Any Number of Birds
I would like to unzip my sweatshirt and reveal to you that it is lined with the sky...
It was bitter cold coming across the bridge and I felt all broken up underneath my layers of clothes, like I was crushed down into the smallest possible size while still remaining alive. My stiff fingers could barely turn the key in the lock. Bewildered in the mirror, my bloodshot eyes found nothing beautiful to see.
I crawled into bed and submerged myself in the tumult of blankets. It’s been hard so many times. My body seems to know how to sooth itself after enough pain has passed through it, and I become strangely sedated. It’s dark and I feel a sense of dissolution, my fingers slowly lifting away from my palms. It’s quiet outside. But inside the quiet I sense innumerable pockets of life, like lights on a dark map. I hear the clanging pipes transporting heat throughout the house to the various apartments, and I listen for stories. I imagine a teenage boy upstairs, electrically awake with some secret, sweating underneath the tent of his bed sheets. I imagine a sleeping grandmother, folded into her folds, encircled with soft snores and cooking smells in her clothes.
I feel the city through the thin membrane of my room as though my ceiling were an eyelid closed to the sky. There are skeletons under the sidewalks, bones beneath Brooklyn. There are plastic bags caught in the ocean’s throat, and parched continents, and limbs pinned under rubble. Outside, the can collectors rustle through trash bags, searching for something to redeem. There is no way they can know I am thinking of them on the other side of this wall, and even if they could, there is no amulet I could provide that would keep them safe against the night.
I would like to be able to believe in divine providence, in some universally attainable grace. I would like for the hustler’s pockets to be heavy with ex-voti, each one signifying a miracle fulfilled. I would like for the hustlers to be able to resign. I wish that the awnings of the storefront churches could really shield us, and that all the chilly concrete crevices of the city were lighted with wax-stalactite shrines like secret caves. I would like to never again feel despair while biking across the bridge or curling up in my bed. I want to be as boundless as the sprawled-out avenues and soaring rooftops. I want simultaneous aerial, lateral, and cross-sectional views of all the stories in the city, so that I can superimpose them, so I can form some kind of intangible infrastructure that we can all connect to and therefore never be diminished by any darkness. Sometimes I feel so invincible when my head’s full of songs and images and ideas. It’s a strength that comes from being able to imagine things much bigger than my present reality. Instead of feeling broken up, it’s like all the parts of myself have thin walls and can conspire together. Instead of feeling alone, I can imagine seeing the world through a million different pairs of eyes.
A bit of cool light is seeping in beneath my curtains. Outside, the clattering of elevated subways trains carrying bleary-eyed commuters heralds the grey dawn. I imagine the passengers with their swaying, sleepy bodies and anxious thoughts. I want to make them promises, cup their stories in my hands. All I can do is translate this feeling into the things I do, into my interactions with people and into the projects I take on. There is no way to predict all the ways that my actions may affect people, but I know that if I am dedicated enough, they will catch currents, and travel to unseen and unforeseen places. I have so much to do. I bunch the blankets up around me as if they will help me hold on to these thoughts. I feel the tug of sleep’s hooks, the lapping of the other side, and I slip into the undertow. There is a sky behind my eyelids, filled with any number of birds.