Connection Lost (xxv)

His street was much as it had always been. Empty, of course, but that he now accepted as the status quo. The great disassociation he felt was that of a rat outside the maze, a dog off its leash. Walking its length, after having stared down at it through a pane of glass for so many days, Alan felt like he had wandered through the movie screen and onto the set of the film.

He looked up between the buildings. He had never been so conscious of the sky above the city. It was like a hatch opened on an obliette. Then he came to the end of his street and onto Mass Ave. And the obliette was knocked on its side like a spilled sippie-cup and all that was Alan rushed out.

It was like coming to the edge of the Grand Canyon. This major urban artery was now a long empty trench carved into the city. If he had seen some X-Wings flying overhead, heading for the Achilles Maguffin of some Bostonian Death Star, he wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised.

In point of fact, they would have been welcome. Unrealism is easy enough to swallow; it was this surrealist shit that was poking its dick into his brain.

Alan walked up to the edge of the street. He wanted to cross it. He couldn’t bring himself to do it. That deserted stretch of pavement was not a street, not a thing that Alan had ever crossed. He might as well have tried to ford a river. He just couldn’t.

He squinted in the unaccustomed sunlight. He began to notice differences, little alterations, things out of place. A shop with its windows smashed in. Another with cardboard in the windows, chains across the door. Another untouched, and another. A Starbucks with a makeshift sign on the roof, a big red cross leading into a big red arrow. The arrow was pointing towards Harvard. Alan decided to take the suggestion.

As he walked his eyes swung back and forth. He kept starting as he noticed things out of place. The new Co-op outlet had been looted. Several fire escape ladders had been lowered. There were two very large dents in the iron fence in front of… one Harvard dorm or another, Alan could never keep them straight. Looked like cars had crashed into it. But the cars weren’t there anymore. Had they driven away? Been towed? Pushed off the street? Run off to the forest to join their wild brethren, flocking across the fields with the wind in their antennas?

There were a few cars to be seen. Most looked just like regular cars, perverse only in their isolation; like someone had ridden their horse into a ghost town or ruin and hitched it to a post, except their horse was a Honda and the post a meter that had expired half a month ago. Not all were so lucky. A few had been pushed up onto the sidewalk. One was on Waterhouse Ave, right in the middle of it, upside-down like a spinny-top. One was halfway inside the first floor of a building. It didn’t look happy to be there.

The Common had a dozen boxcars parked right on the grass. They looked like the kind that eighteen-wheelers pull. Half-collapsed cardboard boxes spilled out of them. Bits of plastic slid over the ground. Folding tables stood untended. A dumpster was crudely marked with bio-hazard stickers. There was a blue plastic Toilet Tardis in the shadow of the monument, the big one that Alan had no idea what it stood for. He decided now was not the time to go and read the plaque.

The whole Common looked like Woodstock: Day Four. It must have been the site of an aid station. Two blocks away from his house and it had been a circus. People had been there. It had teemed with Doing. Two blocks from his house. Now it was empty. Alan just walked by.

Alan’s head snapped around. He heared a noise. He saw movement. Something up ahead. Speeding into a view. He stood there tharn. He stood there like maybe it wouldn’t see him.

An ambulance came out of the Cambridge Ave tunnel. It wasn’t bothering with its sirens. It went up Mass Ave at a terrific speed. Eventually Alan realized it was going about ten miles an hour. A minute later Alan realized a minute had gone by. He shook his head, and kept walking.

He turned the corner to Harvard Square and once again his feet turned to cinderblocks. He saw people. Dozens of people. Some walking about. Some standing still. A guy on a bicycle rode by. A tanker truck rolled slowly up JFK.

Alan couldn’t bring himself to go over to them. He just couldn’t. His feet were frozen. Then he took a few deep breaths and counted backwards from ten in a couple of languages. And he rememebred that he lived here too. And he walked ahead.

He stopped, again, but forced himself to keep walking. He just walked very slow. He saw the Square, saw what had changed. The police standing here and there. The people with white armbands with red crosses magic-markered onto them. The long row of portable generators, all now silent. A tangle of thick copper pipes going down the escalators towards the T platform. A hand-pump at their terminus, buckets beneath. A six-foot pile of mismatched clothing, sweaters and hoodies and jackets, under a loose blue tarp. A pile of bicycles, a pile of helmets next to it. A push-cart with solar panels on its roof, plugs trailing from it like drooping flowers. Next to the chess tables was a tank, its barrel stoppered, a cow-catcher spot-welded to its front. Next to it were several boxes filled with confetti-like strips of condom wrappers. Behind were several more boxes, and none of them were filled.

There was a girl by the newstand. She was wearing a red coat. There were a few other people standing near her. They were just talking. They looked like they were just standing there and talking. They looked-

Alan shook his head. He shook it again. He kept his eyes on the ground in front of him, walked through the Square, and went to his College without another look at the world around him.


~ by davekov on 28 December 2011.

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