There was a joke told by Rodney Dangerfield about trying to catch your own profile as you walk by a store window, thinking that you could you see yourself, if only for a nanosecond, in a state of not being aware that you're being observed. All in vain, of course, as all you catch is a snapshot of you pouting somewhat, puckered like a lovesick fish, grimacing with downcast eyes, annoyance tempering the disappointment of not catching your reflection unaware. In the meantime, you bump into people you didn't see coming the other way. You mumble apologies, get of earshot of profanities, careful not walk into traffic when you come to the corner. There's an attempt to recover from this sudden embarrassment by rifling through a mental card file for poems, tv shows or the last good sex you had as a means of distracting from being exposed, you believe, to the world as being human and not completely altogether when you walked out the door. Vanity is the real meaning of the name your parents gave you and you wonder with all the atrocities and incidental evils perplexing the globe how could succumb to such a minor-league narcissism .
On the other side of the window are the people who have already arrived to where they were going, seated at tables over glasses of water and wine, looking at menus; you imagine yourself already at the location you need to get to, safe in a seat with a wife, watching television, anonymous in the shadows of your own making. On the coffee table are the glasses you thought would aid you in seeing the pure profile of you perfect jawline, the certitude of the chin rising to like the prow of a ship cutting a path through aggravated waters, next to the iPod and the ear pieces you wore to make the world sound less like a city at war with it's mechanical parts and more like sound track for an under-lit porno. All in this world of caffine and chatter appears to be going along as expected, nothing planned, nothing sinister on the surface of things, just coffee and over-sugared pastries making the chatter, hand gestures and facial expressions more dramatic than they would under what one imagines would be normal circumstances. Everything, even the doilies under the saucers cradling the expensive coffee drinks, seemed agitated and angular. A man and woman at a corner table have abandoned the books and crossroads they came to kill time and were discussing poetry and poets,their voices raising in volume until the nerves in the back of your neck take up the vibe and your brain is jolted again with the power of someone else's anxiety and their over emphasis on phrases that demanded the emphasis to start with. Discussing Rilke might as well been a debate on abortion rights, exchanging views on Rimbaud could have been death threats and daggers across a muddy battle ground. The universe has no volume control. Everyone is deaf and they all want to be heard.
The clown shoes are off, the tie is undone, the television nags at you with come ons for shampoo and retirement accounts, prescription drug plans and limited edition gold coins and commemorative plates, your wife is already asleep , you cannot stop thinking of what it is you need to do, your fingers twitch, move in motions like warm up exercises , you want to write something that will put the light back into the day that get darker the longer you stay alive, you want clarity, you don't want to vanish as though turned off with a remote control, reduced to something less than the white do that used to dominate the television screen when the last credit scrolled by and bed time was immediate, irrevocable. You might miss something, you might miss lending your voice to the running stream of remarks that make up the news of the moment, you wanted to write history as it happened, the evidence of your senses keen enough to define the tone and temper of the good and bad things that make this existence such an exciting thing to stay awake for