Friday, June 17, 2011

XI. On Foot At World's End: Pilgrim's Progress

You find a park along the shoreline and watch a ship enter the harbor. Something about the scale of it and its closeness, the speed at which it moves, is surreal and vaguely destabilizing. You're a sore thumb here, eyed by a group of teenagers, one of them talking loudly to impress the females, saying something about robbing someone, and since there just aren't that many someones around, you think you get the idea. You aren't fearful, you're a pilgrim. You have this notion that pilgrims, by the nature of their undertaking, are protected or at least resigned to accept the consequences. You pretend to be both and sit on a bench in the sun feeling the rumble of the container ship as it passes guided along by a tug. Nothing terrible happens, so you walk back to the road but cannot be sure in which direction the terminal lies.

A mother and child wait for the bus. The child wears a pretty spring dress and tells her mother the sun is killing her. You smile. The mother moves the child to some nearby shade and you ask if you are walking in the right direction to get to the ferry terminal. The child looks at you like you're a chimpanze that suddenly spoke. The mother says, yes but it's a long walk. You better wait for the bus.

Back on the island of Manhattan, you stop to watch some kids breakdancing and try to figure out where to catch the train to Queens. A man asks you if you can help the homeless out with a little change. He's well dressed, clean, sitting on a bench with a shopping bag and a notebook on his lap. You give him a dollar and he over thanks you and then the two of you talk about the sun finally coming out after about forty days of rain, and he wants to know where you're from and where you're heading, so you tell him Queens, and he points you in the right direction saying he grew up in Astoria his damn self. You take your leave, but decide to sit down and write in your own notebook for a few minutes. When you finish, you notice a woman has joined your aquaintance on his bench. She's wearing high heels and her nails look newly done. He catches you looking at them, looks embarrassed, introduces her as his girlfriend, and explains they aren't really homeless just short of cash and trying to get back to Staten Island. They're both a little drunk, in their forties, you guess. He asks what you're writing about.

You say, embarrassed, I'm reporting on the last day.

He laughs, shows you his notebook: 2:00 PM: NO EVENTS as yet to report.

That's his latest entry.


We talk about what we think will or won't happen today and it gets kind of animated between the three of us.

Shit, he says, you still going to Queens? Because we'll go up there with you.

Instead we end up walking North for awhile and stop into a bar in what you think is Hell's Kitchen, but you're not at all sure. We drink Coney Island Lagers. We talk a little and size each other up. I'm a pilgrim, you say to yourself, surrender.

Later, blurrily we leave the bar headed to the subway. You follow. We are all three going to Queens together apparently.

They show me where to get my ticket and then both duck under the turnstyle explaining, it's alright, we're from here.

On the train there is a sign, an ad for the end of the world, and emboldened by the lager, you take it's picture. We talk seriously, for a minute, about God and Judgment Day- the idea of The Rapture. You confess that you're not really a believer, but that you just could not say for certain.

She says, I do so want to meet Him.

She says it longingly, like a child waiting for Santa Clause with all of her hope, and it seems very sad to you right then. The mood of the whole enterprise shifts.

You notice we're travelling South instead of North, so we get off the train. A mistake, or something else? You decide to take your leave from them. You decide then to skip Brooklyn and Queens entirely. It's getting dark. Your feet hurt. You're losing the thread, getting tired of the end of the world. You remember the sound of your daughter's voice asking you to go to Hoboken to visit Carlo's Bakery, made famous by Cake Boss. You remember her excitement. You remember the sound of her voice.

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