The Artist stepped off of the bus firmly resolved that he was better than any person with whom he had come in contact. Certainly none of his fellow students was equal with him.
Sie haben keine Phantasie! They are machines who do nothing but obtain information and give it back. They are merely computers, but, they are computers with a weakness ¾ worry. They lack confidence in their own minds’ abilities to think. They simply swallow the words of their teachers and belch them back onto mimeograph paper. No thinking. No reflection. No imagination.
The Artist, moving south on Seventeenth Street, was about to cross John F. Kennedy Boulevard when he recognized the voice, and, with some hesitation, turned around to see his younger friend and schoolmate.
¾ Hey, Will.
Will motioned for The Artist to come along with him to the El. All through his Greek, History, Latin, Religion, English, Math, and German classes, the sixteen-year-old Artist had suffered the company of his fellow students. Now the day was over.
No way. Not today. I’m not going with him just because he sees me and needs someone to hold his hand!
¾ Whatsa matter with your brother?
¾ What do you mean?
¾ I saw him today and he was going off somewhere by himself instead of taking the El home.
Then he’ll condemn me by bopping the side of his head with his index finger. He can talk about me behind my back, if he wants to. He can think what he likes. I don’t care about these people any more. I’m on a higher plane. They don’t understand.
The Artist hastened away without another word. Knowing that the light was about to change, he started across JFK before the traffic had come to a complete halt. He took note of the businessmen and the secretaries who hesitated on the corner. Their cowardice corroborated his assumption of superiority.
“GO PHILLIES! GO PHILLIES!” shout the October business windows. Toy helicopter with propellers twirling on a vendor’s stand. An elephant beating a drum next to it. The beat fades and vanishes. A good one! The beating of youth’s drum fading and vanishing as I become a man. Cymbal. Nice pair of tits.
The Artist reached Chestnut Street and went left.
A Greek restaurant. We should all go there on a class trip. Crackle of the P.A.: “All students interested in going to the Greek restaurant will leave after sixth period today.”
Stopping, The Artist scanned the blue letters on the white sign for words from ancient Greek. His tired eyes began to sting. He found no familiar words. His throat was dry.
No. This is modern Greece. Nothing to do with what we’re studying. It’s too hot out for this coat. I’m tired ¾ in body and in spirit.
He left the sign. Music rose from a violin. Half a block away, a blonde-haired man wearing a blue-flannel shirt bowed his instrument with great confidence and with great indifference to the crowd that was gathering around him. Moving closer, The Artist noticed a black man with the violinist. He was playing a guitar and singing. He wore a long beige coat and a white hat with a black band. The front of its rim was turned up. The violinist wore jeans and leather boots. The pitch and volume of the violin soared over the deep, regular strumming of the guitar. The Artist crossed Chestnut, dropped his heavy bag upon the sidewalk, and joined the audience.
He felt his soul rise with the music and seem to fly away from his dirty, busy environment. None of the bored frustration, of the fatigue, or of the emotional torment afflicting him was proof against it. For a few moments, the burning ache of violent contempt for all and for everything was soothed by the straining violin and the rhythmic guitar. He whirled around with his hands thrust deep in his pants pockets and peered down the street. On both sides in well-ordered lines among the scraggly trees trying on their autumn attire flew Star-Spangled Banners. New red-white-and-blue SEPTA buses paused and opened their doors for waiting commuters. Cars, vans, taxis, and a motorcycle travelled sporadically south on Fifteenth. Two cops in back leather and shiny silver badges chatted with a young secretary in front of Zounds and another, looking bored, strolled toward the crowd in which The Artist stood. Pedestrians crossed the street over the imitation cobblestone walkway. Orange “DON’T WALK” signs blinked and yellow caution lights flashed. He turned again toward the musicians.
In the weak yellow spotlight falling at a narrow angle from the tired sun, the guitar player sang with feeling. He nodded and shook and swung his head and generously lit up his very white smile.
