3 :: aeroglyphics ::
When the subway enters light it becomes the elevated. And this is Chicago: rooftops and skylights, wires and poles, an occasional billboard fit into the jumble. There are places in the layout for information. From where Jakob sits, he can read the word Budweiser. He looks down from the L, observes alleys and dumpsters and people doing their morning work, extending their narratives, adding events to those already accumulated and arranged in their brains. He tilts his head, crooks his index finger, and runs it slowly up the back rim of his ear. Two Hispanic men unload a mattress from the back of a truck. The infamous Other? Chicago School, 1915: The reason that the daily chronicle of the newspaper is so shocking, and at the same time so fascinating, to the average reader is because the average reader knows so little about the life of which the newspaper is the record. Nothingís changed since then.
Jakob would like to truly know a city, all cities, a world. He thinks about the pleasures he got from the science fiction books he read when he was younger. The browns and oranges of Dune. He wants to be a scholar of human ecology. Thatís what he should have told that girl at the party. Itís a good line; maybe heíll try it out on Freya.
He wants to impress her. He just moved here to Chicago about three months ago. Heís gotten his boxes unpacked--mostly--and heís figured out things like where the grocery store is, but he hasnít really had time to set up a social life. Aside from this guy Fletcher. Fletcher kind of adopted him at the orientation, invited him into a small group of university malcontents who meet up for beers every other Friday. Last week Fletcher brought along some other friends, including Freya. She wore a sleeveless pink shirt with a leopard-skin print. One arm consumed to the elbow in the black fire of an elaborate tattoo. Jakob, well on his way to drunk, watched her bright dark eyes and her wide mouth and thought words like sensual until he realized that he might be staring. He switched to looking at her hands, examining the chipped polish.
He barely said two words to her.
That Monday Jakob ran into Fletcher in the hallway and said Your friend Freya seems like an interesting woman. Fletcher responded: oh, you like her? Jakob tried to act coy, but Fletcher advanced: sheís not seeing anyone. Why donít you invite her to come out with us again? Jakob had protested, but Fletcher told him where she worked, and when. Drop by and ask her, he said.
I donít know, Jakob said. I donít want to seem
But here he is, a few days later, headed out to the record store. He rehearses in his mind. A scholar of human ecology. No, that sounds too pretentious.
The L passes over train tracks which curve through the city on the top of a wall. Jakob doesnít know where they end up. We cannot know this world completely. A concrete strip between the tracks is painted with names and intricate patterns. He canít make sense of the script. A message that he canít read, written right there on the skin of the city. Itís a code: it communicates something, to someone, but Jakob has no way to comprehend it.
His stop is next and he still doesnít know what he will say to her.
He imagines a world of telepaths. Total communication everywhere, all the minds linked up. Oh, girls just want to have fun.