Seven Times

I
Tall and short buildings cleave the urban sky. Some people, housed in a suite of offices or a loft, ignore their neighbors, others are nosy and pry. Blinds and shades, doors, locks, and keys offer privacy, and walls restrict sight, and limit sound, sometimes; but walls also entice curiosity, so the voracious hide cameras in bedrooms and bathrooms. Spaces, designed by and for people, usually contain the same objects, with rooms that designate their placement: a computer goes there, TV and bed there, desk here. Table, chairs, couch. Set pieces, really, and spaces for clutter.

Outside, sidewalks, streets, and roads.

People leave their homes and offices to go somewhere, do something. There’s a goal, a motive, since humans also design their days, writing lists, making plans. Some have nothing to do, and plan on spontaneity to see them through. They often feel tremulous.

Universal signs punctuate the syntax of space, and let the restless saunter along sidewalks, reading messages, or loiter at corners, even blindly cross roads, without harm.

Walk on the right, the left.
One way.
Dead end.
White lines, black streets.
Yellow CAUTION.
Green GO.
Red STOP.

II
A red light changes, a pedestrian steps into the crosswalk, a car swerves to avoid her, tires skid, she’s down. A scream, another scream, cell phones out, a crowd gathers and gawks. “What happened? Did you see it?” a man yells. “I’m calling 911,” a girl shouts. Horns blare in unison. Traffic creeps, because of all the rubbernecking.

Emily is spaced out, aimless in the living room. She once slid across its shiny floor, a kid screaming with happiness. Now she is pacing the length of it.

Emily hears a crash and horns, and rushes to the picture window. She can’t tell where the noise came from, and looks toward the park. A horse and carriage, ferrying overheated tourists, clip-clops on a broad path. To Emily, a dark, silent blur.

Maurice approaches his building, and there’s a loud screech. He looks at the blue sky. A hawk, he thinks; a few have nests in the nearby park. He’s a tall man, Emily’s father, with a long nose, dead straight from one angle, wickedly crooked from another.

Emily looks down and then up, across the street to a majestic building where her best friend, Grace, once lived.

In the park, Grace has just scooted out of the path of a horse and carriage, and is hating tourists. She lifts her head high, angling her neck, and sees the building where she once lived, tiny in the distance. A brilliant bluebird lands near her, when Grace hears a terrifying crash.

Maurice quickly glances up, at his apartment on the sixth floor. The windows reflect the glare of the afternoon sun. He can’t see anything.

The sun is shining bright yellow against the blue sky, heading in its path toward the west where it will drop. On the roof, Emily’s mother, Jane, in dark glasses and a forest green shirt, has been watching a teenaged girl dancing on a nearby rooftop.

Jane hears an ominous cry, and clamor. Since 9/11, she has expected another disaster. Now she looks down at the sidewalk, where she sees her husband, Maurice.

Maurice is still as a statue, praying it’s the hawks.
Stunned, Grace sees the alarmed bluebird fly away. Grace doesn’t move.
Emily falls to the floor, just in case.

III
Divisions between people aren’t neat, not anywhere. Sidewalks don’t have places for hiding, and, outdoors, corridors for walking and driving are invisibly drawn, so collisions can be physical and metaphorical. Each character has a point of view, reasons and emotions; each can assume a position. People walk into and out of the frame, onto pavements, into alleys, into doorways, they disappear and appear again.

It’s a pleasure to grab the last seat on a park bench.
“You can’t be everywhere at the same time,” a woman tells her friend.
“I wish I had eyes behind my head,” the friend answers.
“You’re so paranoid,” the captious woman says. “You’d look totally weird.”

IV
People fascinate each other and invent stories about them, they capture them in movies and novels. To want to know energizes human ingenuity. People buy and make objects; and they are objects to each other, also. Face reading gets a lot of play, mind reading, too, but misrecognitions and projections guide conversations, confounding both tellers and listeners. Luckily, people forget way more than they remember.

V
“No Trespassing” stirs transgression.
Fantasies spool out like thread.
Memories shake loose.
Wishes get buried.
Thoughts go homeless.
The lost can’t be found.
Torrents of experience, multiplicities inside multitudes, overwhelm omniscience.

VI
Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote: “Only describe, don’t explain.”
Imagine simultaneity.

VII
Time passes like a stranger walking down the street.

Lynne Tillman
Barbara Probst published by Hatje Cantz, Germany, pp.108-110
2013