Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Dale Alan Favier sits in a half-booth, typing on his diminutive netbook. The half-booth is the one wedged in the corner, at Tom's: there wasn't room for a whole booth here, so on the side that runs aground on the corner, there's only a pull-up chair. That corner of the building is beveled, and it was once a doorway -- the door has been replaced by a window, but the window is still bordered by frosted glass strips, and topped by an arch.

This is one of the places a disgruntled waitress said I could sit as long as I liked. Just so long as I didn't sit at the prime full booths along the windows. She's anxious about having shown her irritation with me, and apologizes every time she sees me, which is becoming tiresome. Get over it, lass. Why shouldn't you want to earn what you can? And anyway, I've come to like the half-booth. There's a patch of sky through the window, and patterns of light that come through the frosted glass. That glass is checkerboarded into one-inch squares, and when a car goes by on Division Street, a little shape, a moving darkness representing it, travels backwards across each square of light. When cars are going both directions, as now, at the morning rush hour, the patterns go both ways at once. The shapes don't move steadily, even when the cars do: they swoop, starting slow at the edge of each inch, moving quickly across the center, and then slowly peeling off the other side of the inch, as the car vanishes (as I can see by the plate windows) in the opposite direction.

The physics of it absorbs me, and I think of all the swooshes of light, the curving and tumbling backwashes of air, that each car is creating as it goes. These movements of light are just one instance, a minor one that happens to be visible to one observer in one place. Each car actually is casting lights and shadows all around it, making elaborate patterns, everywhere it goes. And so, for that matter, are you and I. Not even to speak of the emotional wake I trail behind me, the guilty feeling waitresses, the annoyed line-cooks, the customers who smile or ignore me, thinking I approve or disapprove of them: all that turbulence behind me. It is, probably, far bigger and more important than I am, and I have very little control over any of it. I often think of myself and other people this way, as moving focal points of turbulence, and I'm uneasily aware that most people don't habitually see it this way. Or maybe ever see it this way. They'd be offended by it, I think. You're supposed to see people as subjects, as the lordly masters of their actions, not as tumbling chips in the kaleidoscope lens.

No comments: