Can’t Help But See [sec. 57]

I see why she wants to draw them. The clouds are a tableau of swirl and roll that's catching an impossible luminous pink. They're turning smoke gray from east to west, it's just the edges now but you know it's coming, you can see it happening if you watch carefully enough. She's sketching madly, outline, shading, colored pencils pressed into service then dropped on one another with a gentle tinkling. She has these eyes like you've never seen, they're bigger than her head, they pivot with a flow and force that you can almost hear, those synched-up chasms that would express emotion even where there is none (while she brushes her teeth, when she's dead in the morgue). They seem to take in more photons than yours or mine or anybody's, trying to trap more than their fair share of the light that flashes by, so much so that you'd swear you see them glowing, nothing figurative about it. She looks from sky to sketch pad to sky again, trying so hard to create something fully true to what she sees out there and what she is in there before it's gone. It's desperate, impossible but she tries so hard, the clouds now half dark and half more impossible pink than ever and so deep that you want them to explode or melt and hope that's what the end will look like. I see why she wants to draw them, but if you just saw those eyes you might forget for a second that there's color or clouds or a sky there at all for all that trying, trying, trying, you might forget that there's nothing you can do but look.

Out [sec. 9]

​ I had planned on going out. Just go out, I said to myself, you want to go out. I felt like going out when I said it, I wanted to be out right then I think, or liked the idea of being out, not being alone, out in public, with people. But it took so much less effort to stay in, stay there, be alone, not having to suffer the consciousness of being seen, of having my appearance perceived, my actions interpreted. But I'd planned on going out, Just go out, I said. I felt good, felt well, wanted to be out, the idea of being out, felt like not being alone (even though alone is so much easier in so many ways). ​ Shower, shave, choose and put on clothes. Should I pee before I go? What do I need to bring? My coat? Where are my keys? Do I have enough cash? What a bother. My energy seemed to fluctuate, my will, the impetus to keep progressing toward an end, just go out. And I'm going to be seen. I could just stay in, watch TV, smoke a joint, so easy, I could just wait until the weekend and go out with friends. But the idea of being out, Just go out, I said. ​ I locked the door, I'm out, on my way out. I feel okay, up to going out, this is good. It's nice out, I've got the right coat, I've got my wallet, okay. I walked to the corner, rounded it, passed by a planter of flowers in front of an apartment complex. The smell flashed a memory. "Terry," I said without thinking, not to her in apostrophe but in recognition, the Spanish conocer, like That's Terry, that smell. ​ I reached the shopping center's parking lot, heading for a bar at the far end. I looked out beyond the giant American flag and the lights to the black above them, the black in between the necks of the overhanging streetlamps. I thought about feeling the darkness around me if the light were extinguished, a blackout or the death of all technology. The lights were falsehood but viscerally I believed. A sudden lack of illumination while I was out and exposed would feel colder, my desired lie failing to shield me from the truth of darkness and a crescent moon. ​ The lights stayed on, comfortably dishonest, and I reached the bar. Do I want to go in, I asked myself, feeling less resolved, not wanting to be seen but wanting not to be alone, desiring the idea of being out, whose reality is more problematic, it's so much simpler to be alone. Just go out, I said, I want to be out. Just go in, you're already out. I went in. ​ The jukebox was playing the Pixies, somebody was singing along: 'I like Lou Reed,' she said, sticking her tongue in my ear. I was in. I'm in, I'm out. It was more crowded than I had hoped, I was unsure where I could sit. If I have to stand I'm leaving, too conspicuous, I'll feel too self-conscious just standing here. A couple of empty stools were at the end of the bar, perfect, I sat. I looked to the bartender, he was too busy to notice me. I waited, he did not notice, I felt conspicuous. I moved to the middle of the bar, squeezed my way in between two patrons, one looking at me as if I were intruding. I leaned forward, trying to establish eye contact with the bartender (busy and not noticing me). Finally he leaned my way, two fingers resting on a red cushioned ledge on his side of the bar top. "May I have a 7 and 7, please?" He nodded (without looking at me) and went to mix my drink. One of the patrons next to me laughed with monstrous, disgusting exaggeration and swayed back, bumping me into the other, who glared at me again. The drink came, I paid for it, the tip too big but I felt an unspoken pressure not to ask for change. I extricated myself from the bar and made to return to my original spot, but both stools were occupied, and there was nowhere else to sit. I sipped my drink, it was not very good. I'm out, I said. The jukebox was playing: Caribou, caribouoooo. I didn't want my drink anymore, didn't want to have paid for it, didn't want to stand there out, exposed, the problematic reality, the reality not the idea. I looked at the people, so many of them, none alone. I knew it would be like this, what was I thinking? I swallowed from my bad drink, I looked around, not wanting to make eye contact. There was nowhere to sit. I wished for a power outage, wished for invisibility, wished for an escape. I was out, this is being out, remember for the next time. But you won't, I said, you'll want to be out, the idea of being out. And you'll go, just go out, you will. ​ The jukebox was playing, the rest of the bar had joined in: We're chuh-ained, we're chuh-ai-eened. . . .