i have been somewhat deftly out maneuvered
there are angry, swarming pigtails of cigarette smoke in the heavy night air and the oppressive smell of warming diesel fuel coming in from the idling truck. around me — on me — water is collecting. hard to tell, if it is sweat or condensation. the night is both cool and balmy. this is not May weather. not for Brooklyn.
i am in Park Slope — that once super-hip, super-cool, super-jazzy Brooklynest of Brooklyn places. a real uncentralized center-spot. the old mixing pot. and i was a young man in his teens when it began to change from its old way to the new, more gentrified, night-friendly, homogeneous baby-town it is now.
[nb: indeed, i am thinking: the last time i was hanging out this far north-slope at night it was one of the final performances at the legendary Hip Hop venue SouthPaw before it became an indoor baby-habitat.]
it was made official with a high-five. park slope ain’t been this hip since… well since a long time coming.
three men talking in a pool room. because they met as boys, it is difficult for them to perceive their own collected adult manliness. despite how, in every day action, they are adults. strong-willed, argumentative, sure, and ambitious — they inhabit the old dynamic when they are together. that of the boys from the same neighborhood, just blocks apart. whose parents knew (and know) each others’ parents, whose siblings knew (and know) each others’ siblings. who used to play basketball in the backyard or football in the street or videogames in the bedrooms (ignoring homework that really should have been done).
but now, those dramatic and care-free days are some distance gone. not quite a score years, but greater than a decade. not forgotten — not even a bit decayed — but, now, definitely memories. not recollections [which would seem to casual: do you recall what we had for dinner last Thursday?], but also not remembrances [which would seem too far off. as if one of us had died. and we were all past the primeness of being].
they are memories. they are not the story but they are the backstory. the origin tales. the prequel.
it is miraculous to take a moment and think of how far that relatively short distance of time really is to one’s finite corporeality. once, back then, they were all different but all very much the same. if they were to meet now — they would be hardpressed to find something in common.
one, soon to be married. one, engaged and cohabiting. the last, a once-now-and-future loner.
very different. but they make a strong team. and the ties that bind have them all wrapped up. they are, for better-and-worse, brothers of a sort. which, in its own way, is like immortality.
soldiers live. and wonder why.
they talk and talk and talk til the first few minutes of the new day. drinking brown liquor, checking the score, and calling home to get a few more minutes.
that last of those being not unlike those old halcyon days.
in the Slope, she says, “i think you should be the one to do it.”
and i demure, not wanting to being charge of things. saying, “i would — but i have so much other work to do.”
and they blow more smoke which hovers gaily (like a man bursting from a room to discover himself naked in public) for a moment before it slowly works itself apart.
“i think you would be good at it. we could do it together.”
this is a clever gambit, because i am wary of people but a sucker for collaboration. thus am i worked over. and i open up with all my ideas gushing out at once. mostly, i think, incomprehensible. she nods and she smokes. the light changes. changes back.
i hear myself finishing with something like, “and that’s how it could be done.”
it is made official with a high-five. no witnesses. honor is the only contract.
a couple of hours later, I realize I have signed on for what I specifically said I would not do. and that I have been deftly out-maneuvered. which is right — i was hiding. and should be more boldly being.
ten years is a long time. or, at least, it used to be. and what will we say when we all meet again [in thunder, lightning, or in rain]?