New shapes formed around the edges of my vision, bodies coagulated in the crowd, my own stumbling awkwardly, trying not to touch any of the other people out of fear that I might get stuck and be pulled into the flesh-colored mass.
Beams of light illuminated the air overhead, piercing the thick gray atmosphere and giving way to the prophetic spotlight. Coca-Cola bottles looked down, lifting me off the ground up onto the metal platform. From there, I looked down at all of the bodies, the changing shapes shaken by brief and variant tremors. All moving. All continuous. The flowing existents.
No one died. No one was born. No one changed. No one was at fault. No one fixed. No one broken. Everything carried everything. The slight incline plateaued and the foot carried itself mechanically from the first point to the latter. The satires were reverent or irreverent. I remained here regardless of wherever I was.
No one in particular. I introduced myself to the new strangers that I met. I am whoever. The name existed on its own, and carried itself down the street with striking physicality. The body dwelled poetically; no one read the Wittgenstein;
Banquo’s ghost rose up out of the tenement floor and latched onto Macbeth’s shoulders. He screamed and shouted, then closed his eyes, and let the spectre carry him into the floor, down to the roadways, and the turnpike, up to the billboards, and then into the cosmos.
Faint glimmers rose out of the ancient celestial form: some ancient deity with open rib cage, from which every bit of the universe crawled out. The sprawling and unsatisfied existence afterwards, the droning cadence left over from the heightened primeval moment.
Sore arms out of bed, sore legs, the unexercised fatigue, the walking ambiguity; I felt myself moving, every unusual jaunting piece of my being. I found rest in the fluidity of the sidewalk, the ease by which I could move, and the mechanical motions that had been engrained in my brain.
Banks, cement, doric columns, cars, oncoming automations, sunset, sunrise, electronic advertisement, invisible wires, etc. “Who put all of these things here?” … “workers and companies” … “I’ve been so tired lately” … “there’s never been enough sleep. Twenty four hours wouldn’t be long enough for me.”
My organs shifted slowly inside my abdomen. Blood swirling in the bowl every night. My body mimics the city, always moving, full of intimate and grand gestures. Everyone is always perfectly healthy, or they’re dying. Each oddity is the end, or it is utterly meaningless.
“Flares are being fired off in the middle of the night.” There are no original thoughts in my head. Each hint of the new is undercut by aphorism or context. I reshape things without knowing that I have. I’ve become sickened by the presence of the known. I want it to remain elusive and separate from me. I’ll never read the Wittgenstein.
I want to remain separate from the things that I understand. I want to remain obsessed with the things that I don’t. Annotations and theories make me nauseous. The complete context evades me on purpose. I want to keep myself separate.
No one in particular, whoever, I was pulled into an alleyway as I passed by. A tall man in a tight suit, brown hair, five o’clock shadow, large eyes, short teeth. “I’m looking for Cocteau.” He’s been dead. “The blood of a poet dripped down the sidewalk and I thought I’d be able to follow it to his grave stone, but I haven’t had any luck.” The clues were all there, but nothing came of them.
I shrugged my shoulders [stubs cigarette] and brushed off my coat. A gap formed amongst the crowds where I could slip back in and be carried by the current. I took the opportunity to float away. The tall man disappeared and was replaced by the deafening white noise. I was standing in front of the waterfall, the spot where all of the tranquil sounds of nature come to a front.
I fell into the river, suspended in solution; prophetic chorus standing at the edge of the water, shaking as the tremors come and go. Absurdist advertising overhead: Marlboro ads photoshopping cigarettes into children’s mouths, silver-painted men slipping coupons into back pockets.
Beyond the solution, I saw the changing hues of light. Vibrations of the inaccessible existent. I felt distant from myself, in some far off location, looking on at some struggling bastard in the water. Long and languorous shadows looking for space in the solution. He gasped for air and threw his arms around. People walked by, talked to one another, sat together, leaned up against the wall.
The return to the unknown, the inescapable separation from it, that barrier that forms between the desire and the reality. He could not allow himself to remain, whether he wanted to or not. The body controlled itself. It tried to breath, tried to grab onto something.
“No one decides what to do” … “Orfeu plays his lyre” … “Banquo drags Macbeth to hell” … “the chorus speaks prophetically” … “kids loiter in the parking lot and smoke and fight” … “fallout shelters are still built” … “nobody can fuck the way they want to” … “nomads jaunt from place to place” … “the belvedere torso loses its limbs.”
I shed mine. All of the pains dissipate. Everything evaporates. Distance forms between the subject and the object. He crawls out of the solution and returns to the sidewalk, walks around the corner, down the next block, and is pulled into another alleyway.
Messianic screams echoed through the roadways, hovering over the sidewalk and ricocheting from building to building. Strangers spoke to one another in strange costumes. The hallucinatory mise-en-scene pervaded.
“Someone’s been following me.” He sniffled and rubbed his wrist against his nose. “The billboard eyes have been tracking me. I feel like all of the cameras are panning at the same cadence that I walk in.” People have become estranged from one another. “I haven’t talked to my daughter in a long time now.” I don’t know how long it’s been.
