"It was morning, yet it seemed to him that the day was ending, that the light was retreating and abandoning the furniture, the room, every little thing bit by bit. He understood then that what he lacked was not air or a clear view of things or Ada's body. The something missing was much more vast and obscure, something neither close at hand nor far away, rather running parallel. The work of doing without was incessant: gnawing, gnawing."
—Severo Sarduy, Firefly
"But the sun was shining, and some of the people in the world had been left alive, and it was doubtful whether the ridiculousness of man would ever completely succeed in destroying the world—or, in fact, the basic equanimity of the least and commonest flower: for would its kind not come up again in the spring? come up, if necessary, among, between, or out of—beastly inconvenient—the smashed corpses lying in strict composure, in that hush infallible and sincere?
"And was not this something to be thankful for?"
—Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha
I got a late start leaving the spider house and by the time I found my car the helicopters were already buzzing overhead. Hardly worth noticing, but I noticed—in the way that you sometimes can’t help but observe that all the unremarkably cruddy things are still cruddy. Your back still hurts and the smog’s still smoggy, that sort of thing. And I thought, squinting up at the sky, a thought that has been more and more inescapable these last few years: the sci-fi future is here. And not the good one (a robot maid to fluff the pillows and fold the underpants of every man, woman and child on earth), the scary one, the one that once seemed paranoid—but is it paranoia when the state is as mad-dog crazy as the weather and its main presence in your life, if you are lucky, is a noisy floating cop, hovering up there to remind you that you are being watched, all of you, that they are literally on top of things, waiting, at the ready? Sure, fine, let’s be liberal and nostalgic if we must and acknowledge that the state still fixes roads in the better neighborhoods and provides some semblance of schooling in the better neighborhoods and funds the pipelines and the oil wells and the wars and keeps the banking system in perfect running order and even helps out so that good citizens can buy themselves brand new sparkling mortgage debt and student debt and ... yeah. I drove to the office and did my usual rounds of the neighborhood in search of an empty unmetered parking space and at one point found myself stuck behind a patrol car with its lights flashing, cruising slowly, like a shark, and I figured the cops were up to their usual late-morning human hunting routine, sniffing the sidewalks for people without papers selling fruits without papers, but this one wasn’t. He was up to something else. He had a special car, I noticed, with a special box above the windshield on the right, and special words above the rear fender: “License Plate Recognition Unit.” He was trolling, you see, gathering data, learning what’s what and who’s where, sifting ones and zeros, performing routine mass surveillance, like Google but even more sinister because he actually had a gun and a whole gang of friends and colleagues with guns and a serious multi-generational organizational track record as serial killers, and I saw a couple of his friends and colleagues a few hours later as I was leaving the office, calling it a day way before I should have. Walking out of the elevator and through the lobby, I spotted a police officer, an LAPD officer, fit and trim like we like them, out there on the sidewalk, and as I left the building I saw that he was watching the street with his hand on his holster while his partner—fit and trim and identical to him, only female—pushed a woman’s face up against the side of the building. I recognized the woman. She’s out there every day. She sells sliced mangos with chile and lime and, if you ask, with a soft green powder made from roasted, ground pepita. I don’t know her name or anything about her, except that she’s Mexican and in her late 40s and she always looks tired and lately the mangos haven’t been ripe and she doesn’t get as much business and it wouldn’t be a great leap to imagine that she has a family to feed which is why she stands in the sun all day selling sliced mango at three dollars a bag, except sometimes when I see her stuck standing by the payphone in the lobby of my building, hiding, waiting for the cops to go away. But today she wasn’t fast enough and they got her, man did they get her, cuffs and all. It took two of them, the female to hold her up against the wall, the male to stand there looking mean on the sidewalk lest any of the other vendors—who were watching in fear and rage and boredom from a safe distance at the end of the block—get bold ideas and attack the protectors of the law with stiff bacon-wrapped hot dogs and a pair of greasy pinzas or a thermos of scalding champurrado and a green-plastic-handled combination mango peeler/slicer. But no one attacked them. I stood frozen for a while and then walked away and to my shame I didn’t say a word and the only thing I know how to do with my shame is write to you so here we are, me writing, you reading, and if you want to talk about Boston, feel free, but I’d rather not because that show they put on of shutting down the city and going door to door is only a more concentrated version of the cruddy everyday, the same bad show with a broader (and not incidentally, whiter) audience.
How was your day, darling?