It doesn’t take long for the man across the car to notice me.
We aren’t the only two fellows on the subway, the dirty underground transportation shuttle of our fair and noble city, but we are the only two men wearing the certain mark of men who enjoy the unconventional company of night on the North Side. When others – from my mother to the usual bum on the sidewalk – travel to the Upper Edge, it’s during the day, when the sun casts shadows, long and short, upon the ground pockmarked with burnt cigarette butts and the odd crumpled newspaper and wrappers – evidence more often than not of the previous night’s revelries.
Like the fairy tales of my ancestors which warned to never not ever enter the forest after the sun passes its noonmark and to never not ever stay in the forest after dark, and those rules only come into play if you just so happen to break the first rule, which is to never not ever enter the forest on the first hand, regardless of time or date or place . . . that is what we are taught here, about there.
That is what the Upper Edge, the Northern Strip, the farthest reaches of the city proper before the ‘burbs start, boxed in by layers upon layers of highway and manicured woods and freeways and drainage ditches 500 yards across – spillways from when there was something to spill through the s’ways – even now titling the ditches, the cemented river-beds riddled with bullet holes and natural divots, decorated like a teenager’s face is speckled with acne and an old oak tree has evidence of generations after generations after generations of woodpeckers have chosen to reside within, as ‘drainage’ ditches is a gratuitous expectation of there purpose, their duty, their existence represented to my generation, this world, the modern age of concrete jungles where the massive, vine-laden trees are replaced with brick-and-mortar and the Amazon is just another man-made ditch and the rain, the moisture, one of the principle defining aspects of such a precipitation-laden forest, is just sweat raining down upon the street from men and women working oh-so-hard at their desks stories and stories above.
You go to the North when the other three points of the civilized compass reject you. And I’d been rejected.
So, too, apparently, had this man.
We both wore the mark, and in this dry world, if you shared a mark you stuck together, because no one else is going to take you in, take care of you, and that’s true through today (as much as I truly do hate to believe – nay, know – that).
No one will willingly accept you. That’s what being tribes means now-a-days. It’s not on place – water is no less equally distributed than each human has six pints (or is it eight?) of blood and each subway car can hold a total of 100 people at a time before it gets weighed down and cracks upon an open bridge crossing a ravine or on a turn, banking a corner at 10 degrees. The tribes we have are based on population, on membership, charting back centuries to our forefathers and the founding of the first recognizable tribe (recognizable to us, that is – we know ythere were tribes before, but ones of genetic homogeneity,of insular politics; not ones of survival, of necessity by the whole, not the few). There’s no point staking claims to territory because trades are not familiarly-oriented. When a member dies, the next legitimate successor takes his or her place, be they a son or daughter or family at all, or just the oldest potential member.
I’m tired now. It’s been a long while since last I wrote. The doctor says I’m getting better, but that analysis is based on the false assumption that I was sick to enter. In fact, I was healthy upon entering this place, this castle-on-a rock, this asylum.
And only now am I sick, in mind and body and spirit.
What am I to do?