The energy of New York swells and dips like the waves that surround it, and I am tossed, similarly, about the streets, caught in the tide of bodies. The sounds coalesce into the same white noise comfort too as the ocean.
It’s easy to feel as if I’m standing on a Moloch, a monstrous machine below my feet, its hot breath pushing out of the vents and eyes glinting, a strange iridescence that shines just below the darkness.
Each person carries their own silence with them. Carefully gathered in private places, the shower stall in the shared apartment, the laptop settled on the coffee table, the walk to work intentionally lengthened through the park—all these silences are skillfully captured and draped about the body, tucked away in thick winter coats, pressed between the ear and headphone.
The people have made their peace with the machine beneath them, as I have not. The sidewalk rattles me to vertigo. I descend below only anxiously, wary of the heat even as it wraps around the knife wounds of the cold above.
It is obvious at every point in the city that there is no escape. I know that I am on an island, that those waves that push and pull like the people are close, but I will never reach them. I am contained. I accept it, that there is nothing else but this now, the buildings swallowing the sky above, the machine’s exhales grasping at my ankles.
And I become—not trapped, but built into this very system, a mechanism, a bolt or screw, made to serve a purpose in it all. And so the captivity is bearable, because perhaps I am important, something necessary to keep it all from crashing down. Keeping the buildings from consuming too much of the sunset, the machines below from breaching the barriers that keep it all afloat. I am living in artifice, but artifice is also living in me. And both would die without the other.
It is in this way, also amoral, and more authentic. Neither good nor bad, existing on no spectrum of ethics. Trash will overflow on the sidewalks. Christmas trees discarded without decoration or ceremony atop the bulging black bags. And the instinct may at first be to turn away, angrily remark on the tastelessness of it all. But in the end, it’s all the same elsewhere—Christmas trees discretely thrown in bins, the wasted life of the holidays quietly euthanized behind the white picket fence without affront. The city however, refuses to lend its precious time to such concerns. It embraces the refuse of life, names it, moves on. Valuing, perhaps, a little more, the truth of beauty, humanity.
Images copyright Vincent Comparetto.