short pieces by Jeff Wiesner
I'm going to write 100 pages. A hundred pages in this book. All hand-written with this ball point pen. They will be 100 original thoughts and ideas, stories and resolutions and revelations about the life that we live. 100 pages in this book that you hold in your hand. You can touch the front cover, and you can touch the back cover, and you can flip the pages so they blow a soft breeze against your face. But will you read the whole thing from front to back without error, word for word, and will you then write 100 pages of your own?
Product of this Earth
The train was filling up quickly and me, I was to be the last one on. Plus my bag was full and protruded from my back like a whole other person. One, two, three my friends piled in and suddenly I had the urge to let the doors close in front of me. I saw the opportunity for escape. I could passively allow them all to leave without me. I wouldnt have to maintain the idle chatter, laugh at jokes that werent funny, compete for attention from someone who might not even be worth it. Id rather retreat to my own world where I am still king. I wont make myself vulnerable to the judgment of others. Im torn up on the inside, trying to figure out when I should embrace the pain and confusion, and when I should cut myself free and abandon these earthly desires. The spiritual world reigns supreme, but still Im trapped in this physical body and I am a product of this earth.
Hold It Now
This is the wait. For trains, buses and planes. At stations and airports and terminals. The quiet patience, the suspension of activity and responsibility. Stand in line, hand over money. Watch the clock, the monitor. Listen to the loudspeaker.
This is the distance. From people who know me, who ask me questions, ask for favors and solutions. I have no skills or information to offer the people around me - aside from Do you have any spare change? and Is this the line for such and such? How do people read me here? What do I look like to them? What do they know? Not much. Im just a person.
I am in transit, in travel, en route as some say. Neither here nor there, no function but to play the simple role of passenger. My identity lost, I have submitted to the machine that runs continuously with or without me. I am nondescript one. One seat, one space, one ticket. A marble running the course of a track planned and refined for years before I was ever introduced. Just let the force of the machine do its work and I will be pushed and pulled in the predetermined direction.
I am going to New York. Not for any reason, not for any purpose. I dont have to be there at a specific time, return by any time, and I dont have to accomplish anything while Im there. I am going to New York to be swallowed by it. I want to be a generic pedestrian who nobody notices or talks to. They wont recognize what makes me unique, my special talents or abilities, my personal strengths or flaws. The decisions I will make are: cross the street here, stop to rest there, eat this food, rest in this spot. I dont have much money to spend, no people to see or places to go. Ill just walk the streets until Im done. I have a bottle of water that will last me a while, a pad of paper and a pen. When I run out of any or all three, I have my return ticket that will end my visit and take me back home.
On the bus, I quietly occupy my space just as I am expected. When I was younger and travelled, half of the stuff I took with me was things to keep me occupied during transit - a sketchbook, markers, pens, a book or two, journal, walkman, a grip of various mixed tapes. These days Im happy to be inactive. I passively observe the people around me, aware of their presence but not doing much to understand who they are. Sure, if I took the time I would realize that each one has a story that is equally unique and amazing. And they might discover the same about me.
Arriving at our destination, I leave one crowd to join another. The activity seems endless and tireless out in the streets: cars, taxis, busses, cyclists, walkers, runners, standers.
I come across four people giving massages on the street corner. One pulls me over and sits me down. Normally I would be quick enough to refuse, but Im not prepared for any sort of communication, let alone something so bold. I succumb to the massage which at one moment was free and is now ten dollars, please. I offer only five, and he whispers okay and continues to pound my arms, back, shoulders, neck.
With a pat on the back, he signals me that we are done. I raise my head, open my eyes and squint at the world around me. Oh yeah, Im on a busy sidewalk in Manhattan. How quickly I forgot.
I walk away with a renewed sense of energy. Where did that come from? Physical contact was the last thing I expected in my travels. My arms are tingling and I feel a glow coming off my face. I may have felt the need before to lose my identity in the crowd and become a generic unit, but now Im ready to embrace the world at large. Dull, gray and smeared has become bright, colorful and precise. I left what I knew to lose myself in a strange place. In the end thats where I found what I didnt realize I was searching for.