Thursday, November 14, 2013

Under cover

December 28, 1981

PASSAIC – A lot of the trouble about waking up in the cold in the morning comes when making the decision whether or not to remove the covers from your very warm and comfortable body.
I tell myself that it is unhealthy to shock the body thus. So often, in this cold water flat in Passaic, I just remain with the cold nipping at my nose while the rest of me basks in the well-established warmth under cover.
How can anybody be so crazy as to leap out into that?
Some unwisely insist that we have to, as to not shirk the responsibility of school or work or some other foolishly practical occupation.
This seems a little strange to me. Which should be a priority? Should we subject ourselves to discomfort at the insistence of practicality?
Pauly, who turns 33 today, would not move or subject himself to the torture of cold.
Garrick, who turned 31 yesterday, would not either. Nor would Hank who turned 32 four days ago. So why should I, the youngest of this crew, do so.
Dudley, my orange and white kitten, leaps around the room attacking imaginary creatures, finding pleasure in the smallest bit of abandoned cellophane, jumping over a pile of newspapers to attack a rolled up sock I left during my plunge under covers last night.
But Dudley’s fur is as good as a quilt, and he does not abandon it the way I do my clothing just to sleep.
This nakedness we live with makes victims of those who claim to be master of the universe.
There are bits of Christmas wrapping left from our exchange of presents on Christmas Eve flapping on the table, unnoticed by Dudley, but reminding me of our Christmas Day invasion of Pauly’s family’s house – me, Hank, Garrick, searching for Pauly, finding a multitude of brothers, sisters, cousins and such, but no Pauly.
Hank and I sat on the couch so out of place we might well have become statutes, there but like those in the park, unnoticed in the hubbub of package openings and chatter – blessed only for the lack of pigeons that might have landed and done unspeakable deeds on our heads.
We broke fast with the family; of course, doing our share of feeding and consuming drinks, but did not add much to the festivities, drawing odd looks from more extended family members who wondered why we were there.
This has not been a happy year for me, breaking up with someone I still love, and finding myself hiding under the covers of my misery against the chill of the real world, my nose over the lip of my protection nipped by the chill while the rest of me craved the comfort of numbness people feel after the most acute feelings fade.
I considered my showing up out of doors at all to be an act of courage, although deep down I felt very much like the cowardly lion lacking any wizard to provide me with a heart.
The last few years have even strained my friendship with Hank, and leaving him at his door on Christmas, he lingered and looked at me, as if he needed for us to be close again, the way we were back when we were teens.
But in truth, we can’t go back to that. Hank isn’t the hopeful artist he once was, and in many ways, he is hiding under his own covers, staring out at a world that has let him down, and hoping for me to yank the covers off – resenting me when I tried in the past.
I won’t try again.
I have moved on, grown, struggling to make progress where he has settled for a life of habit, and I refuse to give up my dreams the way he has.
Maybe the cold is just too much for him, and he will prefer living like he is, on the second floor of his parents’ house, going to and front work, to and from bars, singing only to the radio or when the band invites him up for a guest slot, forgetting all that stuff he inspired in me when se both worked in the theater, how we could someday be great, how we would rise to the top of the world and be its masters.
We all live secret lives, I think, what we wish for and what we accurately work to achieve.
I still remember the moment when he gave up, after his girlfriend hired a con-artist, who promised to make him famous. I still have a copy of the demo Hank recorded, a tape that cost him a small fortune to make, a bit of proof that the guy was legitimate before he vanished with the cash, leaving Hank holding the tape in one hand and crumbling dreams in the other.
But in this I’m not like Hank, I can’t live two lives – dream and not dream. And perhaps I should adopt the motto: no secrets and expose myself to the world to let it do its worst to me so that in the end I toughen up enough not to let it derail me.
So in throwing off the covers, I let my body get used to the cold. The body must have its own way to make warmth or it dies.
So, I suppose this means I should get up now, and do whatever I need to do to stoke up the fires of my dreams, refusing to let the embers fade the way Hank has.
Ready world? Here I come.

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