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Nightlife (2009)

I couldn’t stand to stay in and watch movies. My bookshelves reflected my boredom back at me, as if trying to tell me how foolish it was to be attempting such an accumulation of knowledge. I couldn’t even pick up the New Yorker, that potpourri of urbane social interest, that fuel for conversational anecdote that kept social awkwardness forever at bay. I didn’t want to have any more conversations, learn anymore, read anymore, talk anymore, sleep anymore or sit at a desk anymore, use computers anymore. I threw open the door and stepped out into the cool night. Onto the sidewalks hemmed in by the buildings on a flat plane, only able to walk in two directions. I wandered down the dark streets, past strangers, trying to relieve the pounding stress that had built up in my head. I stuck out my tongue and made machine-like hissing noises, pretending I was a valve letting off steam. I flapped my arms in the air like a flightless bird and stretched, hearing my back crack. I sung fake opera and made different tonal sounds—the vibrating tingle of my humming felt good on the back of my neck. I walked down the sidewalks with my eyes closed on blind trust, hoping I wouldn’t veer out into the street and get run over. Only once did I run into someone—a woman who was probably as scattered as me careened towards me without seeing where she was going. We ran into each other and both screamed and took off into opposite directions. I continued my wild meditation through the full city, through the massive urban exploration chamber, eventually finding myself in the meat-packing district—like so many parts of Manhattan, it was formerly a neighborhood that produced things that now produced mainly culture. I walked past the spectacularly built up glinting stainless steel lofts, art spaces, and cafes. Past the darkened stores, crawling with spectral pastel-colored lights, I spied some kind of public gathering in distance–the sidewalk was crowded with women in dresses and men in polo shirts and suits, laughing. As I verged on this soiree, I saw that the two double doors to go inside were open. With as much confidence as I could muster, I nodded my head to the doorman and walked in. Inside, house music thumped from the back of the sleek space and bartenders in black shirts slung out free drinks from the open bar—industrial design objects–sleek minimal lamps and scale models of new condominium complexes filled the gallery floor. Gawkers walked by smiling and peaking in the little Styrofoam windows, looking into them like King Kong. Strangers were staring at me and I couldn’t quite figure out why—maybe my loneliness had given me the rosy bright look of someone who’s just bathed in cold water? I made my way through the waves of people, only hearing the mixed murmur of their conversation. People networking and women looking for men, men looking for men, speaking words and talking with their bodies instead. Mock-ups, miniature neighborhoods, miniature cities and parks all haphazardly rendered with cheap paints, the smears of hot glue showing through in between the cracks in the walls. I had proven to myself that I could do it, that I could walk among them and drink their free booze and be stared at, but realized that I didn’t really want to—like some kind of reluctant conqueror I regretted ever even having entered their gluttonous social bacchanal, their sterile orgy of plastics and emotionless institutionalized design products. But over and over, like one cursed with an incurable addiction, I find myself drawn towards it, unable to repel the magnetic allure of the seductive ‘good time’. It reminded me of the difference between a one-night stand and a long-term relationship. The one night stand is all seduction—the easy, the erotic, the unaccountable that leaves you empty and alone-feeling once the post-coital endorphins finally start to wear off. And the other option is the hard road—a steadfast, bunkered-down resistance. Resilience to the trappings—difficult, hard lesson, but probably more fulfilling.

 

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