Half-dreaming of her, you go shopping for boots, because that’s apparently what one does to prepare for winter in autumn. But, here’s the kicker: like a lunatic, you do it during rush hour. Assassinated on Broadway, found out by the crowds, you get excreted, spat out, and sweat your way to a cobbled street in SoHo that is old Europe, and seems to give room to breathe. Outside a bookshop, in a slow-pacing, half-dreamy cigarette, you catch the first line of an autumn stillness that is other places, your old loves of Northern Iberia (she, and she, among friends with the Basque mullet and radical wiles, wide brown eyes smiling at you over zingy cider, firewater and coffee), linked to here through leaf mulch and the smell of apples in the chill, wood-smoke air that, for a second, smells like the Picos de Europa, or the Pyrenees.
Coming into the bookshop, the buzzer goes off: “do you have a library book in there, sir? You need to watch for that.”
Begin to sweat. Go to the coffee counter for a decaf —“ice coffee?” (they never get the accent here) — “no. Normal drip coffee.”
“We can make you a decaf Americano for 2.75$?”
No. Cede. Sigh: “Ok.”
Coffee, drip. Expensive tip. Sit.
“Excuse me, sir? We have an event tonight. We just want to let our patrons know they’re welcome to stay but we need to start moving chairs in 20 minutes.”
Look at your watch. Ah. There’s time.
Someone different comes back 10 minutes later, and says exactly the same thing: “Excuse me, sir? We have an event tonight. We just want to let our patrons know they’re welcome to stay but we need to start moving chairs in 20 minutes.”
In this life that passes for modern, you cede in a hundred different little ways. You just: cede, (or go insane). Down to the poetry section for some peace. (Because, apart from the woman with the long red hair behind the counter checking her emails, there’s nobody there, apart from you and a hundred thin, sleeping volumes.) Fondling Pessoa’s identities, you’re still thinking about how they smiled at you without seeing you, even as they looked you right in the eye: the smile a polite weapon ticking as they tell you the rules; not quite telling you that there are new rules. Conveying, as they tell you, that you are mad for not understanding the rules, these days, the new unspoken rules.
You remember what the old, bearded poet said during an afternoon salon of cans of Danish beer in his house in Dublin one winter day (you shivered to yourself at the time when you heard him say it, but half-understand him now). “Sometimes the paranoia is justified,” he grimaced.
Oh, and one last thing: once the buzzer from Porlock went off, you lost the poem.