Walking through the streets, I thought. When I wanted to write about something, maybe I was stuck in a creative block, I was thinking too acutely or not acutely enough, I would always imagine someone walking through the streets. Downtown, at night. Someone alone, a man wearing a hat, a dark hat with a wide brim and dark coat, his hands thrust deep into his pockets, shoulders hunched. Because he’s cold, that man. He’s cold, living in perpetual winter, and in this man’s mind is a tempest of grave designs, and he walks swiftly, with a dignified purpose. It’s an unfamiliar city, where the man walks. The streets are all strange to him and yet he knows where he’s going, it’s as if he’s equipped with a detailed map or maybe a wireless receiver or other phonetic device nestled in his ear, a voice on the other end guiding him through the streets with names like glyphs etched into steel signs or else there are no names at all, avenues and boulevards empty and desolate save for heaps of trash piled up in their dark alleyways. Yes, walking through the streets, this is what I thought, these four words, as if their sequence were significant or as if my own history was sketched somewhere therein. But then again my own story is irrelevant, worthless, for I know as well as anyone (better than most) that the value of a tale always lies in the tale itself, never he who tells it. The story has always existed and will always exist regardless of who happens to translate it into language, it lives eternal upon a current of energy or thought (selfsame) and only requires someone to intercept it, some poor, afflicted, receptive soul to translate and enumerate it, to unleash it from its shackles deep in the cavern wherein it stews and stews.
Walking through the streets this man has his hands in his pockets to protect them but also to cradle something else, something buried in there, something like papers crumpled in his sweaty palms, because despite the cold blowing in from Lake Michigan or the Hudson or the North Sea or wherever our man happens to be, his palms sweat, which tells us, the writer and the reader, that he is either a nervous man or he is nervous at this particular moment. Or, of course, it could be none of the above. Perhaps his palms are not sweating at all and it’s not crumpled papers buried in his pocket but some sort of charm, a lucky coin, a religious talisman.
And then beneath a streetlamp our man’s erect figure is ablaze, lit up for the world to see, or perhaps lit up just for us, perched here on this building ledge (or studying him from an apartment window), awake, aware, watching as our man (or his outline) exudes a plume of steam (or smoke) from his mouth and then continues his easy stride through the light spectrum and then out of it, drenched in shadow yet again, with us still watching, and as we see him we cannot be completely certain that the figure we saw in the glow was indeed a man and not, say, a woman, or just as plausible, an apparition, for just as quickly as he had appeared beneath that bone white glow he has moved out from under it, walking through the streets alone, our only evidence of having seen him the image burned residually into our brains and the clicking of his shoe soles on the concrete.