Thursday, June 05, 2008

Nightmare in Manhattan

I stepped out into rush hour on Fifth. There was blood in my mouth.

I clenched my lips together, squeezing the blood-drenched gauze that the dental nurse had squashed onto the place where a molar had happily lived for more years than I care to remember. The nitrous oxide was wearing off.

Ah, the dental nurse. I remembered. I had realised we were off to a bad start when I sat in the dental chair, a view of high-rise offices eighteen floors above ground level facing us. She was putting the lead apron over me, ready for the xray.

"Here's your bullet-proof jacket", she joked. "To protect you from the snipers". She waved her hand towards the window. "Or a crane falling", she added, lest I failed to latch on to her sense of humour.

Now normally after a fix of nitrous, I leave the periodontist with an urge to buy clothes. But not today. I half-heartedly entered Cole Haan's. But how was I to buy anything? The periodontist had told me not to talk. But for how long? I thought of the blood, of cranes falling in Manhattan. The traffic seemed noisier than usual. The people around me looked like the people in the carriage on Anna Karenina's last train ride. Time to go straight home. I took a cab and opened my Kindle. I'm reading Tom Rob Smith's Child 44.

"The system might carry them into the Gulags or to a building, just behind this one, on Varsonofyevsly Lane, another State Security compound fitted with sloping floors, log-paneled walls to absorb bullets, and hoses to wash away rivulets of blood".

I snap the book closed. The day had started badly anyway. And I'm not referring to the periodontal experience.

I'd called my daughter back home before I left. It appears she's being stalked. A long story. Frightening actually. But maybe it wasn't true. Nothing about it had made sense, but you never know ... It had had an Ian McEwan like quality in the telling.

Back home. A dose of Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen eases the pain and I fall sleep, the TV blaring. A nightmare of a day obliterated. Temporarily.

I awake an hour later. The TV news is no longer on - it's now showing a documentary on Pete Seeger. "There is a season turn turn turn". Wonderful", I think. "The world is not such a bad place after all." My mood brightens. Life is good.

Then just as Seeger breaks into "Guantanamera" the phone rings. I look at the display, and the time. It's an Australian mobile number and the time there is six in the morning. No one I know wakes up that early. My heart hits my stomach.

There's an X-generation voice on the other end. Things were certainly taking a downward turn! "This is your daughters friend", it upwardly inflected. "Yes, yes, what's the matter?" I snapped. "Oh nothing. She's together. I'm at her place now. She's asleep." Then silence. Then ... music.

I recognise it instantly. Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side". From Seeger to Reed, from one extreme to the other. It's a long song. Precisely 5.58 minutes later the X-generation voice returns. "And the coloured girls go Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo". I interrupt. It's one thing to listen to Lou Reed playing over a phone line 12,000 miles away, but I didn't really fancy listening to Ms X-Generation's rendition.

I was fast losing the gentle visions of world peace brought about by "We Shall Overcome". The world suddenly reverted back to horror. In any case, I mused, Seeger probably supports Obama!

"Did you like the song?" Ms X-Generation again. "Oh yes", I yawned, "I've heard it many times. I think he first sang it before you were born. I see him round Manhattan sometimes. He's old and ugly. Like me."

I don't think she heard me. She was in free-fall, talking about a cousin who was a neo-Nazi, and Christians who are intimidated by women. I let her talk, asking a question now and then.

I find out heaps, but nothing adds up. Her story and my daughter's are worlds apart. I tell her this. There's silence and then she speaks. "Oh I probably shouldn't have talked", she tells me. "That's what happens when you drink all night", I snap.

But she's off again. "MY parents are tolerant and forgiving", she says in tones reminiscent of religious hippie cultists, looking pityingly at the world of men-in-suits, or just "suits" as they now call them.

I look at the clock. Over an hour has passed. I suggest she get some sleep. She agrees. We hang up.

I look around my apartment. NOW what am I to do? Read the book about Gulags? Look at the gaping gum in the mirror? Love my neighbour?

Lou Reed or Pete Seeger?

"A hustle here and a hustle there
New York city is the place where ..."

Lou Reed it is.

No comments:

Post a Comment