Do you ever turn into a seagull and float upon the warm air currents rolling off the gently splooshing seas of the New York City harbor?
Do you ever cross from Manhattan to Staten Island as a seagull and then turn back into a mild-mannered, thin, youngish man in an awkwardly-short 1940s-checkered shades-of-tan suitcoat and pants, smart glossy leather briefcase in hand, waiting in the Staten Island Terminal for the Staten Island Ferry to carry you back to Manhattan?
When Bartleby waits in the smooth, shiny, shades-of-gray Staten Island Terminal; sunlight floods through the wall of 30-foot windows facing the water, Manhattan, and the sometimes-glory of the Western World. He is now a businessman with no specific coloring or facial features. His (now) blue, pin-striped suit is so soft and elegant and flows so much like a mountain stream that everyone notices the elegant, clearly-successful young man; but they cannot describe nor recall any aspect of the remarkable fellow, except of course that he wore the most splendid, wonderful, singularly-successful suit.
More than that:
It had never occurred to any of those waiting for the 7:30AM ferry to Manhattan first in rows of interconnected metal, curving-metalmesh-backed chairs; and then upon the glossy floor with the map of the land masses in and along the New York City harbor as green linoleum upon a tamed, daily-polished green linoleum sea:
It had never occurred to any of those tidy, even-natured, happy-in-their-tea-or-coffee commuters; that a business suit could be as beautiful as a virgin hillside where roll great trees oak poplar pine birch hickory walnut maple needle and more in sun-sprayed verdure within fresh pale-blue springy morning air.
Sometimes we don’t think of a possibility and then we observe that unimagined configuration realized in the real, fleshy, undeniable world. How surprised we are!
This suit, this impossibly sumptuous, yet elegantly restrained collection of colors and textures skipped over daydream-mind! It just skipped right over that step and presented itself as a fait accompli to that portion of our thought that’s drawn in real-time by our five-senses-mind!
“Hard to figure.”
“But that’s exactly the point!”
One man waiting for the ferry, I’m sorry to say, did not fit in.
Are you sorry to say that? Or do you delight in saying that? Does it thrill you to squish him down in speech and recollection? To gather up your loosely-noticed and scarcely-considered and yet (to your unfair, oh so unfair, human psyche) all-encompassing notion of him; to gather up your story-to-yourself about who he is, and to squish it in the palm of your hand like you would a big fat roach that you hate and in the hating you overcome all your typical city-sissified reservations and you squish that big fat juicy but hard-shelled cockroach in your soft bare tippity-keyboard-tappity hands?
Isn’t that what you really like to do? Isn’t that how you really get off? Isn’t that how you glow when you say that you’re sorry to say that one man there did not fit in with the adequately-hygiened and reassuringly-self-contained crowd?
I’m sorry to say that one man waiting for the ferry did not fit in.
I have met you all. I have talked to you. We have exchanged pleasantries. I know that you are not evil and you are not good. I know that we are all kept safe by a thin layer of regulation, rules, decorum, and faith that the system is more likely to protect the non-provokers than the provokers.
No, that’s not all there is to it. Because we like the gentle pleasant morning float across the waters. We like to see our children playing in the yard. We like to get along with the strangers standing in a very-loose semi-circle around the opening in the glass Terminal wall, and we like to get along with our neighbors stopping by to grab a few tomatoes from our little yard garden (“This is the time! The month of too many tomatoes! Please, help yourself!”) We have some love and goodness and joy in our hearts and there’s recesses within each of our convoluted-cavern hearts where we’d genuinely prefer that things go well for everyone, or at least we genuinely wouldn’t mind it.
I have met us. I know there is also that turning screw, that mean panicked hurt, that cutter’s edge. I have seen places fall apart. I have seen the Evil rise up and swallow families, homesteads, villages, cities, nations, so on.
I know the Vikings think they are brave and justified when they descend upon plump, unprotected, sheep- and barely-shores, thrusting sharp swords and blunt members about, slashing taking destroying in the rush of the raid, in the delight of violence that shoots forth like infinite power from you and so builds you up, makes you a god: an infinitely expanding, all-consuming force; but an ancient Greece type god, and so also weaving human-sized jollies into your universal success.
I know, further, that the avenging troops feel all that, plus a great ferocious nobility of purpose while they burn Viking towns, rape Viking ladies, and eviscerate Viking lads.
And so you see, I shouldn’t lie. I shouldn’t say that you are OK. Or that I am OK. Or that anyone is safe and good. Because I’ve seen us in various settings and I know that we are much more dependent on prevailing norms and giddy happenstances than we can imagine. I know how close to Evil we are and how delicate our peaces are.
But this is by the by.
Yes, the blackness of your soul is her mentioned only parenthetically, off to one side, as an aside, like how I couldn’t help observing, and forgive me if I’m too forward, how nicely that shirt juxtaposes your eyes.