the world of Binggg a couple of days ago, four evenings ago to be exact. Now I am not sure of anything.
There are the other Bingggs, informing chatter, part of the machine of the day, the marketplace of information attached to a face. A situated place. I know what to answer. Now they became of lower importance, even negligible, of only slightly more than average importance, attached only to my friends.
Not that new Binggg! It is in a class unto itself, not organizable into a category. It carries each and every possibility of the exceptional. It could be the never-imagined sadness of a life lived parallel to yours. A hidden dessous beneath the propriety of dress. Laughter with a freedom not experienced. Or that large love, like a heat wave, like a climate you never knew, coming at you through Binggg!
I am experiencing a cool spasm, being tapped on the shoulder or looked directly in the eye by a near-stranger, by a faraway thought in this very second, receiving that person’s attention. Binggg!
Nothing is as legitimate as the desire to be connected. The object of this desire does not really exist. The shared moment of reality was an hour of tea where we sat across from one another. Strangers, and yet we felt we should meet after a year of Instagram attention.
And there is this fantastic connection from another lifetime that we agreed made us have tea. New York is anonymous and very personal all the same.
His name is Victor. Though far away enough from one another, we are ‘intimaticized’. Now we feel a license to confess. Our immediate exchange of thought, as if still sitting at tea.
But what we conceived as an event is past. We have tricked ourselves into cyberintimacy. Nothing texted matters, really, yet neither of us wants it to stop, this thin, high-pitched sliver of a sound, this Binggg! attached to Victor, the man I knew for an hour.
This fall is beautiful. The mornings carry a chill like a fur. The leaves are surprising. Trees changing their frocks hourly. There is no recipe. Every year autumn astonishes, stupefies us as if we hadn’t seen it coming.
Binggg! Confession of love. It can be taken any way, like the leaves’ turning palette. There is now only that one Binggg! that is of any significance.
This indolent orange train ride to the south, a rush through towns of a sharp photograph in blue, cars, trees, streets like arrows, everything in flux. Only Binggg! seems to be something solid, with a future, even. The short-term intensity of illusion.
I think back on a glass of prosecco at the Carlyle bar with Melanie.
I just made a 20K deal, she says, out of breath.
Chin chin, we say, and laugh. Melanie is French. We speak French- and German-tinted English. We are easily distinguishable from the others.
Melanie was born in Tangier.
Ah, a tree just slid by, undecided between orange and bright red. Melanie tells me a story. I ask about her somewhat exotic physique, where it originated. That wistful smile that is hers alone, hands like a cat’s paw.
Well, she needed to travel to see her grandfather for the last time in Tunisia. The room is numb. From a sunset far beyond, through a window orange glints of light, Grandfather’s skin pale as sand.
He opens his eyes a bare minimum, to take her in.
What are you crying about? Do you have the audacity to believe that you are any different from me? Hmm? You are me. I’m not going anywhere. I’m in every single cell of your body. Aahhh. I am happy to let my old body rest, so I can only keep on exploring the world through your eyes. Aahhh. And I couldn’t be feeling more blessed, as I am closing my eyes on a fulfilled life, looking at you, who remind me of the woman I love, who I’ll finally see again when my eyes close for the last time.
He seems not to be in the room. He travels far. I am in Tunisia. The city is made silent when we step outside. The moon is thin as an eyelash.
Melanie’s voice: …she had her heart on the right side. her mother was the first woman to divorce in Tunisia.
My attention is with the Binggg! It takes over the reality. Not the sidewalk, the window displays. Snippets of love, pushing their way into my self, with an aching, beautiful possibility.
The grandfather was 107. We are talking while we walk. Our coats billowing. Someone coughs. A gingko tree dropped his frock on the sidewalk, a dog.
I am like a traveler anywhere in Europe, the large, desolate town squares, the early silence of an evening in a small town. I feel Melanie’s arm in mine. I am creating a stranger in my own fashion. I am in and out of the life I live, to welcome a hero.
Binggg! Did I mention that there is a man in Victor’s life?
A quick glance at the phone. I stumble out of Tunisia.
Later, close to home, I walk a couple of blocks. A woman beggar is readying herself for the night on a grill above the heat of the subway. I give her five dollars. She looks at the paper, hands it back to me.
Thanks, I have everything, she says.
The conductor shouts out the name of the town I have come home to. I gather my things, my suitcase. The phone slides into a pocket where it lives on its own, numbed by the folds of a wide coat. A secret, really.
Outside the train station, a motionless rain makes the leaves on the pavement sleek, like ice.
Ludwig picks me up. It is as ordinary as any other return. He uses an ancient phrase. There is very little exchange at first. There is nothing extraordinary. Actions repeated a hundred times. Flats of streetlight circle the car. The sky is the witness.
We are driving along a stretch of kudzu, strangling the trees into total obedience. Now it is limp, crumpled, gray old skin.