Monday, October 26, 2009
# 24 – NOTEBOOKS
I was carrying notebooks with me these days, but I hardly wrote anything in them, though in this darkened place I made sure mine was with me on my lap.
I did not write anything in it for there was nothing here to write. I thought of when years ago I had been traveling around the obscure, virtually unmapped, eastern parts of Anatolia and making all sorts of journal notes about interesting things, from bear baiting in dusty village squares to a knife fight on a speeding bus to a ghettoized red light district where a rare pretty girl among beaten down women sat nude in a window. I described strange fast sex starting the moment I walked in and she drew the blind. And also other strange people I met – like a young Ivy League type American, a sort who would become so familiar to me later in Southeast Asia, this one mysteriously living in a cheap hotel in a dusty nowhere town. He asked me to describe in detail every place I had been and everyone I had met, and so he must have been a low level CIA person. And I had tried to recreate in notebooks the sweeping landscapes, and the Roman ruins that nobody knew about and the places where there had been whirling dervishes – all these interesting things.
And in the candelight meeting now I thought also of traveling across Africa alone in market trucks. I thought of my time in revolutions or near revolutions – Haiti, Cuba, Angola. And in Laos and Burma, and of course the heart of Borneo darkness. All these things that I thought defined me, all these times in which I had made notes fairly confident that I would write books about what I was seeing – and sometimes I did. But there was nothing to take notes about here in this room.
There were several people sitting on the stage, led by a man with a firm professor’s voice named Ram who was part of the Rajneesh cult that had been in the news, something I would never go near. There was a pleasant young lady with long light brown hair who said she was a fashion designer and said many people came to ACOA and then found they had to stop drinking or drugging and joined AA or NA or some other A. This didn’t apply to me, since I did not drink anymore and only, unlike with my drinking, had occasional cocaine, but it was rare and I never bought it myself. So here right at the start was one of many things that night that did not apply to me.
And then a man with a sloppy grey beard squinted through half glasses and read something he had taken off an inspirational Christmas LP about living in the present, which he seemed to think was original. And then a clean cut guy got up and talked about that harrowing Frost poem I had read in my near terminal depression, about the sick old hired hand from the awful family. And the guy speaking actually quoted that disturbing line about home being where when-you-have-to-go-there-they-have-to-take-you-in as if he thought it was saying something positive about homes – which thank god was something people here in these meetings were rarely positive about, and seemed to me the most stupid misreading of the deadly poem. And Lisa talked and talked about her cat throwing up. And there was a lot more, people telling stories, but this non-story part was the part I focused on.
I focused on my picture of a girl I knew slightly from meetings who was here this night in a low cut satin like dress such as often inaccessible pretty girls used to wear for holiday parties when I was much younger. Like with the girls back then, when she leaned over I could see almost to her nipples. In another meeting she had talked about how she could not understand why she kept trying to please people, including her boyfriend, whom she was so careful not to disturb after sex because he thought it was so important that he have uninterrupted dreams, from which he would wake up from time to time to write the latest one down, and then go straight back to sleep, and she obediently refrained from touching him.
And then the meeting was over. Midnight having come and gone. I drifted to a diner where some people I did not know were going and we all sat around and I felt isolated. It was after midnight now and our table was the only sober one in the diner, but I had no more connection with people at the sober table than with those at the drunk tables.
And when I got back to Chelsea I did start to write in the notebook I was still carrying. I started to write about how hopeless I felt, what a grim night it had been, though it had started out so well at my old friends’ party in the Village, and had seemed so promising as I sort of glided across Manhattan through timeless cinema-like scenes in this Indian summer night. But the candlelight meeting – what was that all about? – and haven’t I been here before? – in places, like the candlelight room, like the diner, with people with whom I have no connection? Like someone lost in a Hopper painting.
And then as I was writing it I skipped back to just before the diner. And It was the end of the candlelight meeting – and Ram asked in his firm, cultivated voice if there was anyone here who had been coming to these meetings for less than ninety days. And I put my hand up along with a few others, and then less than 60 days, and I was the only one with my hand up, and he asked from the stage if now, when everyone would join hands, I would lead the serenity prayer.
I had forgotten this part just after it happened. The moment the people and the place stopped seeming ridiculous. I did not remember it while in the diner, or in the subway home – the E train from its multi-tiered West 4th Street station at 8th street to the northern exit of the more humble 23rd Street stop, which came out right across from my building on 25th Street. I had forgotten that part. My joining. Oh god, nothing was what I thought it to be. I was right there in the middle as we all held hands and I led the prayer – my saying a prayer being as unlikely as my leading one. And it did not matter if no one in my imaginary audience for my writing had any idea of what I was writing about. Nothing like that mattered now.