- Anna: What do you like, Pale?
- Pale: I like a lot of things. You want bullshit, you want to know what turns me on?
- Anna: Nothing. That's fine. I can imagine.
- Pale: Yeah, well, I don't like being imagined. I like the ocean. That hurricane. I stayed on the pier--hanging on to this fuckin' pipe railing, wind blowin' so hard you couldn't breathe. Couldn't open my hands the next day. Try to get excited over some fuckin' roller coaster, some loop-the-loop after that. I like those gigantic, citywide fires--like Passaic, wherever; fuckin' Jersey's burnin' down three times a week. Good riddance. Avalanches! Whole villages wiped out. Somethin' that can--like--amaze you. People don't want to hear that shit, they want--like you should get turned on by some crap--you know, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, "I like everyone to be nice." That shit. Chicks or somethin'. Gettin' laid's okay. A really hot shower's good. Clean underwear smells like Downy softener. [Beat.] So you guys all cook for each other. Sittin' here, makin' polite conversation about the state of the world and shit.
- Anna: Dancers mainly talk about dance.
- Pale: Man, I'm fuckin' up my pants all fucked up.
- Anna: That's a nice suit.
- Pale: Yeah, I'm a dresser. I keep myself neat. I'm fuckin' up the back of my pants, gettin' all fucked up. Fuckin' linen. Half linen, half wool--fuckin' useless. I could've been the dancer. Who needs it?
Sometimes what’s wrong with inviting the bad thing in? I have nowhere else to be. Come on in. Bad thing, just, be the thing that I do right now and on the other side I’ll do other things. You are handleable. It’s practice, not proving, so. Last night, I was trying to get home. The subway platform was overcrowded. It’s like knowing when you’re about to get sick, seeing an overcrowded platform. This is wrong and it will get wronger and I could change course, take a day off work to rest up or I could stand here. I picked the first car. Normally I pick the last car. But the first car, instead, even though the first car one stop later inevitably fills with millions of people, that’s how the first car works. But I knew I’d get a seat, and those people one stop later would be hovering near me but I’d be sitting, so. I got a seat. There was a baby but the baby wasn’t crying. There was a man with a cane but he got a seat too. The train was skipping stations but not mine. So maybe I wouldn’t have anything to worry about, and then we were pulling out of a station three stops from my home and the train suddenly horribly angrily gleefully stopped. So quickly that we all of us made like we were in a junior high production of The Music Man bounce-bounce-bounce-bounce-LEAAAAAAN-fall back but he doesn’t know the territory!
I looked around, like, yes. Obviously. Weren’t we all waiting for this? The balance our lives require? Can’t have a city for nothing. Maybe one person in the car groaned and everyone else just sighed, exchanged significant glances. The MTA is our drunk friend at our other friend’s birthday, whose turn is it to get him home? The conductor announced that the train was going out of service and we’d all need to exit through the last car, which was still at the previous station’s platform. “Do we need to walk on the tracks?” asked somebody, to nobody, and somebody else answered, “No, no.”
So we sat there, bonded in our knowing helplessness, and only one person got agitated the whole time, and he was quickly put down by a lady who was standing there with her kid, that conversation was like “WHY DON’T WE MOVE SOMEONE FUCKIN MOVE” “We can’t.” “Oh, we can’t?” “We can’t, they gotta do the other cars first.” “Oh. Cool.” The baby didn’t cry at all. The guy with the cane just sat. When we finally did walk through the train, an until-then-strangely-quiet group of teenagers giggled to themselves and took flash pictures of each other filing single file. An MTA guy stood in the last car nodding at all of us. “I can’t tell you what’s wrong with it,” he said. “All I can say is that it’s broken.”
On the street I saw all of my carmates, some hailing cabs, some clustered at bus stops. No longer my allies, now in the way of me crossing the street in an expedient fashion. I walked home. I owed them nothing.
1. Broadway (weeknights): Come the denouement, they crouch. Clutch clutches. Crumple jackets. Sweaty palms and bent knees. Aisle seats hard won not for nothing, Telecharge, these seats are meant for the escape artists of old Broadway. At the crack of curtainfall they are off, up the aisle and out the door, sidewalk agile, chased to Port Authority by the applause that seems, somehow, for them.
2. Broadway (Friday and Saturday nights): Where did Steve get to well he said he would be right back, well he said he was going to get us drinks, well he oh here, Steve, over here! Steve! Steve! Steve! Steve! He doesn’t see me, are those. Is he. UCCH he’s turning around, did you, remember he did this before, what? when we went to see Julia Roberts rememb STEVE OVER oh he’s, he’s, he does this every time, I don’t know why we the drinks cost about forty dollars anyway and now good Lord you know they put them in a sippy cup yes REALLY and it’s not like he didn’t get tanked enough on the train in STEVE
3. Broadway (matinees): They like to drape their coats over the backs of their seats and so then if you’re so lucky as to be seated behind them you can spend the show tearing tiny edges off your Playbill and crumpling those edges into tiny balls and dropping those tiny balls into the deepest depths of the furriest collars round the quilted-iest hoods. It’s snowing, you bastards. It’s snowing all over.
4. Off-Broadway (nonprofit): So much depends on a volunteer usher dressed in black seating you incorrectly.
5. Off-Broadway (commercial): See there a particular sort of heartbreak in the eyes of the tourist who has laid down how much to see what exactly in a concrete block with, well, I’ll give you this, the fixtures are quite modern and the seats are well-cushioned but they’re all just, in their eyes you can see the screaming going how do I pretend I liked this as they applaud too hard for competency, and—then! The shadow is gone from their eyes and it’s all shall we again take our evening sup from the Smiler’s Deli and Buffet?
6. Off-Off-Broadway: You drunks and louts and you those comped in, you! Smug and intimate, afraid of no steep stair, folding chair, half-lit bathroom, haphazardly folded program. Scanning the room for enemies. Tucking flyers into library books. As brave and entitled as churchgoers, ancient judges, capable of forgiving generosity and blackening silence, they ride home alone, smiling.