Sunday, May 16, 2010

Riding the bus again

There is a passage, or perhaps it's a single sentence spread out, in William Gibson's "Dogfight" about its anti-hero (let's be honest, that's what he is) refusing to exit a bus that is traveling across the country, just hanging on and surviving, eventually dying in his seat, only to be swept out further on down the eternal road - so much skin and bones, like Dark falling off the carousel at the end of Something Wicked This Way Comes - by the driver, broom ushering him into the dust. I can not remember the exact wording, or if my memory of this passage is even correct. I don't have the Gibson book in front of me and I'm much too lazy to postpone the writing of this article in order to look it up somewhere, anywhere. Nevermind, I just did. What was the comparison? That bus line's only private, personal Flying Dutchman, onward and upwards into death and light, gray, ghost-like, sailing through dreams and dark nights like Lovecraft's White Ship. There are worse places to die. This is a pleasant image for me to take upon myself, safe and sanitized, Capital Metro's (Austin's personal coach) finest non-customer as I get to ride free with my student identification card, which I hope identifies every time I've ever run it through the scanners on the buses so that my presence (or at least the presence of my ID card - if that) can be tracked from place to place through the endless realms of gray data in sweating microchips on the one, twenty-seven, and three hundred and twenty-eight. Trescienctos veintiocho. Now when I am falsely accused of that murder in the future my presence can be established traveling west on the 328 at exactly the same time, although of course my ID card could have been carried by an accomplice and the cameras on the buses (if they are even operating correctly) seem to only cover the driver and the flash-instances of each passenger boarding or exiting. A heavy coat, sunglasses, a hat, it's all over. I could be there and everywhere. With a magnetic stripe reproduction system (which those nefarious identity theft cons employ) I could be spread across the city in one hundred different hands, boarding and exiting every single bus route at exactly the same time. This is of course assuming that one hundred accomplices wanted to help me commit a murder, but I suppose the entire event could be set up as a protest of modernity or technology and no one would be wiser as they did their part swiping their false cards like razors across the unblinking irises of The Man. In the meantime I'm somewhere around the Arboretum strangling someone as they struggle to surface from a midmorning nap, heavy with whiskey sleep and poisonous dreams of crows in flight. Who am I to question another's dreams? How long do I have to squeeze my hands together? I'm afraid of bruising them, through the gloves, perhaps I'd better draw a cold bath (to match the cries of the crows) and submerge the head underwater - does skin still wrinkle and prune after it's dead, after life has ceased?

Twelve years of riding the bus. Twelve years of smelling other people's lives: what they dress in, what they did the day before, what they have drank that morning, what they have eaten for the past few days. The layers of sweat and skin and oil, all bodily effluvium, painted upon the seats and windows, covering the floor, the stench (impossible to wash out, I've heard) of sour fear, apprehension, worry, nervousness, despair, bitter sorrow. The swift angular motion of yellow sunlight and stifled laughter, happiness or temporary joy slicing through the miasma of wanting and wishing and opening it to the elements, drawing flies. Pain spread open, its edges pulled back red and raw, baking in the filtered heat under clouds of stinking breath. I sit inside a lung as a single of the alveoli and aspire with the rest. But today, for example, as I sat in the weak mid-December waning light as the bus traveled south, the western sun entering in a powerless, cheerless flood, reading Heidegger, trying to keep my thoughts on dasein as working men with hands much rougher than mine coughed and shuffled and sniffled, a blonde with whore's hair and half a face, hidden in blue shadow, next to me, I felt the serrated blade of poverty (absolute, not relative) settle on the back of my neck with calm deliberation. One might as well read Leviticus in a glass case full of rattlesnakes. The executioner is always me, I can only blame my own stupidity as I strive to flee the cliché and keep running up against my own script, my own unwritten laws of perception. One just can't escape one's self. The irony is murderous, filthy, I feel like vomiting myself clean, even if clean means my own funeral. Instead I sit there with the light in my eyes, blinded. I wait and another moment switches over, the cards fall from the deck, the call goes unanswered, the blood passes through my veins. I breathe, in and out, I think of my cold bed and the covers I will pull over myself and the dreams that will come immediately, as if I only had to reach for them with trembling hands. One more animal cast out from Heaven.

We have to thank the buses, even if they mean two hours out of one's way and a constant Henry Miller pantomime, lines from Black Spring and the Tropics surfacing from ten years ago, maybe twenty. One feels the degradation and then laughs at it because the pride that gives rise to it just can't be afforded anymore. What is there left to degrade? One just is. One unending meaningless day, light to dark, dark to light, tracing the same scenery, the same half-hills, judicial buildings in their robes of flaking orange and deep magenta, half-conspicuous, half-convinced modernism, liberalism reaching desperately towards the enshrined European new at the very heart of conservative Texas. Up Congress towards The Castle, the land slowly rising from the dammed river's side, cesspool of gray bat guano, white and yellow condoms floating among sere reeds and oil slicks, buried hearts and political aspirations fallen like last season's confetti showers. More dead dreams. A right, then the more sedate storehouses of government documents, lidless, eyeless, swaying in mid-prairie night winds like the upthrusting legs of inhumed fathers, perhaps Nicholas III or the falling angel Boniface VIII, the air full of surrounding soot and dust (the center encircled by yawning, crashing highways), high gales streaming down the clear skies from the North. One must climb to breathe, out of Waterloo, out of the hospitals, up Red River leaning right into the crest of the hill and then past the museums and libraries, black glass coffins of the untranslatable. Even though the breezes here are filled with ozone, one must keep one's eyes on the Pole Star. Otherwise there is the slow sinking backwards, down the hill, the retreat, the shrinking into one's self and the past, towards Riverside, the sleep of that which never was. One wants to rise, to taste the streaming light from the stars, one wants to soar over the city again in a mighty leap from 21st to Cesar Chavez with seven league boots, never touching the ground. And then accelerating, past the city limits, out into the wastes again, past San Antonio, crossing the cold springs, out east towards the Sea, into the dark water, drowned seven miles down...

U. Amtey
18 December 2004
WH + 7 CST
NP: Brodequin - Methods of Execution