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The sky is dark tonight, not that it matters to anybody who can see it. Who in this wonder of wonders would waste time looking up when all around exists the very edge of possibility, of human achievement? A glance will tell more than a careful, analyzed look will; this itself is the very essence of New York: Our first impressions are our first impressions for a reason, how many more do you need? Only after carefully probing the city’s most intimate secrets will one realize, truly, the magnificent aura of despair that surrounds the place; that peculiar sense of loss that is often found when wants and needs collide with intentions and doubt in a shocking, inspiring explosion of color and sound, of emotions and of heat, oh the heat: That evoking, passionate sense that not only can anything happen, everything will happen. New York in summertime, ladies and gents: Order now while stock lasts.
The only warmth provided tonight, however, comes from the third-storey window of a big house on the Upper East Side; James McMorrow’s gentle croon is blasted out at a volume bordering on sacrilege, the Irishman’s plucked steel strings seeming more reminescent of Metallica than Fionn Regan. To hear it at all is a rare enough occurence this side of the pond; then again, how is rare defined in a city which is so much more than a city; in a place where visionaries slump with dreamers, each lost in the beautiful, desperate Japanese Gardens of the past; in a place where plump, white lawyer’s wives go jogging in Central Park but are always careful to be out well before eight. How can one seperate the unusual from the commonplace in the sweaty, hazy maze of Chinatown, or in the soft quiet of Staten Island? To make an assumption is to lose countless others forever, to send them spiralling deep in to the ether, never again to be heard. How can you justify such an atrocity?
Such questions are not on Lena’s mind as she stumbles out of Ricky’s Razz Pizazz, squinting with vague irritation at the glaring sunlight. A passerby would not suspect her of being in any way influenced, such is the certainty with which she places foot before foot, but nothing so graceful will ever be said of Lena Joyce; she has merely stumbled into that peculiar nirvana of balance that comes from drinking a good bit too much, but not a lot too much. Indeed, such is her poise that one would imagine her to be a dancer; not the type you’d happen across in that doomed joint she just fell out of, rather a trained dancer, a ballerina; an artist.
Not that she can tell any of this, of course. Head still pounding from the pulsing electro-pop that seeps out of Ricky’s like a bad odor and the ever present aroma of despair she wears like a cologne, she continues to stagger perfectly along the wide boulevard, giggling haphazardly at the groups of well off, intelligent young men stagnating heroically outside whichever coffee shop has happened to grace their attention tonight, bragging just loudly enough for any passersby to hear about last night’s exploits, Hey now, she told him to do what, hey? She pauses, briefly considering the consequences of infiltrating that group, that oh-so-exclusive collection of the East Coast’s best and brightest, reduced to the basest of animal instincts, barely getting on, just like the rest of us, dead in the water, lambs for the slaughter, kiss me quickly, don’t tell your mother. Hey now, might i deign to join you? Say what, say what, hey? Their slang is absurd, a curious combination of doomed expeditions into the big bad real world and internet terms, Googled privately late into a coffee fuelled all-nighter. All-nighter. She chuckles again.
Miraculously, she can think slightly straighter now. For somebody with as much alcohol in them as Lena has in her, this is indeed miraculous. She can see all along the street, for ages and ages hence and fro, this way, that way, which way do I go? Hey now, which way do I go, hey? That one cracks her up. Tell me Mac, tell me quick, kiss me quick, say now hey, which way hey?
Laughing still at this latest witticism, she turns a full circle to find herself outside the window of Lapton’s, trying to peer in at the fancy pianos in the display case only to find a tired-looking girl with messed-up hair blocking her view.
“Hey babe, wanna step aside a minute? I’m tryin’ to see something here, so if you would just move a bit we’d all be happy, hey?”
Lena looks surprised to hear her voice; it did have a certain authority to it, however, so she decided to step back and listen rather than intervene.