Steam rose out of the pipes, dust accumulated in the air, the brownstone walls were crooked, and the alleyway was narrow. The stranger sighed [stubs cigarette] and tisked. “These things don’t really matter.” The ground will shift suddenly and nothing will change. Sisyphus will roll his boulder up and down the hill happily.
Static does not disrupt nor disengage me. I find comfort in the static: the separation I feel from these situations. A drifting unknown overcomes. White noise. The stranger walked to the edge of the alleyway and looked both ways suspiciously, “someone’s gotta be following me. I feel like I’ve seen all of these people before.” He rubbed his eyes.
I could hear howl in the distance, where every sound seemed to come from. The source was always too far out of sight. “I don’t know who it is specifically, but they’re around here.” I nodded awkwardly and walked up next to him. “Do you see anyone?” He nudged me back out into the sidewalk traffic and I continued on my way.
No one in particular going nowhere in particular. I try to avoid the nihil. I don’t want to be an individual. I want to be a singularity. Not the, but a. The man is a man. An unspecific singular. I don’t want to have a body. I want to float between shapes. I want to be suspended in the solution, sitting across from myself in conversation about nothing.
“I remember the tenements I used to live in” … “have you seen my phone?” … “where is the zone?” … “Mallarme was sitting on a bench down by the park” … “no one has come to visit” … “how did the torso lose all of its limbs?” … “what else is there?” … “these cracks run so deep” … “stop coughing” … “where are they now?”
Insects crawled around on the ground with glossy wings and delicate legs. They maneuvered through the crowds and up the sides of the various brownstones. I followed the path with my eyes, keeping track of the small creatures until they left my sight or went up and over the top ledge.
The crowd continued to carry me down the street until I reached the next crosswalk. An abrupt force pulled me to the right and I continued around the block. I stopped again. I turned again. Each red-light changed my direction until I was stuck in the whirlpool, forever spinning around a block, waiting again to be pulled into an alleyway.
The melody has become increasingly noticeable to me. I get stuck in the crowd, my attention strays off, I return, someone pulls me into an alleyway, they push me back out, etc. I’m not sure whether or not I’ve been getting pulled into the same alleyway or a different one. Every block looks like the same block to me. All of the buildings are made out of cement or bricks, there are plenty of people around, if you look off into the distance you can see more city.
I glanced up at the sky, and at the people on either side of me, and then, as if on command, a hand tightened around my shoulder and pulled me out of the flowing river. I wiped the dust off of my jacket and looked at the stranger.
“Who are you?” I asked. “Did you pull me off the sidewalk before? I feel like this keeps happening to me.” He cocked his head to the left and squinted his eyes. “Do I know you?” He said. “I’m not sure that I know anyone. Definitely not you. I have this faint memory of other people, and I’m aware of previous conversations, but none of them stand out to me specifically.”
I nodded. “What did you want?” He sighed and looked at me, “I don’t really remember. There must’ve been some reason to pull you in here.” There must’ve. “It felt like the right thing to do. I didn’t want to do it, but it was what I was supposed to do.”
What causes you to have to do something? He was already standing in the alleyway. No one else was around. “Things are all tangled now. I’m having trouble keeping track.” He scratched his nose and fiddled with his hands, “this is the trouble with improvisation, the circumstances are all outlined for you, there’s a clear structure, but then you’re expected to fill in all of the empty space on your own.” Another sigh, “What can be expected of me?”
He patted his coat and pants pockets, “do you have a pen?” I shrugged. No. “Ah. I’ve got one.” The stranger thought for a moment, then uncapped the pen and scribbled a note on his hand. He skimmed over it, “I’m looking for a young man with tall brown hair. Have you seen him?”
I saw my body sigh to the stranger and shake his head. It hadn’t seen him before. It didn’t even know why he was here. I didn’t and neither did the stranger, who grumbled to himself and nudged me. He pointed to the alleyway and nudged again.
No one in particular returns to the sidewalk, to the flowing river, the tightly packed people, a man next to a man, each coat rubbing and creating friction. The static accumulated overhead, raising everyone’s hair, bolts of electricity jumped from head to head. People looked over their shoulders and at one another’s shoes.
I saw no one in the alleyway when I was pulled back around to the same spot on the block. Billboards still looked down from up high. What was the rule? How many times would I go around the block before another stranger pulled me to the side for a quick conversation? How long have all of the lights been red? Maybe no one has moved.
I can see now how the city is structured: as a galaxy containing a plethora of individual solar systems in which the celestial bodies circle their own center, independent of every other nearby system. They are aware of each other, but for the most part unaffected. The cars are passing asteroids, radical bodies who perform without a system, instead moving between them.
Or the city was just itself. The crowds were crowds. The cars were cars. The man is a man. It might act more evasive than this: an intricate structure with a multitude of layers, each of which contains its own mass of singularities. Each block is a block. It has a building, a man, a sidewalk, an alleyway. I have so much trouble now finding the marks of specificity.
Maybe every stranger is a stranger in the alleyway. None of them may have their own names: the cadaver on the wife’s table after the accident. They are the consciousness that looms over the physical. Each knocked from the float and suspended in solution. How many billboards have I seen today? Have they been the same one or has each been distinct from the last?
