Barbara Adair – Researcher and Writer

A Big City Story

by on Oct.17, 2016, under Unpublished Writing

Is it impossible to be you if I do not accept myself in the cities terms?

You are a brand, you say, a stereotype, we are all special, and no-one is special, let the logic happen itself.

On the corner of 97th street and Broadway, New York City, is a Starbucks coffee shop. But maybe it is not on this corner, I say to you, it is on the corner of 103rd and Broadway? This is a coffee shop in a big city, you say, one coffee shop is the same as another; hey, coffee to sit or to go, one coffee is the same as another, one brand, the city is a brand, the neon lights up the buildings of Time Square, Calvin Klein, Gorgio Armani, one name, my name, what’s in a name, you say, I am the same as you are. Are the lights too bright, I say?

All my images are mediated by other images, I say.

This is a story of being lost in a big city, I say. Lost, you say, yes lost, I say, I am lost. I speak a language, my voice is your voice, but who understands my words? I understand, you say, no you don’t, I say, if you were able to understand I would not love you, I am turning, turning around and around. I cannot hear you. You cannot hear me, I say, the victim cannot hear his victimiser, the victimizer cannot understand the victim, for this is a story of me not you, you not me. Who is the me, you say, and who is the you, I say, who is the victim; does he have a curved rapacious beak that slashes skin and makes the blood run free? Who is the victimiser, the steep stairs that lead you into the subway, the man with the grey hair, the rabbits that look from human faces, they all look laconically, at me, no, not at you, at no-one, this is their control, they see themselves in the mirror of a city.

Let’s escape, you and I, I say, the victimizer from his victim, you say, the victim is lost in prayer, I say?

Is there an answer to this question, you say, no, the answer is the same as a Starbucks coffee shop, it could be in another street corner, another part of the city, it is no-where special, the answer is in a hidden corner of the mind, my mind, no your mind, but it is mine, it never was yours, can it be a coffee in a coffee shop, maybe, as it is nothing special, would you like a specialty coffee?

What millions died that Caesar might be great?

I am the you and the me is you, or someone else, we are both lost, lost in this big city.

Cities are wild nature, nature that is made by man, why is the authentic valuable, the natural, I spend more on this cult of authenticity, no you don’t, you do not care, in this land the blue throated humming bird is worshipped, tell me are the apples organic, or are they grown with the genes of another, my genes, your genes, lets strive for immortality, you say, and I say, yes, my immortality lies in this authentic apple, grown on a farm where there are no pesticides, or pests, but I am hungry you say, I want to eat the apple, well eat it, I say sugar gives you go, and then I will die, my life is as long as it takes to eat an apple.

I buy an apple on the sidewalk, on Broadway between 101 and 102nd streets, you are hungry, I say, the apple shines, you say, walk with me to Riverside Park where we can watch the children in their prams walk by, the limber legs of bicycles.

What is in this city, this big city? Who is in this city, this big city?

I am a poet, but I cannot think, I say, yes, this is a big city, and what is that bird, a feral pigeon, a rat with wings, that bird is not a bird, it is a victim, a victim of the smog, the exhaust fumes, the sad and lonely, am I a victim, you are not, you are innocent of sin in a big city because there is no sin. I am a victimiser, you are a victorious, the victim is always clothed in innocence, Christ was the first victim, he died innocent and clean, you are unwashed, the bird is on the window ledge, you are guilty of the fear that you indulge, the loneliness of many that is one.

Hold my hand for I am tired, I say, but you know, you say, that the desire to hold onto, to hold onto me, means that there is no desire to enjoy, these are mutually destructive desires. But I am alone, I want to enjoy and to hold you, my pleasure is tinged with longing, hopeless longing. I want to hold you, but you are me and I am you, you say, there is no need to hold me, I am already here.

The roads, these pipelines of exasperation, are wide; the tar on the roads is hot, it is pressurized by time. Watch the cars that flow and then become dammed by the stop lights; green equals go, red equals stop, they flow as water flows, dam the river, let this water stop.

Do you want a cigarette you say? I do, sit still in the middle of the broad Broadway, next to a man who lives in a single room in that hotel on 97th street, he talks, he washed his underwear in the bath of the bathroom.

Where your children, my child, my children are drown, drown in the Hudson, in the East river they float face down, their hair is curly, black, they are towed behind the scow that carries the stones to the graveyards, now it is wet, the water looks black on this stone, we are black me and my children, where are my children, my children. Why do you smoke my child, it is bad for the lungs, it is bad, addiction always means that you had a bad childhood, something happened hey, the fumes from this bus are bad, bad, my leg is worn and I am tired, why do these fumes defeat me, my childhood was in the cotton fields of Louisiana, a bad childhood, now, now I wait for my children as I am free.