They like him. He’d make a good politician. I don’t have any money ¾ just tokens. Wait. Here’s a dime.
¾ Sarah, sm … i…i … i…i … le!
Oh! Another good one. The beauty of it all. The flag-lined streets and the people flitting here and there! Abandon is here. Good. It is pleasure.
A little boy approached the guitar case that lay in front of the musicians. He swung his clenched fist over the case a few times, as if he needed to warm up, and then let the change his mother had given him fall from his hand.
I can’t. Its only a dime. It’s better than nothing. No, it isn’t. If I put in a dime, I will get a sneer but if I don’t and slip away unseen, nothing unpleasant happens.
The Artist picked up his schoolbag and walked away in wordless thought. A blind man shook his cup and tapped his cane in the middle of the sidewalk. The Artist with only a dime to spare passed by with the rest of the pedestrians.
Pinball! Man-boys playing spaceman in their businessman suits. Their attaché cases are next to the machines. I am their opposite. I am a boyman. I am a boy becoming a man. Nice-looking girls smoking on a bench. Wo! An apeman!
The man in the ape suit stepped toward him. He placed a paw on The Artist’s back and pointed with the other one toward Spencer’s Gifts. In the window, there was a life-sized poster of Cheryl Ladd wearing a pink, low-cut top and short cut-off jeans. It was surrounded by toys.
Get away. Run! Why? It can’t hurt. Just move a bit closer.
The smoke curling up in their faces, the girls cried:
¾ Awlright! Awlright!
The impatient apeman shook his hairy finger at the door.
¾ Ah, … No, thanks.
¾ Awww! Boooooooo!
There’s no way he’s going to make a fool of me ¾ especially in front of these girls. Go to hell!!
He got a safe distance away from his tormentors and then slowed down. He wasn’t interested in them or in that stuff. His soul was wrestling with Love. The burdens yoked to his body and soul, he knew, had been quarried by unreturned Love ¾ Love unreturned to him and Love which he failed to return. The boyman shuffled to the corner of Fifteenth and Chestnut.
A man of doubtful heterosexuality leaned limply against the wall. The Artist crossed to the other side of the street.
Woman in a man’s body. Man who loves men. Unnatural but love. Love is the point. Love is the burden and the meaning. Stupid students miss the point. They rebel against their future selves. They scream like uncomfortable babies who want their diapers changed. They never get beyond that. Their rage is temporary, a “phase.” It wants a change of externals. To love and be loved is it. Nicht Geld! “To love and be loved by me.”
¾ There’s the lawyer. He’s no fool.
Doesn’t know the Golden Rule.
There’s the Doctor, yes, indeed.
Has forgot the Apostles’ Creed.
All professions great and small
Lead many a man to fall, to fall
Into the depths of old routine
But in the end life’s not so clean.
Not real clean? Becomes unclean? Een een een. Now? No. When we get home. Tips for Stage Productions.
The book in the window of B. Dalton Bookseller halted him. To his disgust, The Artist found that the book was intended for stage hands and managers ¾ not for writers.
Of course not.
The Artist proceeded toward the revolving door.
A haunt of Freshman days it is. A visit will revive me, will be a rest from the cruel night of suffering whose shadows my gift has gathered and whose opaque blackness my Love has painted.
Medea wailing violence, shrieking blood-red hate. Black-hearted hate remorseless and bitter. Her love now hate. Weakness. I am better. I still love. School again. Wasting my time? Possibly. A skeleton in the window. I didn’t even notice it! I must be on a different plane! Higher or lower? Better or worse? Higher and better. My reflection in the window. My grey cap, my suit coat, tie, shirt … my belt and pants. Bag of books in my hand. My pale face shocked next to the skeleton’s. I wonder if it’s real. Seems more real than me. Was probably the playwright. His face is stiff, bony, hard. Mine is airy, an illusion of light. A reflection. Like a ghost. Spirit. Spiritual reflection. Father Tuar in class today said it’s good. I reflect but they don’t. But every day? Does that make you better? Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know.