Notes From a Clean Young Man

a light tan hue everywhere, the white light bouncing off the waxy table – the coat suspended above the grains of wood, the imperfection. three large tables, booths, besides each other, full of julliard actors, dancers, etc. and, yes, me. bright faces, smiles: ‘so nice to meet you’; ‘lovely to meet you’; handshakes, three kisses (like in france), one (like in NYC) – all with the stale breath of beer. pitchers of beer drained, the bartender flips a glass high, catches it, pours a pink cocktail into a highball glass. i order: ‘water, please’; ‘water?’ ‘yes – water’. he gives me water. james and i talk. james is drunk – i talk. flipping words with the smoke of my cigarette, on the edge of the seat, beautiful eyes of blondes, of dancers, swimming in their sockets, loosely centered on this sober boy talking passionately – on love, on life, on the illusion of fear, in words that have their own beauty. more than usually possible in english, more like the rover that is french – i listen to my words pour out, then i suck them back in – i too, in a way, a little drunk, i guess.

we are going back to a dancer’s apartment. in the lobby there are beautiful marble floors, false roman pillars, flowers bright red. a doorman tips his hat. ‘i can only stay for a minute,’ i say. we get in the elevator. the four walls hold tight the spaces, bright lights – 20 for as many inches of space – shine down, the eyes squint under the force of brightness. it is 2:30 a.m. at the fourth floor i jump in the elevator as i always have done, as i always was scolded by my mother for doing. the elevator stops so subtly that we don’t notice at first. some pressing of buttons, the fingers casually brushing random, white buttons. the eyes open a little. ‘that’s strange.’ then it dawns, the ‘what the hell’ dawns like a blank night at 2 p.m. on a summer day. the ‘phone’ button gets a dial and then ‘if you would like send a fax…’……beeeeeeeep….beeeeep….the alarm button gives just an annoying crow call to the people sleeping in the silk darkness of their suites…

we sit down, but james stands, saying, ‘no man, what the f–k, no way, this is not happening.’ i am laughing. james sits down and we resign to wait. in a second james is asleep, his face wedged into the wall, his left leg splayed out taking up half the tiny space. i have my knees drawn up, the back of my head to the wall, my neck horribly bent; jessica is a dancer – one leg up on the wall, the other straight and it takes me 5 minutes to convince her that ‘no, she is not comfortable’ and that, ‘yes, it is ok for her to lay her leg on me.’ everytime sleep consumes, pulls my eyes and shoulders heavily; laughter erupts like a group of giddy fairies let loose from my stomach – a cosmic dual of weight and lightness….

like vines in the black shaft, between the gray walls, there are four thick cords that hang down and hold this bright box. and if this little box would just open it’s door the slightest bit, and if it weren’t between two floors, and if all the cards fell into place we’d have the whole hall way lit up like a JFK runway and no one could sleep, let alone neglect us. but as is, no one knows about us. we are invisible. a bright candle tucked away in the folds of a jungle, like a pit-trap with a fresh kill – covered over by grass. yes – we are, collectively, a fat cow in a bright pit trap in the midnight african jungle.

there are no stars in New York City – this little elevator car is the closest the city gets.

‘hello.’ i get up: ‘yes.’

i hear muffled steps.

jessica and james mumble drunkenly: ‘man, we’re in the elevator, dude’; ‘yeah, we’re stuck man.’

i tell them to shut up and ask the man what we can do to help him help us. he asks how long we’ve been in there. my watch reads 3:45. ‘little over an hour.’

his mumble, ‘jesus,’ falls lazily down the shaft and into my ears. ‘i’ll call the fire department, hold on.’

we are lifted up, the door is opened slightly. we see large red helmets. we pry the door and step out into the hallway. a man in a purple shirt, young, good-looking, and five firemen, smiling, greet us. we tell them we’re o.k., thank them profusely and say we’ll take the stairs. i ask the man if he heard the alarm, he smiles and says, laughing, that someone left a note on the elevator door. ‘a note?’. he cracks up and hands me the note: i read it aloud as james and jessica cramp over my shoulders: ‘someone stuck in elevator’.

i’m not sure of what to say about that. the rest of the night we laid on the floor of the apartment, our bodies consuming as much floor as possible, silent saying, ‘someone stuck in elevator?’ every once in a while and laughing. when i’m 80 i think i’ll still say ‘someone stuck in elevator?’ every once in a while and realize that the human person is far too absurd, far too rational.