Home Up A FABLE OF LEAVES ANGEL LOOP SEPTEMBER That Day September 11, 2001 November 30 On Your Way Home Sleeping Beauty The Dance Begins

 

 

ON YOUR WAY HOME

 

When in the middle of the week you

take the wrong bus home after an empty day,

by mistake, as you think,

 

and you see the last familiar blue and red neon

signs of some hotel flash behind

you in the wrong direction, but you persist

in trusting yourself about not making

such a mistake on a cold night like this,

 

and you finally start to reason,

though not very seriously yet, with yourself

that a night-long walk in below

freezing weather would neither cure nor help

you, and knowing yourself you know also

that you would not even manage

to find a bus back, would probably not even try

finding a station, but would not know what else

to do either in utterly strange surroundings,

 

and you keep riding farther

into your second-rate adventure which is

what you call this absurd behavior as soon as

you recognize more or less what you are doing,

until you realize that it will probably take

half an hour now to walk home from the next

stop, if you stop, and if you keep your head

clear, and the direction of home in mind,

 

and you signal to the driver to stop

while you cannot decide between curses and blessings

for every street-corner he passes after you

have given your signal, not having known quite

how rarely buses stop in this region of town,

 

and you finally step onto the ice

on the pavement, and as the bus rolls on

you carefully steady yourself and start walking

realizing at once that you could have

taken the bus safely a few blocks farther,

since you now walk in exactly the same direction,

but since sheer panic at the thought

of going too far has made your choice for you,

you resign yourself, smile at yourself

a little, especially now when you are still

rather warm in your coat, gloves, and scarf,

and the ice underfoot splinters musically like glass,

and the wind sweeps across the highway to your liking,

until the street-lights are thinning,

 

and you realize after the predicted half hour

that you are not at home, and not even near it

and that the wind is suddenly becoming

less beautiful and much more real,

so that you must hold the ends of your scarf

to your face while your hands get cold and while

there has not been a street name you recognize

for quite some time, although you know

perfectly well you are going

into the right direction, although you keep wondering

how you can possibly trust yourself now,

 

and you donít wonder very long, because you have

more important things to think of than how

best to tease yourself with witty reflections,

for example whether you should walk on

the street where the ice has been cleared,

but where, because of poor lighting, someone

could easily run you down, or beside

the highway instead, where it is certainly

safer, but where there is nothing but snow

several inches deep where in the summer

soft visible grass would make you walk

comfortably, but where you now have to try out

step for step against slippery stretches

and against possible falls, for there are ditches

as you notice after you have fallen into the first

and bruised your knees, though not very seriously,

 

and you suddenly start thinking

of your brother who saved your life once,

for which you usually think of him with love

and gratitude, except in occasional fits

of self-pity, and you think all this

is rather silly, because you recognize almost at once

into what kind of ideas you are slipping,

but then the idea of no return

fascinates you, and you are applauding yourself

for not calling it an idea of death right away,

though the applause is rather feeble, because you know

that that is exactly what you are thinking about,

because of the imagined reactions of those

whose reactions always interest you,

but luckily you feel the need to interrupt

yourself with hearty admonitions to be

reasonable and not to fool around with nonsense,

 

and you end up not knowing what you want,

except you know what your body wants,

a place where this annoying slowness,

this stiffness, especially below your knees

where your coat does not reach, at your wrists

where your sleeves are not tight, could finally stop,

though you donít even want to insist

that it stop, if only the wind would be less sharp,

 

and you tell yourself, since you have in the meantime

started to talk to yourself aloud,

or, more precisely, to mumble into your scarf,

that you really miss your brother, and now,

since no one is here to guess what you think,

you feel free to fantasize just a bit

that on the night before his wedding you did not only

sleep in the same warm room, but also in the same bed

in innocent closeness, putting an end to songs

out of the attic window, and to spaghetti westerns

cross-bred with fairy-tales,

 

and you struggle with that idea,

thinking how utterly all this would bore Freud,

which is perhaps only fair, because Freud bores you too,

and how you would love now to be close to any warm body

and feel instead only the tears that the wind makes

you cry grow chill on your skin,

 

and you lose interest in Freud and all sorts of

intellectual games at this point, you are not

even aware of losing interest, only aware of your legs

moving awkwardly, but moving nevertheless

while even your brotherís image slowly gives way, 

 

and you meanwhile not only talk

to yourself, but you have also started to scream,

and you are surprised to notice that

you are quite fascinated by your screams,

because they are not the usual curses

which you have acquired over the years

and which are reserved for inconsiderate drivers

in daylight on highways you need to cross,

but you are not cursing now, you are calling

your motherís name and are not even ashamed of it,

since there is no one to ask if you are

not ashamed for these calls that have,

as you well know, no use, since your mother

is so far away that it is past midnight

in her part of the world where she probably sleeps,

and yet she called you only

a few days ago on the telephone after dreaming

about you and wanting to hear that you were all right,

 

and you finally realize

that you are only calling her name after all

out of habit and self-indulgence, and you stop to think

and to listen to whom you are really calling,

and it turns out you are calling yourself,

 

and you have a vision of yourself standing

at the end of some road, not this particular one,

but one just like it, or similar,

on which there are two of yourself, one

with her arms spread out, standing fixed,

but wanting to embrace the one who is running toward her,

though you really donít want to call this

a vision, since you in fact see nothing,

but you do hope that the embrace will take place

and make the whole wandering all worthwhile,

as well as the road and its external traffic,

 

and you are tired now, but you feel happy,

and you continue, step after step, while the snow

that has slipped into your shoes feels wet

and you regret the vanity that has kept you

from wearing your winter boots,

 

and you wonder if anyone misses you yet,

but assure yourself that no one does,

since no one notices whether you come

home or not at a particular time, and you do

not think this out of self-pity, for which

you have no time anymore, because you are happy,

most of all about the self you have

seen and not seen just now waiting for you,

 

and you feel you have the strength to walk

quite a bit farther now, and you look up

at a street sign that tells you exactly where

you are, and tells you that it will take you

exactly twenty more minutes to reach your front door,

 

and you discover that you can make

the cold turn visible with your breath

or your laughter which means that

it does no longer control you,

because you notice you are already

running, however awkward your legs may feel,

to welcome the fire that will be

burning, is almost certainly burning already

but will be burning for you within minutes

to make you warm first, then sleepy,

until you will call it

the first certain gift between you, and you

will accept it, although you donít know

what it is exactly, but are inclined to

call it your freedom to live

and to live where you are, although you need not

live, or live here, and you are glad that

you have finally come to know something.