“Are you ready for this?” calls Raven to me from the corridor outside my office. “Don’t forget we’re pressing the button tomorrow!”
I sink back in my chair, my feet resting on my cluttered desktop. “Oh, I’ll remember, thank you.”
“OK, then. Goodnight.” The main door hisses and clicks shut after her, muffling her steps across the stone floor of the outside lobby, where a lift-bell rings. To my left, the sun sinks over the Hudson River, turning its water into twinkly pink vertical strips between the towers of Battery Park City.
As I re-enter my office, I feel light-headed. Deciding some fresh air will do me good, I float across the floor and through the window-door to my balcony, where I lean on the rail and find myself dropped into the grand feast of a midsummer sunset spread across a panorama of towers and water. Poisoned sky, dripping orange through the twinkle of the river, presses down hot and thick upon the West Side Highway traffic surging far below.
Strange, but that stab of contempt I just felt in the corridor feels as if it’s made my eyesight clearer, revealing the truth of this idyllic balcony scene we have here. This is me, Jaymi Peek, peeking out of two little eye-slit windows cut into the end of a thin trunk of flesh perched on this giddy ledge above a concrete highway. Each of these windows gives a little wet reflection of the sun across the river, till I feel myself swaying and shut them both—but the sun spikes the eyelid-blinds and tints them vermilion, like eye-shadow. I lay the back of a hand against my cheek, then a palm against my head above the ear. Behind me in the office, where the walls run with moisture, a sluggish ceiling-fan turns. Inside the building’s outer wall a pipe gurgles, as if to break free and flex and coil around me hissing. Below me a siren wails up and down, continuous and smooth as a sine wave, curving where the straight-edged skyscrapers shine.
I rub my eyes. What on earth was in that CreamiChoc? Or that unfamiliar yellow packet of sweetener?
The last boiling drop of red sun sinks away, beside a far-off water-tower standing out sharp against the blood-glow along the horizon. Miles of air make the lights palpitate amid the grid of sad dock streets across the Hudson River. Up the sides of the city there’s a whisper and a flicker—and do rats bare their yellow teeth on fire-escapes and sniff? So New York. A flick of lashes stirs inside the sticky dusk. I peer, to try to make out the eyes I thought I saw hanging there staring from behind the air…
Down across the Highway, among the towers’ geometric shouts into space, children play on fenced-in patches of grass, their voices through the traffic like the tiny bleats of sheep. I picture bomb-blasts climbing inside the skyscrapers, ripping through their roofs and out among the clouds, air whisking in folds from the blades of helicopters with the flash of shattered glass. A squint at great events, through two soft windows slit across the end of a thin flesh-trunk upon a balcony.
As normal clarity curls tight and peels away, I see the perimeters of myself as a whole entity, with the understanding that a driver attains of a car he masters, a jockey attains of a horse that he rides as one with, or a person attains with a long-time partner—a mastery of the possibilities of this particular pairing. This arrival at a mapping of my self’s edges gives me a clearer sense of how this vehicle interacts with what’s around it, and how it could interact. I feel serene, clear, resilient, strong; my sight newly empowered, calm, compassionate, canny, observant, as if beginning again. I’m aware of the wide totality of the scene before me, aware of its larger reality, the elements of infinity and eternity within it. I feel a high like a substance-derived high, but clearer and deeper. I look about me and I smile. So there’s all this around us and in us, in this beautiful empty cosmos, alone as we are in such a strange and fascinating predicament. I laugh aloud. What exhilaration! What riches of terror, beauty, horror and mirth.
As a use for all this, that extinguishment I was observing in the office behind me is like a mutilation of some kind. I was right to despise what perpetrates that … and in effect, although inanimate, it despises me. I seek voltage and revenge, and I’m newly empowered (though I’m not yet sure quite how). OK, it’s a battle. Time for action. Watch me now…
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