bridge of sighs
part-whatever of something or other
by nor mal
"Why so unforgiving and why so cold, been a long time crossing"
It was about lunchtime, in China, when I came face to face with the little armed-robber. That would be about 2:00 AM, our time. Of course, that's only an estimate, because all that was left of my 47-time-zone watch was a pale silhouette, marking the place on my wrist where it might still have been, on any other hot, bloody, Saturday night. So, I guess that would make it half-past a freckle's ass, in Greenwich schoolyard-time. But I'm not sure about China. He didn't really look all that Chinese, anyway. It's just that I was starting to get that sort of "fuck fuck fuck fuck fuckity fuckity fuck ... I wish I had a Lude", like, edgy feeling, you sometimes get when the acid starts to wear off. And that would make it maybe five or six hours after I dropped it ... maybe two hours after the sad bells chimed in Bridge of Sighs.
So, yeah, about 2:00 AM.
There might have been a little Chinese in there, possibly some Sudanese, and I wouldn't even rule out a bit of Baptist Surburbanese, but just in a sort of once-removed, like, Emineminese kind of way. I guess you could call that Urbanese, but I didn't ask him for his papers. It's just that he was my first armed robber, and I wasn't sure about protocol. He looked about fourteen, but might have looked sixteen, if not for looking so much like he wanted his Mom. I was just hoping he wouldn't tune up and fucking bawl on me. That really jangles my nerves.
They cuffed him to the other end of my bench.
It was some sort of cop building, way down town, but not like the ones you see on teevee. They have better robbers on teevee. I've never seen a robber on teevee with his lip quivering like that. And all that other cop-stuff was missing, as well. The whole thing struck me as one of those low-budget jobs, you only watch if you've already seen everything else, five times, and I would normally have just settled for a bit of channel-surfing, instead. I mean, ya never know ... might get lucky and stumble across that Crocodile guy, going like, "This baby is the most venomous variety on the entiiiire planet, and you never, ever, ever, want to get this close to one" ... just before it fangs him, right in the fucking eyeball. That guy cracks me up. Oh yes, it was definitely time to change the channel. But then, that's the whole problem with reality -- more or less.
Maybe all that cop-stuff, like you see on teevee, was up front, somewhere, like somewhere all the way over the cop rainbow. Maybe, if the acid were better, I could have managed one of those out-of-body perspectives, like where you go floating up out of your bloody clothes, right on through the chain-link ceiling, and see yourself below, cuffed to a bench with a scared, little robber. Maybe I could have just popped right on through the regular ceiling, too, and gone shooting up toward heaven, to that place where all the rough edges below sort of blur into the shadows, and the city fills the whole shot with a million shimmery lights. And it looks all sparkly-clean, like a mechanical galaxy in some alternate, alien universe, where everything's all aglimmer with neon dreams, and postcard people who don't smell the piss and the puke and the cordite and the pretty, young dead-girls, rotting on the asphalt. A place where crack mommies don't put their babies in dumpsters and suck dirty cock in the alley for a hit. And those babies don't rob Insto-Mart's with shotguns, and fucking bawl about it later. And trashy blondes in hot, throbbing Chevys just turn up the radio, tune it all out, and go on cruising, happily ever after. And a real gentleman never gets cum in a nice lady's hair. And we never have to kill our friends. And God still loves Robin Trower.
But then he realizes he fucked up and got the wrong guy, and you go falling, cast down, like some piece of trash that's lost it's breeze, and land in the street in front of one of those cop buildings, like you see on teevee. And then it all makes sense.
Or maybe all that just landed on some bitch in a Kansas-dream, right before a gang of larcenous midgets stole her shoes.
I don't know, they brought me in through the back ...
Or maybe it was the side ... hard to say. Mostly, it was just dark, like an alley, only bigger. And it was completely surrounded by featureless brick walls, of shoddy construction -- the very same sort of construction that is sometimes exposed when an adjoining building is torn down. You're never supposed to see that side, because it's just in that gap between the two buildings. Only rats are supposed to see that side. And I suppose there is a certain symmetry to it, considering that not all low-creatures have four legs. Regardless as to what you may have heard, the entrance to hell is not necessarily in the basement. It's more likely in the back ... or possibly the side ... hard to say.
And when you get to hell, you might expect to find the entrance guarded by a massive iron skull, straight out of a Morlock's worst nightmare, complete with fiery eye-sockets and razor-tipped fangs ... but it won't be like that. There will just be a plain, institutional-green, steel door -- hideously plain. No knob. And there will be a single, timid bulb hanging out of the rough masonry above it. But it's even more afraid of the door than you are. It won't shine there. It knows. So you'll just have to get by on that dirty orange glow from a hot, brutal, Saturday-night sky.