Take your cotton picking hands off me.

If you really want to know the best lack conviction, you say, I am the best, I say, while the worst, you say, are full of passionate intensity, he is not the worst he is the best, he does not lack he merely moans.

Passion in the city, I am passionate, you are passionate, the city knows no indolence and sophistry.

The taxi shrieks, the pavement rattles, the perfume in the shop window whispers, I smell so good, I am here, take me, catch the yellow cab and I will come with you forever, I will mask what fear you hide, fear smells, take away this odour. I want the big apple, I say, this name, this fragrance for it is a well know brand, Donna Karan, Big Green Apple, and those that know say yes, it smells, not of fear, but of a performance, necromancy, a theatrical delight, you are a delight, you say, catch the bus across the park, the cross town bus, what number is it, where does it stop, the 64th street cross town bus, you cannot walk across the park, the park is an ocean of green in the big city, it imagines nature not made by man, it is nature made by someone else so far way.

And on 5th Avenue in the Metropolitan Museum there are people, there are so many people, you say, so many people I say, they have no size for they are all sizes, they have no sex for they are all sexes, sex is bought as clothes are bought, earn a dollar loose a pound, I am he because that is what I prefer, you say. Look at the photographs, you say, the photographs by Gary Winogard, where will you find such skill, such understanding of the city. He is alone, I say, a photograph is a lonely place, it cannot smell, it cannot touch, I am in a photograph, not a Gary Winogard, just a snap, the snap that no-one takes on the street for the street is crazy, the street is full, don’t sit there sit here, you say, I won’t, I say.

Why are you shaking I say, I shake as I am hot, and my clothes are not recognizable, I shake as I do shake, I shake, you hold the flame to the cigarette, it wavers in the wake of the bus, I must buy, I must buy my identity, I have no cash, where are my dollars, I want to blend into the crowded street, you are different, you are always different, unique, the same difference that walks beside you in the street that is crowded, we are all differently the same.

Walk faster, walk faster you have somewhere to go.


I have nowhere to go.


Walk faster, show that you have somewhere to go, you are not lost, you are found, found in the city, on the streets, pretend that you are lost, I am not lost, pretend that you are found, I am not found, imagine that you are here, you are not here, I am there, show that you are different and inimitable, drink, drink the wine for surely you know that somewhere in the streets someone will stare at you, blank and pitiless, an indignant gaze, city people do not look at you, they hurry by. They do not know my fear, they will not know it, you say, they are dead as you are dead, they are as lost as you are lost, come in from the streets and maybe you will become a bird, hiding on the window ledge.

Even a big city has its birds.

Is this a story of me, who me, I am you, I follow you, who is I, who is me, who is not me. Where are you going to you say, what will you do today, I say. Why do you stand next to me, I say, you are me? Why do you ask, you say, there is no end to the stories I can tell, but I know all the stories, I know them all, they fill a hole in the texture of your dreams, and any story is as good as another.

On the boardwalk of Brighton beach I cannot understand the sounds, you cannot understand the talk, why do you listen, you say, I listen, I say, because I want to hear, to hear is to feel and if I hear I will know that you can hear, listen to the Russian over there, I can smell his anger, watch that man, he is a racketeer, do not look now, you say, for your fear is known, it is unknown, your fear is pain, anonymous pain, you walk in pain, you walk without pain, but no-one notices and no-one cares. I care. Listen to the sound of the ocean, I say, the sound of water crashing on the stony beach, it is the sound of everyone crying, you say, they cry for they are lost.

I write for I can read no more, you read my writing, the first reader, I am the first reader, you are? The paper that I use for the writing is white, waiting, it freshly awaits my dreams, the dreams of the other I, the you, it awaits the murder of you, a dream murder, a dream maker, murder, maker, dreaming, I dream, do you?

There is a man, look how close he is to you, he leans against you in the Brooklyn subway, the subway walls are white stained, brown fumes, the fumes of progress, sit down lean close to him, you are not indifferent to this man, he reflects you as a mirror does, he is a shadow of a man although he looks so strong, he will not feel you lean upon on his arm, I will feel his arm, his thick wrist covered in hair. You will not see him for he stands, to your left, I will not see him for he stands and I, I sit, I always sit, stand up, I will know that his hair is grey, lean on me, I can lean on you, the train comes, the right train going somewhere. But I am on the wrong platform, you say, I am, I say, walk away for the right train is wrong, it will crush you easily. Let this man move, move onto the train, you say, do not obstruct him for he is on the periphery of your conversance.

