Tuesday, October 27, 2009
#25 – SUBWAY VOICE
When I was 2 and 3 and 4 support came from people who lived through a mirror in a wardrobe in a very dark room in a house in New Rochelle with an old barn in back and a trolley line in front. And they were there chattering in my head still after we moved from New Rochelle to Weston. They were real, just as I knew the owl that flew into my New Rochelle room one night was real. This stern, feathery creature landed on top of an open door and looked down on me. Real, though I had no real explanation for it. I just knew that support was there.
And these happy chattering people in this not often unhappy place stayed with me when I traveled. When we went to Atlantic city with Gaga and Nana, I found to my surprise that they were still there in my head at night in the Brighton Hotel.
On this New Year’s Day at the start of 1986 I am thinking about childhood. I am allowing thoughts of childhood for what feels like the first time, certainly the first time in several decades. I sleep late and wake feeling oddly calm though it seems I had gone from alienation to hope in the night following that candlelight meeting on St. Mark’s place. I am calm in the light of day as I stroll about my neighborhood. I then go to an early evening meeting.
New Year’s Day is a Wednesday, so it is the same meeting I went to the first time – the one at the big French order church St. Jean’s on the Upper East Side. The meeting that has come to seem normal, but had caused such terror in me so recently.
But now it is like returning to watch the next episode of a familiar serial. I am following the adventures of people I have heard speak before. The overweight three-piece-suit lawyer talking about his Adlerian analyst again and his newest failures with women. The adventurous young lady, soft but sporty, who usually talked about her trips to Russia now hinting about sexual things in the deep and also recent past, and looking less wholesome and more interesting as she talks. A young buy named Dwight who came form a military family and has written a book about his recovery from family violence. I think of my recent anguish, and I appreciate my current detachment.
When the meeting ends I walk alone to the subway, at 77th street. There is a to me pleasing chill to the air now that last night’s unseasonably warm weather is in retreat. The 77th street station is one stop up from the stop that in the deep past I used for my grandmother’s apartment house, where I occasionally cadged a meal or bed. I did not think she had ever been down in the subway herself.
Just after I take a seat in a fairly crowded subway car, time has become timeless . Suddenly I am not detached, am actually connected – connected with something that reminds me of the till now forgotten people from the wardrobe who supported me when I was 2 and 3 and 4. And though seated now in a subway car on the Lexington Avenue line I am seeing myself in a woodland. I who spend so much time in cities and leave cities only for unsafe adventures. I am clearly in the woodland and there is unaccustomed safety. It is night and there is candlelight and I am in a circle of not just supportive people, all of whom seem to be children, but also of friendly forest animals, deer and rabbits and skunks and raccoons. And right here in this candlelit clearing, right here in this number 6 subway car, I hear a warm voice turning loud and angry with the words, “Who wants to stop this children?”
And anger sweeps through me. And just as it peaks it slides down into such sadness that I am actually crying right here on New Year’s Day night in the subway.
And then the sadness sweeps me into anger again. And anger and sadness seesaw in my being as I leave the subway and go back up to my apartment again.
At some point my head clears, as if I am returning from an unearthly place. I realize I am in my apartment in the small hours of the morning. And I am drinking milk and eating Famous Amos cookies, which I have never had before and have no memory of having picked up on my way home .