I tried to climb back into the unmarked Chevy, as I had become quite attached to the chain-link partition, during our journey, but my servers and protectors were having none of that. I thought maybe the chain-link could help me understand why God was mad at me.
Its funny, how sometimes a repetitive pattern, such as chain-link, seems to take on an added dimension if you look at it for long. It's not so much a physical dimension as like a yearning for imperfection, or some kind of flawed observation that can free it from that dreadful order. I think that's what makes it seem to ripple and sway at the slightest emotional impact. It seemed to be trying to use me to help it evolve into shapes more appropriate to how it felt about pulsing, neon-blue, than to an unmarked Chevy. It shifted to a slightly more logical aspect when I noticed that the handles for my doors were missing. Lowlifes are everywhere. One of the cops, beyond the chain-link membrane, mentioned something about a gas chamber of some sort, and rehearsed a plastic laugh that rippled insincerely through the chain-link, in shades of electric dread. Perhaps I should have paid more attention in chemistry. Inert is a gas ... right?
The chain-link sighed.
As we approached that awful door, the nature of my protectors' assistance became increasingly cruel. Normally, that would have put me off a bit, but under the circumstances there was something very comforting about the strength and power of that brutality. We were obviously entering a dangerous realm. Rhythmic convergence in the patterns of shoddy brick reflected my own emotional convergence and convinced me the wall was in some distress. I shuddered to think about the other side. Trying my best to synchronize breathing with random thoughts, so as not to fall into it's desperate rhythms, I searched for the thought that could save me. The Cat in the Hat sneered inside my head. A loud buzzer sounded and startled the wall to some degree, just as the door moaned open under an ancient strain. It had the sharp sound and taste and pain of metallic agony, like chewing tinfoil with your soul.
We emerged in a chain-link wonderland, but Alice didn't live there anymore. It could only be the work of the Cat: chain-link halls and chain-link walls, angles and jangles of too talls and too smalls. I do not like that Cat in the Hat. I do not like him, and that is that.
fuck that cat...
Destiny, random chance, whatever, is usually a quiet thing, and you never even realize that you took a wrong turn. Maybe if you had glanced to the right, instead of the left, you would have caught the gaze of some stranger in the crowd that would have eventually made your life complete. And then you would have lived happily ever after, drifting quietly through a million more silent forks in the road to a perfect future, instead of getting hit by a bus. You never know you missed it. Maybe it's better that way, because it don't hurt so much. But then, sometimes destiny is cruel and leaves a little marker in your head (or a bus up your ass) to always remind you of what could have been, but will never be. Those markers are never quiet. That door was one of those cruel markers, or rather the hollow, metallic sound it made when it echoed shut behind us. I knew, instantly, that my other futures would never be, and that heavy reverb would just keep ringing on, and on, and on, until ...
Well, I'll let you know if it ever stops.
A trashy blond in a tight cop-skirt and an SS-396 T-shirt buzzed us through a clever opening in the chain-link. No knob. Trashy blondes love big-blocks. There's just something about the pulse and throb of a rat-motor that makes them get all gooey. They don't give a shit about double-overhead cams and electronic fuel-management, or even a bottle of NoS. It takes massive displacement to keep a trashy blond happy -- just like with Harleys.
I wanted to tell her not to cry. It just popped in my head ... seemed like the thing to say. But then, I had already said it. I had said it to her. It all seemed like a dream from some other time and some other place, but it was real. It was more real than my new future. That's what I told her, "please don't cry". I was crying, too ... but just on the inside. I don't have any more tears. And Robin Trower's Stratocaster was crying. It was crying just for us ... ten feet away. He looked straight at both of us, winked, and played on, just like he was still playing for a sold-out coliseum, back when God still loved him, instead of some ragtag crowd that just couldn't let it go. Old hippies, and those of us who try to forgive them, die hard.
Patti Smith once referred to a feeling she got while listening to Lou Reed play as, "A chord so direct it eel-fucks you in the heart".
That's where I remembered her from. We once shared a brief moment on one of destiny's cross-streets and got eel-fucked in the heart together, during "Victims of the Fury", but she didn't remember it ... not just then.
She said, "Where in tha FUCK did ya'll find this?" ... referring to me ...
"Pulled him off a dead nigger, over on 21st."
- That was the cop with the plastic laugh.
"Pried him off, more like it ... and I got yer nigger hanging right here, Jethro."
- the other cop -- not the white one
- the trashy blond
"They don't get no deader"
"Just look at him. What kind of crazy motherfucker just keeps on strangling a dead nigger?"
