“A small audience of onlookers has gathered at the edges of the road. They stand with eyes averted, as if they just witnessed some tragic event and are trying to downplay its importance. More people leave the abandoned houses and venture into the rainy street in twos and threes, covering their heads with bags and old newspapers. I figure they’re coming to offer advice or consolation about the blank page, but they push past me and flock toward the oracle’s porch. They all begin to file inside.”
“Paul removed his coat and pulled the trowel from his belt. He stood nervously. Old Santos left him. No one watched him now. He reached the trowel down into the mortar. Slice down toward him, edgewise twist in quick short circle and scoop up away from him. The trowel came up half-covered with mortar—but how heavy! He dropped it back into the tub and worked the trowel back and forth in the mortar just as he had seen the bricklayers do. The feel of flexible steel trowel in pliant warm plushy soon-to-be stone. The wet rub of mortar on tender skin…the first fleshly sense of Job, Job who would give living to mother Annunziata and the little ones. He gathered straight unchipped red brick and layed them dry in lengthwise string. Then he went over to the building, studied the bond of a corner, and fixed it in his eye.”—Pietro di Donato, Christ in Concrete
“A coat from another life comes up behind him and like an old flame slips its arms around his shoulders. He watches as they dance in the mirror—he and his coat. He slides his arms into its sleeves. His hands fill up its pockets.
Look at the street, that avenue of wind we used to flare, my coat and I. He knows that one can’t step into the same street twice, and yet he’s returned to this city looking not for the eternal, but for whatever has survived.”
(from an ongoing series of Boston transit street photography)
“I said that when my sons were the ages of those two leaping boys, they were so intimate it would have been hard to disentangle their separate natures. They used to play together from the moment they opened their eyes in the morning to the moment they closed them again. Their play was a kind of shared trance in which they created whole imaginary worlds, and they were forever involved in games and projects whose planning and execution were as real to them as they were invisible to everyone else: sometimes I would move or throw away some apparently inconsequential item, only to be told that it was a scared prop in the ongoing make-believe, a narrative which seemed to run like a magic river through our household, inexhaustible, and which they could exit and re-enter at will, moving over that threshold which no one else could see into another element. And then one day the river dried up: their shared world of imagination ceased, and the reason was that one of them—I can’t even recall which one it was—stopped believing in it. In other words, it was nobody’s fault; but all the same it was brought home to me how much of what was beautiful in their lives was the result of a shared vision of things that strictly speaking could not have been said to exist.” —Rachel Cusk, Outline
“My hand will always remember the density of those silver dollars, the dead weight as I tumbled them back and forth, the dull clink as the coins touched. The nature of the weight offered a lesson in value too; you knew by a sense of the coin’s unique inner gravity that the silver was pure, that it wasn’t an alloy. Holding the coin in your palm you felt the primitive allure of the metal itself, its truth. Years later, I would pay for college by fixing washing machines and dryers. I was a repairman for a company that installed coin-operated machines in apartments buildings and laundromats. We had collectors in the field, men who worked set routes, hitting laundry rooms all over the city, emptying the coin boxes into canvas sacks. Late in the afternoon they returned to the shop and delivered the dirty bags to the counting room. The coins were filthy, turning everything they touched the lugubrious gray of pencil lead (you see the same graphic stain on the fingertips of people who play slot machines compulsively). —Charles D’Ambrosio, from “This Is Living” in Loitering: New & Collected Essays.
“Another thing I enjoy is eating candy by myself while I read a book in the evening, but I don’t think that will make a good happy memory either. I like to play the piano, I like to look at the plants that come up in the yard beginning in March, I enjoy walking with my dog, and looking down into his face at his good eye and his bad eye, I like to see the sky in the late afternoon, especially in November, I like petting my cats, hearing their cries, and holding them. But I suspect that the memory of my pets will not be enough, either, even if I love them. There things that make me laugh, but often they are grim things, and they will not make a good happy memory either, unless I share them with someone else.” —Lydia Davis, from “Happy Memories”
(for “Visitors,” a new, ongoing series on Boston subway passengers)
(Three more for a “Visitors,” a new, ongoing series of subway passengers in Boston.)