How right is right, I say, how wrong is wrong, where are you going to, you say, if you do not know where you are going someone must direct you, show you where to go, show you what the way is, the right way, follow that tunnel it is dark but the sign is red, blood red, it will take you to the fast track, the 1, not the Q, you want the 1, I do not want the one, I want you, where are you, do you walk beside me or are there many that walk beside me. I will walk beside you, always.

The darkness comes, do I care, do you care, I say. I say I care, I am the only care-er, you do not care for you blend in with impersonal warmth. I am this warmth, so are you, can I say we, it is you and it is I, only us.

But I want the anonymity you say, I want to be alone in a big city where no-one knows me, where I blend into the crowd as a dust mote blends into the air, you want this and yet you are afraid, ha, you are afraid. I am afraid, you are afraid, you sneer, I sneer, I sneer at the homeless man who plays the trumpet in the subway in Time Square, I sneer at the soldier boy who sits opposite the Jeff Koon’s garden sculpture of a dog. He says why Iraq, Muslims hate dogs they are unclean, I sneer because you want me to sneer. I want to be alone.

You sound like Greta Garbo.

There are sounds, a thundering train, a high pitched voice, why is there a war on, who beheads who, I like the colour of the ersatz blood as the head rolls to the sand floor, no it was real blood, it is a role, it rolls onto the studio floor, the football shirts are blue but they will whip the Chicago devils for they have wings on their feet, they fly.

Why do you obfuscate, you will not say that you are afraid. I am afraid, afraid of being lost, lost in the city. I know that one day I will walk forever and no-one will know where I am, no-one will search for me, you know this is true, I know that you will not search for me. I will be alone, on the subway, standing on a corner, and you will walk past me, I will walk past you, people will walk past, they will be in a hurry, it is good to be in a hurry, you have somewhere to go. I have no-where to go, I only go somewhere, you go somewhere, no-where, why do I want to go, always to go, and yet I stay, stay alone in the big city.

What is this fear I say. This fear, you say, is because you know that you are unwanted and unknown, you only have fear if you know you have a future. I am unknown, I have no future, people in clothing walk past me, they walk quickly, a yellow taxi drives fast, screams to a stop, the light is on, on the roof, there is no-one inside, the yellow taxi flashes past on the hot tar that has been thrown by man, man made the roads, Avenue of the Americas, as he planted the trees in the Central park, the stunted trees that hide the air, that do not shed their leaves, they have no leaves to shed for they are ornamental, their leaves are on the ground, walked on by the ever present crowd, the crowd that looks in the shop windows, they have far to go, they walk a distance, somewhere into the future, the man that pushes the pram between the cyclists, he walks into a future too, it will grow as humans do.

This fear of being lost is because you know that you are always lost, you always have been lost, I will always be alone. Ontologically alone is the human condition, I say, or is it just my condition, you say, the condition that you will onto me, you want me to be alone, I do not want to be alone. I want you to stand by my side, I am at your side, I am there for I am always in one place, I make you alone as I will always track you, you will never be alone from me. I am your you. I watch you as you move one foot forward, one foot at a time, tentatively, you are afraid, not of missing your footfall but, of getting lost. I am not afraid, what will I do? I am not afraid, what will you do? I do not want these designs that you impose upon me, I am old enough to manage everything, I am brave enough to manage my days, you can control them, I am I, but I am you. Do not try, not even try, to experience yourself as fearless, you say, it is an illusion.

Do I, do you, you always say I will always be here, I will always be there, in the subway, at the corner, sitting on the broad Broadway, or Amsterdam, smoking, you always know my fear and when I do not have this fear you will make me have it, you are afraid, as I am afraid. I will never allow you to throw this fear away, you will allow me but I do not have permission, I need your permission. I hate the heavy chains that you place around my neck, but that is a necklace you say, the necklace of desire, you desire me for I am you and you want me because I am always here, always next to you, always moving, walking.

I feel your pain, I know your pain, I know you for you are not I you are you and you are I and I am another.

I hate you. I hate the way you want me to be frail and incomplete, I want to run away from my darkness even though I cannot run. You cannot run I say, you will never run, for you are incomplete as I am incomplete.

What are you waiting for, you say, are you waiting for it to be too late.

Hurry we must go.