For those of us with insufficient air conditioning in Manhattan, the first summer heat wave comes with an extra sense of suffocation. Atmospheric claustrophobia. People who live in smallish apartments tend to share dreams of opening a closet into a barn-like studio space, or an unexpected ocean view revealing itself through a secret window---or the ceiling suddenly rising... we've been here before. 95 degrees and above is like an inversion of this. You close your eyes and feel the collapse.
I've been reading a Murakami novel in which the protagonist, having listened to a terrifying tale of a soldier trapped for weeks in a deep narrow well, has taken to lowering himself for prolonged periods into just such a neighborhood well, where all sorts of fears and revelations take him into a new strange dimension of existence.
I do personally wander into such holes-- some emotional, some philosophical-- for whatever dark reason, and have become recently fascinated by the concept of minimal existence. Economically speaking, this is a way of life; but physically--- well, vampires shut themselves into coffins... and some New Yorkers, according to a certain interior design blog, reside and flourish in an actual closet space. I suppose this is the ipod-nano version of real estate-- appealing, as is minimalism in general, but I wonder, like the million songs trapped inside a tiny plastic rectangle, whether our intellects are as compressed as the tiny nano digital music files... life in a cheap download, zip-filed virtual space. What is going to happen when those virtual 'goggles' become as common as iPods, and we are all able to exist in a palatial environment, in our own tiny closet-beds? Will Manhattan property values decrease? Will my neighbors leave me alone and credit me for starting the trend of downsizing well ahead of my time? Will the spatially obese see the spatially anorexic with new eyes?
We may be legislated into giving up our super sized drink cups. Does this mayor not realize some of us economically challenged parents buy these to distribute among 4 or 5 kids? Is this yet another indignity to distract the already-punished from peering into the monster garages and liquor cabinets of the J.P. Morgan boys who have lost more money in a week than some African countries have seen in the entire 20th century? Why not limit the size of allowable personal bank accounts, instead of hiking subway fares for us poor schmucks? Trim the mountains of economic fat the bankers have not just scarfed up but hoarded. 10-gallon-sized cups of liquid gold that is poisoning their hearts. Let them all eat precious-metal cake at $1,600 an ounce because they have health insurance. The expensive kind.
I took a walk down Fifth Avenue Sunday and the crowds of eager shoppers were like nothing I've seen before in Manhattan. Lines to get into Abercrombie which rival the Christmas Santa lines at Macy's. For what? The privilege to stand on line to buy mall-quality merchandise in the most expensive real estate in the world? I don't get it.
Then again, I still don't have a cellphone. "How can you live?" a young man asked me the other day. How can you live without stacks of books and art and Beethoven and Leonard Cohen records and an old leather jacket, I wanted to ask him in return, but I shrugged.
My son called last night with new romance issues. My niece, too, was waiting for a text from a boy she likes. Personally, I can live without immediate answers. The guy in the well took his watch with him, but couldn't actually see the time without light. I like this. So..."Does he like me?" my niece wants to know, while she is texting another person and reading an incoming message. The nano-affair in the nano-phone screen... 3 texts and it's sex... 3 texts and it's over.
I don't know if I would want to know about love anymore. I don't really always want to answer the phone in my house... I don't want bad test results and I don't want to know if there is really salvation at the end and whether it will hurt when I die or how much money I have in my bank account. At least I want to filter when the answer comes. I want to open the letter slowly, by candlelight, or let it sit on the windowsill for a few days. I want to admire the stamp and feel how fat the letter is-- -whether my lover has taken time to explain things, to confess. I want to feel the space of time because there is little time in the space I occupy here, and the long summer days are feeling just so short and precious. I don't want to know how hot it is or what time the sun will rise, or how many scorching days I must endure in my darkened apartment with old things in it which have seen many, many lifetimes and are patient. 'Well...'..I said ominously to both my son and my niece who have no idea I am reading Murakami in this heat with the Mogwai soundtrack in my head and cavernous dreams without walls waiting for me in my existential bed.