40 :: consciousness :: 4/30/01
It's a warm spring evening and Thomas is standing on the L platform, looking out over the streets below. He sees the yellow arches of McDonald's and a Miller Genuine Draft (MGD) billboard. Never Miss A Genuine Opportunity. He's eager to get home because earlier he picked up the new Windy and Carl album, Consciousness, and he's looking forward to hearing it. He'll get into bed and put it on the bedroom stereo. He anticipates lying in the warmdark of bed, and dissolving the chatter of his thoughts in the solution of their vast, spacious sound. Sometimes, when listening to music in bed, he finds himself inhabiting a strange still worldthe boundary zone between sleep and wakefulness. There's a term for it: the hypnogogic state. He likes being there: he's heard people tell of visions that they've seen in that space. The drones will thread through his dreams, as welloften, when he wakes up, he will replay the CD he fell asleep to, and the dream images will come back to him, impossible shapes all on a string. He wonders if Windy and Carl are keyed in to these notions: the album title would suggest it, as would the cover art, words arranged into a colorful mandala. (They've released earlier projects, too, with titles like Dream of Blue.)
Denise enters the L station, feeds her transit card into the slot. She bangs through the turnstile, spots the sign for Dan Ryan, and heads up the stairs. She's dreading going home: Toy, that prick, won't leave her alone about the goddamn Knife Incident last weekend. I still can't believe you pulled a knife on me, he'll say. She was fucking joking. It was meant to be a fucking joke. She told him this probably three times but then she just lost interest. He can think that she's a psycho if he wants to. Let him think whatever he wants. She is concerned, though, that he may be grinding her down like this for a reason; it may have something to do with wanting to sleep with her again, but really, she's not sure.
Thomas is thinking about Lydia / unseen_girl, about their date, about how to proceed with that. He thinks he wants to pursue a relationship with her, but something about the age difference makes him slightly uncomfortable she's six years younger than he is, younger than he'd thought from her e-mails. There's a certain part of him that feels like he'd be taking advantage of her, manipulating her. But another part thinks that he couldn't manipulate her even if you wanted to. This is probably true; Thomas hasn't had a girlfriend in, oh, maybe five years now (he resists the urge to actually count back the years to Rachel). So, if anyone's the naive one here, it's probably him. Yet something about the age difference still unsettles him. He makes a note to discuss this with Janine she has a keen eye for not only what makes him uncomfortable but also for the biases and assumptions that lie beneath. She's not shy about taking those biases and assumptions and dragging them out into the open, exposing them, challenging them, ultimately leading Thomas to question them. He's grateful for it: it's not always a fun process to go through but he feels lucky to have a friend who can do that; he imagines that most people don't. He's going over to Janine's Thursday, for the Survivor finale he'll talk to her about it then.
Denise reaches the platform. She can hear an ambulance siren. She hates hearing sirens: they signal that someone is suffering. Someone not far away. It's easy for her to imagine someone dying in the back of every ambulance she sees, easy for her to trace the fantasy back to a small group of survivors sitting in their home, a home with a sucking hole newly punched through it. Her brain runs grief footage borrowed from television newscasts: weeping family members standing on their porch, their words catching their throat, breaking up. She supposes it makes "good television." Then it haunts her mind for days afterwards. Jesus. She can't even watch the news anymore; she can't take the physical sickness that she feels. She feels literally battered by the loss of others.
An ambulance is going by on the street. Thomas watches the blue and white and red lights whirl. A code, meaning crisis. Crisis in the grid tonight. He listens to the sirens, applies a sonic appreciation to them, notes the Doppler effect happening as the code moves through the streets. This reminds him of the sound map project that he mentioned to Freya, which reminds him of the number that she gave him, that guy, Jakob. Maybe he should call Jakob; he sounded like someone who might be fun to collaborate with. But he knows he won't. He's not good on the phone; he can't imagine calling someone he doesn't know up out of the blue and trying to explain who he is, what he does, what he wants.
Someone walks by him, then stops and stands on the platform next to him. He looks over it's a woman, wearing dark glasses, even though it's evening. This quirk rings a bell for him; he mentally searches for half a second before he figures it out: she works at Tympanum with Freya; she's waited on him before at the register.
Denise can feel someone staring at her. She looks up to see who it is. It's a Japanese guy, he looks familiar for some reason, probably a customer from the record store.
Hi, she says.
Hi, he says.