Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The City

Peter and I wrote this novella (or, perhaps it is a short story?) late in 2001. Peter died in 2008 but here I have an example of what defined our relationship - we were, and perhaps still are, creative partners. 

I would love anyone's idea on how best to describe this book. Does it fit into a genre? There are so many terms today for so many types of writing. Me, I just like to write, so thank you for helping me on the others bits!

Here is an excerpt from The City.

Desire drew the men along the City’s streets. The great moon, now higher in the sky, stood witness to promises of pleasure and of moments of escape where the blood tides flowed thickly in the streets. They passed through the Third Avenue underpass, across the now-unused train tracks, and into a realm that hid its secrets behind barred windows and half-broken neon lights. They left the crowds behind when they entered this part of the City, as the loneliness of the unfulfilled now haunted their every step. The secrets of sensation beckoned them forward and they walked in silence, beyond the pale and into the grime-slicked abyss. Whores, pimps, junkies, and bouncers inhaled together as if from one half-burned cigarette. Exhaling, their smoke rose and clouded the glow of a streetlamp The Man and his Friend shared a joint together, stiffening their courage and loosening their inhibitions. For tonight’s journey, though they frequently discussed such a venture, was now a reality.
Loud music, the raised voices of drunken men, and the sound of breaking glass greeted them as they turned around the first corner. Here stood a bar with no name; a half-hidden place for those still hedging their bets and for others intent only in the disillusion of the moment. A gigantic electric sign, that had once proclaimed the glories of the industrial age, stood atop a squared-off six story building in which the bar was situated. This mighty sign which once could have been seen for miles, is now as dark as the heart’s of those who walked on the sidewalks below - a monster who in death had sworn revenge on the humanity that had both given it birth and condemned it to death. It was not a sad creature but a malevolent one.
Indeed the whole neighborhood seemed malevolent – not merely the half-human souls who had found refuge here but the buildings themselves, structures which one could hardly imagine ever saw a pleasant morning or a summer afternoon’s shower. It was as though the architects of these buildings, sober men working in brightly lit offices, with warm cheerful homes to retreat into at the evening, had deliberately set about to create nightmarish, fun house reflections of the hopeful world in which they lived. But the Man thought, “No, the architects could not do this deliberately. They have simply impressed their emptiness upon blueprint paper and this forest of shadows is what emerged.”
It seemed as though the cigarette smoke that perpetually hung in the air had gradually grown denser; a fog, or something like a fog, emanating from the street lamps themselves. Perhaps it was just the eerie yellowish color of the sodium vapor bulbs, a lack of contrast, a trick of the light. Or, perhaps it really was that phantoms rose from the sewer gratings, seeped around the edges of the manhole covers, and thus, though it was bright, it was almost impossible to see clearly. Perhaps the fog had drawn together and was now wedging itself between the Man and his Friend and the doorway of the bar that yawned in front of them. Or, had it opened, not because it was sleepy but because it was hungry? In either case, the closer they came to the door the more difficult it was for them to walk. Phantoms foul or phantoms fair, mercy and mystery, the repentant souls of thieves, murderers, and worse. An ancient neon sign, half of which had long ago burned out, caught the Friend’s attention. What remained of the sign glowed red, two horizontal parenthesis, that had once proudly highlighted the name of a beer not brewed in thirty years. Oddly enough, it now resembled a pair of female lips, blowing them a kiss through the grimy window; or a sideways vulva, inviting them to a cheap screw in an even cheaper hotel. It was easy to become confused in a place like this, to take blood for shadows and longing for love. Solid objects grew liquid under the influence of the confounding fog, shifting shape at will. A man might pass through a wall in such a fog, a woman might ooze under a door like a puddle of spilled paint. The closer one looked the quicker the texture of reality became blank, an imprint being lifted off before their hazy mind could comprehend what it really was. Here there were no illusions. In the world from which the two men came illusion persisted through the collective denial of those who beheld it. But denial was futile here. “What omen brought me here?” thought the Man, a moment before he penetrated the invisible surface of the looking glass that masqueraded as a door. The Friend, one step behind, felt something brush his face – a cobweb, or the wash of the mirror’s surface momentarily snapping back before it yielded again to him. They could almost hear the crystalline gate shut behind them.

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