Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Stopping the World

The day itself was an entity - a personality shrouded in grey and drifting clouds, misting rain that was cold but oddly unwet, and a pervading darkness that caused one to believe it was dusk even in the early afternoon of the Los Angeles pre-Christmas madhouse.

Though I did not particularly want to be there, there was a part of me that was secretly in love with the bleak nature of the storm and the face it had painted over the tall skyscrapers and crumbling gothic-style hotels that stand side by side in a landscape of dichotomous duality which occasionally looks more like a flat matte painting than anything remotely "real".

I wandered alone while my SO was busy in one of the shops. Familiar territory, but grim and cold now, streets flooded, and an odd scent permeating the damp air - the scent of human urine, street-vendor hot dogs and stale perfume wafting out from one of the nearby wholesale outlets.

The wind was cold against my cheeks, colder still against my bare shoulders and chest - for I had dressed for summer, knowing full well it would force me to experience the rain on my flesh - a sensation which can be discussed in words, but can only be experienced in the do-ing. A miasma of language swirled around me. Spanish. Korean. Chinese. Farsi. I thought of Bladerunner, and the futuristic world depicted in the film.

A pang of some unidentified emotion swept over me. For a moment, I remembered actually being at the premiere of Bladerunner. Sitting maybe 2 rows behind Harrison Ford, watching the movie unfold around those who had created it... and the dreams I had carried with me at the time. Dreams that I might write movies myself. Fantasies that I would wear a slinky black dress and sip cocktails with Ridley Scott while chatting about artistic trends in the realm of film noir.

I had been a writer back then. And yet... there came a day when I was talking to Wendy and I said with all the truth in my heart, "I don't want to be the one writing the books. I want to be the character in the book - the one on the grand adventure, hero or villain, both and neither, I want to be do-ing what writers only dream about on paper! I want to be the ghost hunter or the starship captain! I want to sit in that Bladerunner bar where nobody speaks English and the rain is cold and wet against my bare skin - and I want to feel all of that pain and the glory of the pain and the simple joy that there is anything at all to really feel in this crazy world!"

So I stopped for a moment on that rainy Los Angeles street, and realized yet again that I had gotten my wish. The power of my own intent had manifested it - even if not in the way I might have fantasized or imagined, it had nonetheless brought me to that one moment when I could stand at the crossroads of the past and the future, looking with wide-eyed wonder. The buildings where Bladerunner had been filmed were barely 2 blocks away, and the sheer irony of it all caused me to wonder yet again how real any of it is, and how much is only the Dream within the Dreamer's dreaming.

As I stood there surrounded by the madness of Christmas shoppers literally arguing over who would get the last Baby Betty or how much they were willing to pay for some cheap statuette of the Blessed Virgin, the world simply stopped. The writers went on strike. The dialogue turned to silence. The actors stopped in mid-stride, and for a split second I began to wonder if I had stepped onto the set of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

The world... stopped. 

"It'll be over soon, won't it?"

The voice came from my right, and as I turned my head, it was to see a paper-thin man in a rickety wheelchair, backed up into the shadowy recesses of a doorway to an abandoned storefront. As I met his eyes - haunted and full of sickness for which no cure existed, racked with the pain of his illness which went untreated as a result of his inability to pay for the continuity of his own life - I realized that he *saw* it, too. He saw that the world had stopped. He saw that the matrix had paused to take a breath.

Though there were many ways I could have chosen to interpret his question, I knew through my own *seeing* precisely what he meant. Though he knew he was dying and probably would not survive until Christmas, his question came from a position of the assemblage point that had nothing to do with himself. When he said, "It'll be over soon," it wasn't even a question.

I nodded without speaking, following his gaze up to where a small Asian man stood in a third floor window - broken and dusty - sipping coffee and gazing down at the chaos in the filthy streets below.

"You know who he is?" the old fellow in the wheelchair asked.

"I have no idea."

"That's God," the man told me. Then he laughed, though it came out as a cough. "Problem is - he don't know how to fix it either. So he just paces back and forth in front of that window all day, drinking his goddamn coffee." Another chuckle, another fit of coughing, then: "Fuck the son of a bitch. Who needs him?"

When I glanced back up at the window, God was gone. The world kick-started itself as if on the last breath of its own intent. Rain that had been paused in the air resumed its love affair with gravity, and began falling steadily. A baby screamed. And somehow I simply knew it was the birthcry of all the world.

The old fellow in the wheelchair had gone back to staring at his mismatched shoes, the gathering droplets of rain on his silver hair like diamonds on the crown of a fallen, forgotten king.

I touched his shoulder gently, though he never looked up.

"It'll be over soon," I told him, validating what he already knew.

He had fallen asleep there in the rain, in the shadows of the grey city, in a doorway, in December.

And for that one single moment outside of time, we had Dreamed together of a storm and a broken window, and God.
Journal Entry, December 19, 2007

Copyright by Della Van Hise, 2015
All Rights Reserved

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