- again, Jethro
"I WILL stomp your dumb, hillbilly ass."
- not Jethro
- you guessed it
"Baby was a black sheep. Baby was a whore."
- Patti Smith (in my head)
"Got a dead woman over there, too ... white ... real pretty"
"Shot up bad, just like the deceased African-AMERICAN"
" ... muthafucker."
- the black detective (glaring at Jethro)
"No shit ... real pretty."
"What a waste of good pussy."
- not the detective
"I thought your idea of good pussy was your poor, old, aunt MommaBob."
"he he he"
"Just too bad she didn't poke a coat hanger in this simple son-of-bitch's brain, while she still had a chance."
- please stop
"Baby got a hand; got a finger on the trigger."
" ... fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck ..."
- maybe me
"Okay, you girls just settle down, now. You're upsetting the perp."
"L.T. says, just keep an eye on him, till they get that shit sorted out over there."
"Maybe see if you can get something more that fuckity fuckity fuck out of him"
"Well, you'll just have to put him on a bench ... cages are all full-up"
"Goddamn a bunch'a fucking full moons"
My servers and protectors laughed easily at her funny joke. I liked that about them, but I didn't see any werewolves ... not till later. He was coming, though, most likely in an unmarked Chevy. He was already foaming at the mouth, even before the sad bells, but they had no way to know that. And they still had no idea that they would yearn for a silver bullet, long before that full moon surrendered to some crazy future dawn.
And she still didn't recognize me ... not yet. Although, she recognized something, maybe something in my eyes. She reached out and touched my face, just easy, kind of tentative, like in the way you would touch a strange creature if you're still not sure whether or not it's the most venomous variety on the entiiiire planet. But I would never hurt her, on purpose. I had once loved her for a moment or three, that night when we got Stratocastered in the heart together. I don't know what she saw in there, maybe a little robber, playing the wrong part, or maybe it was the cat, baring his fangs, but she looked straight through me with a sort of understanding that only chain-link can ever possibly comprehend. I will never know. Never got to ask her. Still, I sometimes wonder what she saw ... why she picked me. And I wonder if she already knew I would be her last, as would be that full moon.
She said, "Awww, baby, you are so fucking lost".
"I was lost, and the cost,
and the cost didn't matter to me.
I was lost, and the cost
was to be outside of society."
- Patti ...
Most of my fellow detainees just sat quietly, one to a cage, or cuffed to benches in the chain-link halls. Some were contemplating the patterns of smoke from their cigarettes, maybe searching for a shape that looks a little like God, or Bugs Bunny, or some other dream you might find in a cloud. Others were wishing they had their own smoke to contemplate, but knew it was too much to ask. Some just stared at the chain-link, like waiting for it to answer them. They looked like pod-people, left behind after the crafty chain-link had tricked them out of their souls. Sometimes you could see a moment of panic ripple through someone, like they had just realized the channel wouldn't change, or that the Cat in the Hat is real. A drunk biker complained for a while, and finally just said "fuck it", and pissed on the guy in the next cage. But that guy didn't complain, didn't tell, when they took his smokes for pissing on himself. You just don't fuck with them ... everyone knows those colors.
I think if you ever decide to commit a heinous crime, you might want to pee and pick up some smokes, first ... just in case it doesn't go well for you.
Now and then, someone, especially among the ones who had lost their smokes, would close their eyes and rock slowly back and forth, like to a secret song, playing over and over, just for them.
For me, it was Bridge of Sighs.
"why so unforgiving and why so cold, been a long time crossing" ...
Yea, though I bop through the valley of the shadow of pop, I will fear no Dweezil, for a Switchblade Symphony art stuck in my head. "Laughing in their darkest times, you'll see them asleep in the rain tonight"
ABOUT NOR MAL
more about nor mal
2.16.04 @ 5:45p
I never get tired of reading your stuff, Norj.
2.16.04 @ 6:15p
Holy shit, Robin Trower at 2:00 a.m. Driving home this morning, and at about 2:20, I pull off the interstate and the opening brass to 'Conquistador' by Procol Harum was pumping through my speakers.
2.16.04 @ 7:55p
Well, Russ, I just hope you didn't turn a whiter shade of pale over it. It's just fiction.
Yeah ... that's it ... fiction.
And, Jack, flattery will get you nowhere. Electroshock is still booked up till Friday. Try the lamp-socket. It works for me.
2.16.04 @ 9:49p
No, I just love serendipitous coincidence.
3.15.04 @ 12:46a
I never get tired of reading your stuff, Norj.
Is there more?!? Where?