Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Visit to the City

I recently visited a fellow writer friend of mine, King, in NYC. Now King was a little bit of an odd one. I had always known him as an artist who wanted the powerful to smell the blood on their hands at every moment of their luxurious lives. Not, mind you, that he was so naive as to think they didn't know it—he called them sociopaths on more than one occasion; he simply wanted them to be aware of it. Of course, he hadn't any success on that front. He may have hated them but he also wanted their oligarchic graces, or love (or money). And yet no matter how smart he was, he wasn't aware of this dichotomous aspect of his existence.


But I digress. I met up with King on the penumbra of Union Square. King was smart enough to pick one of those semi-private spaces; an unopened art gallery and book store with a mini garden and waterfall in the middle.

Large HD screens were showing a film with subtitles. I wasn't sure if it was part of the art gallery or not, though I doubted it since it didn't have that air of condescending self-awareness that art-videos tended to have. 

King sat in front of these screens and pointed at the empty seat next to him with a cafe cortado steaming next to it. I nodded my thanks and sat down. The film was a short one, and as it happened, just starting. I stared at it, enthralled.

In the film: multiple particles swirled around a light and as the camera zoomed in, each spoke and a prattle arose. The camera moves to the edges, two particles flying away from the center of mass. As the camera zooms further in, we come upon a couple on a college campus. Grad students: they've come up with a formula for humanity: energy extracted=energy to build +/- energy to kill. 

Slowly the couple, already ostracized for trying to push this formula over the existing ones (GDP and what have you), drift apart. They fight over whether it's + or - on the right hand side of the equal sign. [1] 

The entire movie took 10 minutes and the couple went from completely in love to filled with hate for the other. In the end, they independently ditch the formula as unworkable and the camera zooms out—the particles again—and now the two of them are back in the midst of the mass of particles with all that prattle. The movie starts over again—a never-ending loop.

"This yours?" I ask, knowing that King had always been good with screenplays. 

He nodded and pointed around him. "Wrote it for the woman who owns this place. Rich..." 

I try not to let silence betray my awkwardness—something about him had changed—so I mumbled a little approval.

"Know what her shower is like?"

"No."

"A whole fucking floor. You walk past water falls and it rains on you, or mists, or whatever you want." He shakes his head. "You walk through this thing like it's a tropical rainforest. Some place in Hawaii." He stops to tap my arm, as if to make sure I'm listening. "Get this, you walk through canyons, rain falling on you, and you come to a pool where you can have a bath or swim.... on the second floor of a building. You gotta try it."

I wasn't sure when I was going to get to try a shower like that. "Sounds very creative. Meanwhile people go homeless and dropping water tables are leading to deaths of millions."

He shook his head in disgust. "There you go again. The sad writer."

"Fuck you."

"How are sales?"

"Fuck off."

He shook his head. "I wanna have a shower like that, man. No starving for me."

It was an odd conversation, almost a confession. But he was right, and I knew it. "It's a nice shower, I'm sure."

"Gotta give up on that prose shit. It's for old people anyways."

I shrugged. He was not entirely wrong, but it stung. "No more prose, huh?"

"Working on the next thing. You should too."

A silence filled the air between us. I grew suddenly aware of the waterfall and wondered if it was runoff from the shower. No, it couldn't be. There were fish in the pool next to us. I sipped my cortado, feeling the peace of the moving water. The taste of coffee hung in my mouth, then went down with a slight burn. I was getting old. And King had changed. A lot. Where was the guy who once stated that atheists were only disillusioned theists, holding out for a just God?

We both watched two women, each over six foot tall and with the stride and look of a model, walked by crop dusting us with their heavy perfume.

King and I exchanged looks and shook our heads. 

"What are you working on now?"

I explained my latest story: me standing in my apartment, an odd phone call from a building across the way asking for help. I go, I enter a labyrinth, slay monsters, find nothing but the phone that I was called from. 

"Still with that existential bit? And those labyrinths?"

I was not sure when it started, but there was a real hatred in his voice. "Guess so." My voice cracked. "You?"

He stared at the models, then took out three pieces of paper, crumpling them all and opening them up. He drew lines on each where the creases had formed. 

"This." He held up one. "Represents the relationship between the characters. This," he held up the other one, "represents the arc for the plot. And this is each character arc. That's how I'm writing now. Trick is, to find the right medium. It ain't old-fashioned prose."

I nodded, impressed. "Let me know what works."

"I will."

We parted ways and I sensed that we were no longer friends. My awe for his idea—mixed with the fear that it couldn't be done—was soon replaced by an intense jealousy. I went back to my story to chip away at the rough edges, but I sensed the futility of the project, that it would never see the light of day and I wondered if he would accomplish what he had set out to do. 





[1]   There are a few arguments over the possible a, b constants next to the energy variables, but these arguments are no where as heated as the +/_ one. For the latter one is where each's view on humanity is hinged.



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