Monday, March 20, 2006

We were dead asleep, sometimes shifting on numb limbs and trying, without a thought, to keep in contact with each other, if not to hold. I was serene, swathed in gauzy narcosis, floating down the corridor of my dream –


From the awful waking world came some urgent, cruel tattoo, at once hard and membranous, shaking through my mind in thunderous strokes that bore the resonant hint of some ghastly, inhuman voice. When this wrenched me from my sleep I lay gazing at the dark, uncomprehending, knowing not where I was nor who I was, everything called emphatically into question. I was draped in terror and dismay.


It continued. So, deliberately, I raised my head to where it seemed to come from. The window. I saw the flash of a hand, an arm. I perceived a skittish, shadowy figure hovering in the steam of his breath. Someone was pounding on my window from out on the fire escape.

Beside me S. was saying, No, no, no, no, no. I said, My God, there's someone out there. We lay still a few moments longer, hoping he would leave. We lay quiet, apprehensive, like we were hiding from the Gestapo.


Naked on the bed – the light of the moon – I reached for my pants at the foot and pulled them on, grim, resolute. I got up and faced the window. There he was, a thin, young man with curly hair and glasses. I could not distinguish the features of his backlit face.


"I'm alright, I'm alright. I just want to get in, can I just get in to the hallway?"

"Where do you live?"

"I'm alright. Don't worry. I live upstairs."

"You live upstairs?" Upstairs is the roof.

"Yeah," he said. "I live on the seventh floor. Will you let me in?"

I paused a moment and shook my head.


I lay back down, somehow afraid I'd just committed an act of violence against this man. Maybe feeling guilty for what must have been my first reaction: an inchoate, murderous urge. He seemed now to bounce around the fire escape – I heard the dull, springy sound of its frame and railings bearing shifting weight. I imagined him pitching over the side and falling to a crumpled heap on 105th Street.

We got up and went out to the living room to settle our nerves, to wait him out, we hoped. As I left the room I looked back to see him there, hunched, gazing out upon the street. We waited and waited, saying what will we do if he's still there? After half an hour we went back in the dark room, fearful for what we may find, and I looked out the window. Between it and the lights in the hospital across the way the night was again still, moonlit and streetlit, empty.