“Hey listen now, say now hey, I’m not kiddin’ around here, move your a**, huh? Say what, hey? Listen sweetie, this gon’ get real bad real quick so this is you’ last chance, hey, you feel me, say now what?”, she spits, getting aggressive quickly, too quickly, far too quickly to be chance, and still the admittedly ruffled girl in the shop won’t move. Still, somewhere in a tiny corner of her mind she’s laughing at the ridiculous language she’s using like a natural.
“I’ve given you time now, you see me, hey now, say? I’ give’ you ev’ry chance, you feel me, say now, I’ been kind, hey? ‘T you’ askin’ fo’ it now girl, you hear me, hey, you hear me blondie? Hey, say something back now, hey? Hey!”
Moving as if in a dream, Lena takes a psyche-up step back, terrified at what this strange girl with her voice and body is doing, screaming noiselessly somewhere. And then it happens, and the world seems to sigh, disappointed. No gradually crescendoing music has preempted this moment, the rest of the world ceases to exist. Then is done away with, future branded taboo. Lena, briefly, exists purely in the absolute now, that beautiful state of both mind and body when simplicity is the most complex concept and when angels stroll among men, briefly granted a chance at humanity for the sake of this one girl. She can see all this happening out of the corner of her eye, of course, but she can’t move; she isn’t frozen, nor is she unwilling to move, but if one could visualize a state directly inbetween one would see a picture of Lena Carol-Ann Joyce with her fist halfway to the double glazed shopfront window of Lapton’s.
She can see, technically, but she can’t at the same time: imagine having your eyes closed but having transparent eyelids. And she can hear; oh, what she hears! The deep, throaty voice of the ocean, the most seductive croon you’ve ever heard, balanced out with the piercing soprano of time itself, and all of it underlaid with the hushed, infinitely delicate whispering of the angels themselves, back from their walk among the blind, the weak, and those rare, rare creatures who have an uncanny knack for getting up when they’ve been put down time and time again, more often than not mostly by themselves. These certain few walk hand in hand with the angels, and whisper in the same peculiarly soft tongue. And the strangest thing is that they don’t look confused, they don’t wear upon their glowing faces a look of embarrassment of cynicism. They look completely at ease, completely open; it’s the most fascinating thing. And they all look straight at her, and to see the faces! Oh, there aren’t oceans deep enough to compare to their eyes, nor is there a star bright enough to do justice to the glow in their faces. And it is all so tempting, but what’s being offered isn’t clear; the sense of calculated murkiness is unsettling in its prescence.
There is one though, that turns his face away. It stays turned as the others approach and now he has let go of his angel’s hand, standing stock still. And now there is a definite sense of foreboding about the whole procession, and the angels have at some point, it could have been a thousand years ago, it might not have happened yet, the angels have transformed into demons; their eyes become black, and as shallow as solid matter can be. They beckon towards her with their free hands, but she has a sense of reluctance now that cannot be ignored within her, and so they start to gesture more forcefully, Come, Lena! And still she refuses, making a silent protest, locked up inside her own messed-up head, unsure of what exactly is going but knowing, somehow, that she should refuse... And yet she can’t ignore the fact that the people following still look as politely happy as one could possibly imagine. She begins to wavers, and it is then that he with his face turned away begins to amble towards her, making no haste, taking all the time left in the world and then some more until he steps right into her eyesight, and she can recognize him as somebody she would have met, somebody important, somebody she already knew, somebody now, everything is now. And still she resists, and now he has his hands on either side of her head, pressing ever so gently and at the same time squeezing her to death, and still she refuses. And then she looks into his eyes, and something, somewhere clicks, and she realizes that this is a one-time only offer, and that this is her last chance, the angels grow impatient... With or without, Lena? With or without?
Ten seconds later, as the sirens come wailing and the people stare at the lost looking girl sitting, as if she’d just fallen back, in front of a music store with a shattered front window, Lena Carol-Ann Joyce begins to cry.
And when those certain few who have yet to be chosen hear the music they will hear the deep bellow of the ocean and the screech of time, and they will hear the hushed whispering of the angels... This is the song of New York, and it’ll be damned if one girl makes any difference to that at all.