A woman rides a bike past L on the bike path and says: When night time comes, the lighting down here is not up to par.
L wants to walk the length of the bike path and then turn around and walk it the other direction and see what he missed the first time.
He can see clearly. It’s daytime. He has no way to verify what she’s said, and she’s long gone now. She’s biking and he’s walking; they’re both on the bike path along the river and they’re going two different speeds and she’s worried about the visibility at night. L worries about seeing what he needs to see each day.
He spends much of the day trying to figure out what he needs to see.
Most days he does not see what he needs to see. What would it be? He’s not sure he would know if he did see.
If he sees a man have a heart attack and he runs to save him and calls paramedics and goes home and tells his friends, I saved someone today, I saw him there dying and I had saved him; would this be what he needed to see that day?
He starts walking north at the start of the park on the river. He strolls. He listens to bikers bike by and say: walk on the walking path or make way or why are you here why are you here why are you here? And he doesn’t answer because he’s just walking.
A tandem bike goes by; one rider says: My dogs are growing at an accelerated rate. They’ll be the size of carriage horses soon.
L can’t hear the rest. The duo is out of sight.
He read once that carriage horses are the cream of the crop. One in a thousand are considered for the role, far less accepted. It takes a certain horse to stride calmly through the city, as it does for any other living thing. L thinks humans would not do well in the city either if they had a harness and blinders on, people in tow, trotting between cars; humans struggle without all this anyway.
Piers are on the left, a way to keep oneself placed in the park. Walkers funnel to the piers and avoid runners who loop out into the water and back and onto land and they haven’t sensed the change whatsoever but it’s still occurred.
Walking on the bike path is a practice in spatial awareness. L sometimes thought this was the same as compartmentalization. In that he thought spatially about everything he could manage and subsequently boxed everything into its own private spheres and this felt equally spatial and compartmentalized but he thought in the end it was spatial first.
L sometimes wrote short stories which he thought about spatially. This goes here but not before that, but also he might decide it goes after but regardless all the pieces float in his head until they alight into their designated spots.
Bikers came by and left and they had taken up space around L and now they weren’t and he hadn’t noticed the change at all except to spatially acknowledge there had indeed been an alteration of himself and his surroundings.
Pier 40 is on his left now. Parking lot, garden beds in the middle, trucks idling with deliveries; plants in one for the park nearby, soda cans for office buildings and vending machines. L heard once that the west side of Pier 40 is slowly corroding away into the river. The stilts and wooden poles holding it up are receding back into a soggy state of permeability and were giving now rather than holding which they did so well for so long.
L doesn’t notice any construction or maintenance. He assumes the pier will disappear and something new will take its space one day.
This is how the city is designed. This is how the people of the city are designed. It is always easier to replace something that is missing, rather than try to find it again.
Past pier 40 now; he’s walking on the right side of the path, hearing the wheels and whirs of the gears coming up behind him and then passing. Some electric, some not, some scooters and some motorcycles, they don’t all belong here but are here and so is he so they all move in the same direction.
T, who he knows only slightly, a person he sees at parties sometimes and greets but nothing more, comes up to him on the bike path. Where did he come from? He came from another direction other than his own, L decides.
T doesn’t say anything to announce why he’s there but instead begins walking alongside L, and once they’ve attained a good pace, he begins speaking.
T: I had to go walk around, I can’t stand my job. I’m going to enumerate the complaints I have and also some thoughts I had while waiting for more complaint-worthy events to arise.
L nods. He too, in a way, was looking for a distraction.
T: A coworker has made a Caddyshack reference each of the last two days. He does not care that I’ve never heard of it. Caddyshack is an NFT; Beeple drew and sold an NFT called DaddyShack. I wonder if the elevator ride up the Freedom Tower, when it shows the simulation of the city rising up into the sky through the centuries, if the riders get to see 9/11 too and if not, what else isn’t included? The simulation shows a map of every celebrity apartment and most tourists spend the trip up into the sky saying who’s that? Who’s that? And when they get to the top they say, oh those people are artists and we’ll hear about them when they’re dead. What else? I heard three coworkers at the same time agree every woman in a park they had eaten in for lunch was a Karen. One of the workers came up to me and said: There’s Karen’s everywhere in the park… But sometimes my coworker calls them Sharon. So… I go to church for the music. The music with guitars and it’s on stage and when it’s no longer church and I’m swaying back and forth saying how great is god but I’m saying how great is this mod and I’m streaming and now I’m wearing my VR headset and I’m bumping into other people who are singing amazing grace and I’m saving face baby! That’s where the phrase comes from, saving face, no one knows who Grace is. I don’t want to save her! She’s amazing though. Another thought: writing in cursive readied me for social media. I’m writing in cursive and it’s not a standard font and I feel oh so special, I feel pretty, oh so pretty! and my flip phone readied me for the Instagram aesthetic of this day and age and we’re going through the motions, the cycles! The cycles! The cyclists go by, look at them L. We’re in it. We’re living in this. Which cycle is next? I’m watching Jersey Shore on my dial-up internet on a boxy-ass television set and I’m saying mom I need chicken fingers pronto! and she’s in the kitchen, I’m a child! Cycles! The cycles…those cave paintings in Portugal, the hands…only thing they knew how to do all those tens of thousands of years ago: here’s my hand which is the only way I know of to say that I have been here before and they all did this, this group of Neanderthals, and left this beautiful imprint, oh so pretty!, and it’s the same! It’s the same as the gum wall in Seattle and the locks on that bridge and anything else. We’re just saying we were here…
L doesn’t know what to make of this. This is not the kind of distraction he had hoped for. This kind of distraction was available everywhere. He had been scrolling his phone earlier, reading comments on a story in the Times, and living inside this distraction.