“Someone crashed on seventh avenue last night” … “things have gotten pretty bad” … “there are reasonable people and unreasonable people” … “I can’t stop fidgeting” … “what time is it?” … “it’s the tenth of December” … “there are ghosts in the hallway at night” … “they only come to church on the holidays” … “I got this pot from Guatemala when we went in June last year.”
The body continues to meander, waiting for another heightened moment of difference. When the arm comes to separate from the crowd, a man will accept the changing current. The body moves on its own accord. It acts in its own interest, regardless of what a man wants. He feels the separation between two entities: himself and his body. They have their own desires and goals.
For the most part, they see themselves cooperating with one another, but at times, their separation becomes unavoidably evident. The body displays its control and a man complies out of necessity. “Who are you?” I feel like I’m always asking this.
The stranger cracked his knuckles one by one, “there’s too much static electricity in the atmosphere. It’s all been accumulating, and it’s going to keep accumulating until something big happens.” What’s gonna happen? “There’s going to be too much static stuffed inside the air until it just all bursts out at once. There’s going to be a big shockwave. That’s what’s going to happen. It’s going to pop and then everyone’s going to fall over at once.”
“The murmuring hysterical performer who stands in the alleyway” … “an arm reaches into the river and pulls out a small child carried uncontrollably by the current” … “I’ve accepted my death” … “young man floats on by in solution” … “I’m looking for Cocteau” … “The blood of a poet dripped down the sidewalk and I thought I’d be able to follow it to his grave stone, but I haven’t had any luck” … “he saw me reading the Wittgenstein” … “all of the alleyways in the city look the same” … “every corridor is narrow and tall” … “stranger reads his lines, then performs” … “when the performance is done, the young man jumps back into the river and it carries him away” … “no one asked anyone to do this” … “everybody is speaking at once” … “I can’t pick out where any of the voices are coming from” … “nowhere in particular” … “I talk to myself” … “the form returns to me” … “I continue to speak” … “the stage changes shape, confines itself” … “the boarders close in” … “the alleyway becomes quiet and the audience shushes itself” … “the actor paces back and forth anxiously on the stage” … “I am alone to speak the monologue” … “the chorus is prophetic” … “the orchestra is prodigal” … “who built this stage?” … “another boy drifts down the river” … “the large hand plucks it out” … “heavy breathing and thick cigarette smoke” … “someone’s been following me” … “the billboard eyes have been tracking me” … “I feel like all of the cameras are panning at the same cadence that I walk in” … “I haven’t talked to my daughter in a long time now” … “these things don’t really matter” … “paranoia slowly creeps in” … “you think everything’s happening to you” … “the sun changes shades when you aren’t looking” … “there’s another moon at night that you can only see in the periphery” … “all of the stories just look like prose poems” … “these things don’t really matter” … “the boy is returned to the river” … “he floats away” … “carried by and suspended in the solution” … “Walt Whitman’s ghost looms over the performer and whispers too quietly” … “everyone paces around between exhibitions” … “eventually there are no more monologues” … “all of the dialogue is burned in some great fire” … “actors are forced to create their own language” … “derived from the emotions they had attached to the play-speak they’d performed previously” … “the mise-en-scene dissipates” … “bodies become immobile” … “the river continues” … “whirling around the stage” … “there are no new images” … “all have come and gone” … “the returning and the renewal” … “singularities rise to the surface and then they dissociate into the water” … “each voice latches onto those who are close to it” … “the human consumes and regurgitates” … “sounds emerge from the echoing mouths” … “another child plucked from the river” … “what did you want?” … “there must’ve been some reason to pull you in here” … “it felt like the right thing to do. I didn’t want to do it, but it was what I was supposed to do” … “things are all tangled now. I’m having trouble keeping track” … “this is the trouble with improvisation” … “the circumstances are all outlined for you” … “there’s a clear structure” … “but then you’re supposed to fill in all of the empty space on your own” … “what can be expected of me?” … “I’m looking for a young man with tall brown hair” … “have you seen him?” … “light kits crash onto the stage” … “surges of electricity run through the floor” … “the actors remain static” … “they speak” … “bow” … “the boy returns to the river” … “current carries him away” … “panicking directions” … “in search of the old language” … “the alleyway hysterical performer bows after each performance” … “a performer performs” … “the singularity” … “individuals dissociate into the coagulated shapes” … “no one’s read the dialogues” … “no one will” … “conclusions are repeated and again reached” … “the electromotive leap” … “volts jumping from one molecule to the next” … “there’s too much static electricity in the atmosphere. It’s all been accumulating, and it’s going to keep accumulating until something big happens” … “there’s going to be too much static stuffed inside the air until it just all bursts out at once” … “there’s going to be a big shockwave” … “that’s what’s going to happen” … “it’s going to pop and then everyone’s going to fall over at once.”
Mike Corrao is a young writer working out of Minneapolis. His work has been featured in publications such as Entropy, Cleaver, decomP, and Fanzine. His first novel will be released in fall of 2018 by Orson’s Publishing. Further information at www.mikecorrao.com.