There are sounds that come from trees that he cannot explain or identify. He understands the sounds are emanating from bugs or birds, but with no visible origin of noise, he assigns the eruption to the tree. The trees calling out to each other, communicating, another language he does not know, will not learn.
He carves his first initial, T, into the tree he finds to be the loudest and walks out of the park on the river towards sounds which seem to him much more sane.
Handprints smear through the dust on the tiles in the subway station. Someone climbed down onto the tracks and rubbed their hands on the wall on the other side of the platform from where passengers stand waiting. A bench nearby was painted purple and smelled like lavender. He took a picture of the wall, and then the bench, and kept moving, a train taking him away.
T sat on the train and departed out of the doors and up the stairs. He walked towards the West Village from the Canal St. stop, and thought about how people had been sharing the dreams they had the night before with him more often than normal. They would be talking about something else, and soon, quite nearly out of nowhere, someone’s dreams would be conveyed to him. These nighttime dreams. The kind that meant nothing, those were perfect to tell. There was little at stake with these, it was the ultimate filler. He enjoyed hearing about these memories, glimpses of the night before, he rarely had them.
The sidewalk was full of trash. T walked in the street and felt like skipping, but he saw his friend G and held himself back. Do people skip?
Have you skipped recently? Knee up, foot follows with the leg, and then land on the ground and switch, moving along, faster than a walk? T asked him.
No. I try not to rush anywhere. It comes off badly, he replied.
I think I am the same, T said.
A tree nearby increased in volume, a full-body kind of noise, emerging from all the leaves and branches at once.
Shhhh, T murmured as they walked past, and glanced at G to see if he noticed anything. He had read in a novel recently the line: Amend me my misliving, and he also wanted to whisper this to the tree, but thought better of it. G convinced him at some point later on in the day to go to the Mets game that L had invited them to that night along with their friend, S.
S says she is excited and expects to catch a baseball, that she wants to hear what it’s like to have a stadium decide as one to cheer for your actions; the simple action of catching a baseball. It happens constantly on the field to little applause, G told T.
I’d like to know how many noises I hear each day, T said. G looked at him and then they continued towards L’s place, where they have promised they will drink at before departing for the game.
L answers the door. A fourth floor apartment, two bedrooms, in Hell’s Kitchen near Central Park, they rode the elevator up. L is wearing a Mets jersey and a backwards hat, and hugs them both as they walk in. He asks where S is.
She’s on the way, G said.
Do you think she’s on the way? Or about to be?
Does it matter?
Expectations are important to me, you know this.
You do know this, T said to G while he rolls a joint and hands beers to the them.
G is speaking: I told my girlfriend I wanted to get a tattoo of her, or at least her name, on a concealed part of my body, in tiny print. It would take up a minuscule amount of space on my body. The way I explained this to her, the degree to which I detailed how little amount of space her name would take up on my body was to the point of being disturbing, detrimental to our relationship. Yet she was so sure that I should not sell a part of my body like that, even if it was her name, even if we might be together forever, that she wouldn’t want to brag about this anyway, her name existing somewhere new and permanent for all time, she thought it was something to be kept between us and what was the point of that?
Would you want to tell others? T asks.
I just wanted her to know, I think, G says. He takes the joint that T has lit and inhales on it once, twice, three times, before breathing out, and he passes it along on its journey, and he continues speaking.
I purchased an expensive pen, one that does not smear or run or appear to even be ink from a pen. One that would convey the reality of what I was hoping for her, us, me, to get out of this little line of type I wanted on some hidden away, obscure part of me. I wrote her name on the sole of my right foot and while lying on the couch one day, my feet propped up on her thighs, she sitting upright and rubbing my shins, saw her name, and pushed my legs to the ground. She said something would have to change about that, about the sole of my foot, G says.
One day it is amusing, another day it is melancholy, and most days meaningless, that the sole of the body is in the foot, L says.
For another time, T says, and G continues speaking, while L gets them more beers, and pours shots for each of them which they all refill twice, and one of them places a large baggie of coke on the table and G keeps speaking but everyone’s hands are now moving as this happens. They have to listen closer, they miss more than usual no matter how close they get.
A truck drives over the potholes outside and the vibrations rattle the windows. T assigns this noise to the large gingko trees near the window.
G is speaking: Even when I told her that it was only pen, easily removable, it would come off the next time I showered, she was still angry. I said it was only for her and me, and she said that’s now how this worked. I said that people who go to baseball games wear another person’s name on the back of their shirt. It’s very common for people to have another person’s name largely displayed on their body. This was fashionable. A pillar of fashion. Not just at sporting events. She said she didn’t understand or didn’t want to, she actually said she did not want to, and I accepted this.
Have you talked about this since? L asks.