They walk for a while longer and finally, finally reach 59th street which is the end of this section of the park but not the bike path. T stands off to the side of the bike path and stares at L, who feels he can do nothing but continue to listen and ingest whatever T is going to spew forth.
He’s saying: You haven’t seen anything yet! I’ll show you stuff you’ve never even thought of, can’t conceive of! I’m still waiting to see what it’ll be. And when I do… I’m a zooooooomerrrrrr because I’ve been on my computer all day long and don’t let them tell you there aren’t generational divides because there are and it’s all about how much we use the internet. That’s it! My dad says: Web3 is coming. People are going to use the web in new ways. This is engaging for people of my age and I said me too! And he said we are the same and I said no dad, no we’re not, we’re not because I’m out here curating, curating anything and everything I can! I’m here saying: give me performative life or give me death! And I’ve been online all day and you haven’t! I stuck my tongue at him… He’s a boomer, he’s a child of the boom boom pow generation, he’s a part of the Black Eyed Peas generation, he’s a part of where’s the love generation and no one’s asking that anymore! If you can’t find it you weren’t meant to! If you can’t find it, look in Web3. If you can’t find it, look to god. If you can’t find it, roll up a dollar bill and say I’ve had so much coke tonight and what’s that pill I just took? I’m trying not to remember names of drugs because it’s embarrassing to know so much about such useless things but they are fun so… if you can’t find it you have to keep doing lines and then staring into the dusty mirror and say love three time’s and the ghosts of all heroes past will arise in front of you and say we’ve been very naughty and went and changed the world so we’re very sorry for what we left you with and that’s okay, that’s okay, I calm them down, I tell RBG: We don’t care and I’m still looking! I’m still looking. I’m zooming around looking; that’s why we have zoomers as a generational name; they’re flying around looking and searching in real life and online and they can’t find anything, nothing at all…
L nods only to move a part of his body in response. He can think of nothing else to do. He is here, listening, trapped though he’s sure if he turned and walked away he would be fine, safe, perfectly happy and content.
T: Man…I’m struggling. I’m…damn! I’m selling headspace to the highest bidder…I’m…this is what early religion must have felt like, Christ’s first followers were so skinny, so hot. They counted their ribs off to each other and laughed and this is what they said God wanted for his sons and daughters but really only sons because look at their faces! They said: We’re gaunt and oh so pretty and Jesus with his long hair and his man bun and his thirst for water and happiness and lack of despair and the giving of ourselves to something greater…I’m struggling. God, I’m so thirsty.
T trails off speaking, and walks east into the city, mumbling to himself.
L turns around and walks the opposite way down the bike path; “back towards whence I came” L thinks, and keeps his eyes peeled, even as he tries not to, searching and searching and searching.
He doesn’t see the point in ending the search.
Maybe he’ll come back at night and see. See if what the woman said was true. Will he be able to make anything out? Maybe he’ll miss something.
He’s struggling too. Not that this is a surprise.
L eventually sits and waits for the woman to hopefully come back and tell him if he should be scared. If he should go home now and accept he has no chance of coming here at night and seeing anything at all.
He wishes T was here, blabbering on, distracting him. He misses sounds which are not the ones he knew he’d hear.
Some time passes. He’s not sure how much. He’s been sitting and waiting for the woman and thinks she’ll have to come back soon, that she began on the bike path in one spot and should finish it in the same. Or she’ll go through the city and he’ll never see her and instead he’ll find himself sitting on the bike path each day, and when he does finally spot her she’ll have to answer his questions, his yelled queries of what have you seen and can you see enough and where should I be looking? But she doesn’t come that day while he sits and maybe he won’t ever come back, he’s not sure she’ll tell him if he does.
He hears murmurs behind where he sits and glances over his shoulder. T is slowly moving back across the crosswalk to him, talking to himself, spastic and arms moving, he’s shaking in his speech, body wobbles and lip wobbling and he’s gesticulating as he’s never seen someone do before; he’s moving closer and L takes a deep breath, one more to be sure, and turns to listen.