The other day I walked through the rain to my local branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, where I would get a card to make this move official. Until you have a library card you can pretend you’re off the grid, but my gypsy days are over because I borrowed a spy film and a copy of Chess for Dummies. But the walk, the rain. The Bed-Stuy streets were basically deserted, so I felt the presence of the approaching man from a block away. Wondered if I should play it coy, keep my eyes lowered until the last second, then say something affable about the lousy weather. Was my neighbor also formulating a plan for our intersection? Maybe he would compliment the bright colors of my umbrella. I’d have to be conversationally flexible in case he had his own agenda. Most likely we’d exchange a few universal words about spring. (Me, privately, to spring: For fuck’s sake, spring!) We’d walk away from each others’ faces feeling either worse or better about ourselves.
Sharing the world with other people is draining. Not draining: the puddles on the sidewalk that the man was fording with his shopping trolley. They were deep and wide and barely navigable by human persons of our sort. As we closed in on each other, I noted that the man’s cart was filled to the brim with folded laundry. But the top of his laundry duffel was loose, open, getting drizzled with rain. I nodded mutely at the man with what I thought was an exemplary amount of neighborly affect. He nodded back, and at that moment a dozen bundles of paired socks dove out of his shopping trolley like lemurs, then became absorbed by the puddles I described earlier as build-up to this lemur analogy (perhaps the most overextended analogy of all time, yet still applicable to at least two thirds of my enterprises).
At first the man didn’t notice that he was dribbling socks behind him like a trail of breadcrumbs that would return him to the laundromat. (Sometimes it’s fun to really commit to making certain things like other things.)
“Sir!” I said. “Your socks!” The man stopped short and turned toward the wake of his shopping trolley with dread that bordered on existential.
“Oh noooo,” he said, surveying the carnage with hands crumpling in slo-mo to his face. “It’s a dreeeaaam.”
When he said it was a dream, I was immediately transported into a storyline where the soiled socks and the cold rain and the library books I coveted and my soggy shoes and my wet hair and Brooklyn-at-large and the seasons distorted beyond recognition were all part of a dream, his dream. The man’s dream made sense of the past ten months, when I wrote a book, got divorced, said goodbye to my Virginia family, moved back to the city, stared through countless windows at countless grey skies, ran back and forth across bridges, shivered, blew clandestine snot rockets, held babies, listened to a million songs, burned to write, wrote little of worth, made my peace with obscurity, washed the stink out of my clothes, neglected most films, most books, most people, lay facedown on the hardwood floor long enough to make my roommates uncomfortable, thought about whales, thought about the sex lives of teenagers, explored bad and worse habits, drank green tea to counteract aforementioned habits, made a profession of having feelings, contemplated dropping out of my profession the second I had something tangible to offer it, discovered rap music, fell in love with Dunkin Donuts, mourned my grandmother (forever), mourned my dad (forever), did a lot of dishes (when you do the dishes, do the dishes, says the Buddha), gave too much leeway to men, briefly inhabited the Pleasure Dome, and then was asked to leave.
Don’t you see, my bloods, that it’s all been a part of this laundry man’s dream? A dream, not a nightmare. Let’s not cast our judgment upon a stranger’s subconscious. His long winter created this fantasy world. Our sleep world where the rain can’t get in. If life is but a dream, my own modest butt is square in the middle. Together we made the dream, a function of this beastly climate. We wear the dream, launder the dream, in an infinite wash cycle until we die clean. Or maybe dirty. The dream tumbles out. Who died? It’s a dream yo the deaths don’t count. Who loves or is ditched for other lovers or feels hurt and want. It’s a dream. It’s a dream and then there are libraries to give expression to it. It’s a dream, it’s a borrowed book, and then it is pure, dry, dry as a desert, dry as sleep.