Not directly, G says. A knock on the door and S comes in and they drink and do some lines and everyone’s hands are moving and hugging each other and the conversation is lost for the time being and they’re checking their phones while they wait for a lull so that they can try to chat about non-trivial things but it’s so hard to stop their hands once they get going like this, stop their mouths from speaking about themselves and the ideas and emotions that have been holed up in them all day. So much more information had crisscrossed the world because of the shots they were taking and the lines they were doing right this instant. T couldn’t hear what S was saying to G seated on the couch, but she cradled G’s head and kissed him on the forehead and G smiled and went back to his beer, his mood improved.
Unlicensed therapy, T says but no one hears and they continue as they were. He rolls another joint and smokes it, and wonders why loud noises from humans are given to words like scream and yell and shout and yelp, and these are startling actions, a person is startled by a scream, concerned and fearful when hearing shouts. The noises from the trees were loud and overwhelming and calming and placid. He smokes the joint by himself until G taps him on the shoulder and he passes it along.
Are we going to the game? S asks.
Who will catch the foul ball if we don’t? G asks.
It’s fate now, S says, and they finish their drinks and their baggies, or pocket what remains and make their way to the train, wavering and waving along through the sidewalks, glancing around at the uncanny world.
They sit in their seats near left field, as far as they can get from people and the players. I still know what is happening, I can make out shapes and movement, T thinks. S is seated next to him on the left, G to the right. L is next to G.
S is talking about the polaroids she put up on a wall in her bedroom that are in direct sunlight for most of the day. They are pictures of her and her friends, and places she’s been, and other memories, which she says is beside the point. She says she sits on the floor and stares at the photos for a couple hours each day. She concentrates on a row of ten or so at a time; she thinks there are probably a hundred photos on the wall.
Someone walking up the stairs near them says: Arranged marriages are very in these days.
S says that she has, to the best of her abilities, learned to recall all the photos, and when the sunlight eventually fades the pictures away, she will recreate them. She plans to draw and sketch out what she remembers of each photo. Then she will compare her recall, her representation, to a photo of the original.
She said that this exercise would bring her joy. T asked if it already had. She said she would only know at the end when it was gone. L said he disagreed. G said the sole of his foot itched. They all watched the game for a little while and exclaimed when fans caught foul balls.
T and L left to go try and do some coke in the bathroom. They waited in a line of men who single file entered the room and stood in front of the long trough or stood in an even longer line for the stalls. They both waited for stalls to open, and stood side by side, the rickety scratched-up silver divider between them.
It’s obvious what I’m thinking over here, L said. T leaned against the divider to make out his voice through the din of the room.
People are grunting out there. Standing at the trough and exiting without washing hands, heads down, not looking at the greasy dirty walls, T says.
The trough brings it out in us, L says.
What are you doing? T asks.
I am peering through the small gap on the left side of the door and watching men avoid eye contact with everyone around, L says.
I did two bumps off my hand, but am now doing the same as you. Not a word has been spoken between any of the men in three minutes and twelve seconds, I’m timing this on my phone, T says.
The line is out the door for the stalls, L says. They both do a couple of bumps off their keys.
Keep your head down, remember, play it cool, T says. They exit after flushing at the same time, and each stares at the ground looking for others’ feet as indications of direction to move, always stomping forward though. L emits grunts and a small sound like a moo and they make it safely out, undetected as intruders.
They arrive back at their seats with beers for everyone and hand them out before sitting down. The game is at a later point now than when they left, this is what S says when T asks how the game is been going. G says that both teams have been participating.
They say things like this to each other, encouraging both teams to continue, and then smoke a joint in the parking lot outside and do some more bumps off their keys or their hands and walk down into the train station and ride back to the city.
That was fun for me, T says and they all agree with him. The air is warm, and they walk and it is real around them, the warm air. The trees in the nighttime become louder, and they sing to each other, higher and higher, mixing tones, call and response becomes easy to deduce, to follow the path of the noise, T thinks. His eyes carom back and forth down the sidewalk, imagining the noise dancing to and fro across the street, gently alighting on branches and leaves, before leaping once again to another sprout of growth. T begins yelling. S grabs him on the arm and asks what’s wrong, and when he doesn’t stop, she tries to make him, but L and G pull her away gently and she calms down and they keep walking ahead of T as he yells. He takes a breath and continues, rising in pitch every so often.
He’s harmonizing, says G, and they all three nod as if in understanding, and G stops to take his heel out of his shoe so he can itch his foot and then they continue moving, slowly distancing themselves from the noises they know the origin of to ones they don’t yet.
In the warm night, which will be warm forever, they sense that there is joy somewhere to be found in all this, if they ever felt the need to look hard enough.