A Passage from Luminous Airplanes, or Things As They Were: A Hyperromance

My god, you think you need help? You’re not the one sitting in his room in New Haven, Connecticut, right now, wondering what the hell happened to your life. You’re not the one working six shifts a week at Infinite Copy and living in a dark room with wall-to-wall carpet infected by someone’s former cat. You’re not the one who is afraid to contact anyone you knew, before, because you are guilty of such terrible things that, on the one hand, no one who knows you are guilty will speak to you, and, on the other, no one who doesn’t know you are guilty will even believe you. You aren’t the one who can’t go to Canada. You aren’t the one for whom the gates of San Francisco—and don’t bother telling me that the city has no gates; I know!—have closed. You aren’t the one who can’t sleep, the one who goes out night after night into New Haven, hoping to be the victim of a violent crime, because when you lived here in 1988-91, New Haven was the seventh-poorest city in America, and abounded in violent crime of all sorts, shootings in particular, three students at Bleak College were shot in this city when you—not you, I mean—lived here last, two undergraduates and a math Ph.D., anyway, you aren’t the one who walks up and down Elm Street hoping to be shot, shot, or hit by a car, vehicular homicides were also popular, you seem to remember, anyway, you, you, you aren’t the one who goes out at night only to find that New Haven is changed, and that the danger has disappeared from it, you aren’t the one walking past the shuttered Ann Taylor shop at three in the morning, sitting on a bench outside the shuttered Au Bon Pain, walking sacrificially past the shuttered Limited Express, waiting for an end that isn’t coming, and knowing that the end is not coming, and staring, finally, through the metal lattice at the clothes in the Limited Express window, and thinking that you might look all right in a gray turtleneck, and then remembering that you are not in the market for clothes, because no one knows you, and no one wants to know you, because you are guilty, guilty, and you go home, thinking sadly about how New Haven has changed, and how you have changed since the first time you were here, all for the worse, it seems, and of course you can’t sleep, so you sit down at the computer and decide that somehow this is the time to begin the project you have been carrying around in your head for years, namely, to write a Commentary that will complete and bring up to date the book you wrote about your time in Thebes, and it’s long past midnight, and you’re alone in your cat-haunted room, typing, and you think you’re the one who needs help! My god.

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