Saturday, March 12, 2011

36. A song heard } through the ceiling.

At the end of winter, I dream of an ice-buried, primeval landscape.

Freshman year of college a storm came through Boston that shut down the trains and stranded me in the city. Geoff, a German who sat next to me in sociology, offered me a couch for the night. His place was “a couple miles” from campus. Snow whipped across my face. The walk across the Mass. Ave. bridge was brutal, but the view of the frozen river and the city lights—ample recompense. Geoff turned occasionally to shout encouragement. We stopped in a bar Geoff knew. The bartender didn’t card either of us, Geoff was a regular, the Irish bartender a pal who liked to give Geoff shit. Except to ask questions, I kept my mouth shut.

Geoff worked on an off-shore oil rig and a cook’s assistant. He told us about the time the cook cut off all his fingers, how he was ordered to pick them up, pack them in ice, and bring them to the infirmary. He told us about an accident with a pipe, it swung loose, crushed a crewman’s head.

The walk from the bar to Geoff’s—a large, empty apartment behind Central Sq.—took a drunk minute. I flopped onto a couch by the window. He brought me a glass of water and a bottle of Tylenol. Boston was a dream. I woke. I reached for the army-green blanket kicked to the end of the couch and saw out the window a man, standing in the tiny yard, dressed head to foot in fur. He roared, and rushed the glass—I shouted and tumbled off the couch. Geoff staggered out of his room, clad only in bright tighty-whities, cursed at me and staggered back to bed.

Numbness the aftereffect of my fright, a fine hangover cure, I stood in that stranger’s living room and stared out the big window. The yard was lit by a flood, mounted on a blank of gray plywood. Snow fell, blurred then erased the man’s tracks.

Next morning, classes canceled, we at omelets Geoff made. 

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