I saw the crowd from 2 blocks away. The red and blue lights of the police cars cast bizarre shadows on the faces of the gathered, like a disco, but no one was dancing. Rain began to fall, and oddly the crowd remained motionless. I craved to know what was so interesting that poor conditions cannot move the masses. I quickened my pace, and could feel my heart beat with a certain excitement most associated with an adrenaline rush. Faster, and faster I walked, yet the scene, which lay before me, was in slow motion as I approached. I walked harder, and broke almost into a run, as I realized that the crowd wasn’t in slow motion, I was. It’s as if I was approaching a live still photograph, but the harder I tried to reach it, the longer it took for me to get there.
I finally arrived and I tried to see what the crowd was enamored with. It was almost impossible to see anything beyond the yellow crime scene tape. I tried and jostled my way past the gawkers, lamenting them as they block my way, yet was eager to become one of them. My need to be a part of what this crowd saw became borderline feral, as I scraped and clawed my way towards the yellow tape. After a long fruitless effort, the crowd unpredictably parted and I fell, face first, into the fray.
My head throbbed from the fall. I touched my face and realized I was bleeding, but that was hardly the most disturbing image that came to my mind as I rose up off the concrete and looked at the crowd. They were faceless, and stood still, as if the department store mannequins have been positioned in this manner to sell the latest designer brand. Lightening flashed, heightening my fear, feeding my excitement. I turned around, and finally saw what the fuss was all about. There was a body on the street with a yellow tarp over it. So what? This was what all these faceless fuckers were so fascinated with?
I looked at the four policemen who wander about the crime scene, seemingly without purpose. They were faceless too.
There was only one thing left to do. Lift the tarp, have a look see. Feed the curiosity, be a hero to the crowd, satiate their need to see with their eyeless faces.
I didn’t lift the tarp. I stood there like the rest, banal, useless. We couldn’t help whatever was beneath the wet, yellow plastic. The rain poured down harder, the lightening struck across the sky with more purpose, the thunder let roar like a pride of lions. Something sinister seemed to float in the thick air and the impetus to cure my curiosity was beginning to get the better of me. I leaned down slowly toward whatever horrible thing lay in secret under the tarp. I felt the crowd close in on me just enough to make me turn and look at them. They did indeed moved forward, and the angles of their heads were cocked anticipating what I might discover. There was another sonorous boom of thunder and as the lightening strikes, lighting the entire street I tugged desperately at the tarp, but now somehow I was under it. I had problems breathing; I was consumed by this, suffocating. I scraped and clawed at the tarp that seemed to be wrapping me snug like a vacuum-sealed package. Lightening strikes brighter than ever illuminating the yellow tarp, and right before my eyes I saw numbers on the yellow material: 2010.
I threw the sheet off me, waking soaked in sweat. Jesus. I took a moment to regain my bearings. Turned out I was in bed, in my apartment. Outside there was a storm, one that had made it into my dream. The lightening was less bright, the thunder less loud, and I was less afraid. I sit up and let the sweat roll off of me until I was self-squegeed enough to head to the bathroom without leaving footprints.
The thunder roared as I reach the bathroom, and looked at myself in the mirror. I appeared as if I was a tsunami survivor. The lightening flashed, and for a moment it seemed as if I saw something written across my forehead. No, it wasn’t written. It was carved. Sliced into my skin, without any blood loss was those same numbers: 2010. The lightening flashed again, and the numbers were gone. I was still sleeping. I was groggy from a nightmare.
I washed my face anyway, as if to clear away any remnants of my horrid vision. Outside, the storm subsided. It was early, I knew that much, but I had already decided that this day would be different than any other. No, I didn’t decide really, I just knew somehow. I sensed that the day was to belong to me.
I didn’t dress for work. I dressed for a day to remember, a day of all days. I knew exactly where I wanted to go: Coney Island. I layered for the occasion: jeans, sneakers, a T-shirt, a hoodie, and for good measure, a light coat to handle the fall climate. I stood in the middle of my loft, ready to go, yet not ready. I stared out the picture window into the drizzling world the storm had left behind. The journey was to begin, or was it more of an adventure that I was to look forward? Today I am going to fly. I’m getting ready to move on, there’s nothing that can keep me grounded. I’m free. Let the celebration begin.
The streets were barren. Had the storm chased the sleepless city into finally resting? I was the only presence there on the wet streets. It was both wonderful and discomforting. I made my way to the Underground. Strangely, I was able to pass the gates without paying. I didn’t even attempt to swipe my much used train card. I just walked through the turn style as if it wasn’t even there. I looked behind me into the booth where an employee was stuck behind a filthy window. He was slowly pounding his head against it as he wrote on the glass. The MTA worker appeared to be faceless like the people from my dream, but I couldn’t be sure, due to the thickness of the window filth. What I was sure of was what the man was writing; they were numbers, my numbers, those mysterious fucking numbers! 2010. I turned away as fast as I could and hustled down the stairs towards my train. This was my goddamned day! Nothing would ruin it, especially a set of redundant numbers!
I made it downstairs, and finally saw another soul and just my luck; it appeared to be a fantastic woman. She stood at the end of the platform, the opposite direction in which I intended to go. She stared in anticipation of her train; the wind from the tunnel blew her straight blonde hair gracefully across the top of her black, three-quarter length trench coat. I approached her, as the longing for companionship had become suddenly overwhelming. Maybe I could persuade her to have an adventure with a stranger, perhaps I could balance my nightmare experience with a hint of nirvana. Lust swelled over me as I envisioned this beautiful creature locked in an ananmourous embrace. I longed for human contact, and desperately need to break the inexplicable bondage I was experiencing.
I went out of my way to walk towards her. She noticed, and began walking towards me! My heart fluttered with the excitement of what I was about to experience. Finally, I have something to quell the despair. But she walked right on by me, and as she did, she used her hand to block me from seeing her face. The train she waited on roared down the tracks, and never slowed, but must have managed to pick her up anyway because when the gust the vehicle had created was nothing but a whisper of a breeze; the girl was gone.
Disappointed at how my adventure had begun in such unadventurous way, I hung my head low as I waited there, alone on the platform. Trains kept passing by, but not stopping. The powerful trams created a sensuous wind that cooled me perfectly, but it was getting away from the matter at hand: Coney Island. As each train passed, they seemed as if they were going faster and faster, creating more and more wind. It became almost like a windstorm, and I silently wished to be out of this miserable wind tunnel and on the train on my way to my destination. That’s when it happened: I was on the train, and all the signs indicated that I was on my way to my destination. Brilliant! Had I managed to get aboard by sheer force of will? Or was there something larger at work here? I didn’t give it much thought; I was on my way after all.
The train, like everything else this morning, was empty. It seemed as of all the windows to the tram were opened, because the wind I had experienced on the platform was just as strong inside the train. Newspapers, and assorted garbage twisted in the powerful gusts. I caught the date on one of the papers: October 20th. Was it already the 20th? I was also able to get a glimpse at the headline: ‘Man found…’ but that was it, the periodical blew away before I could fully read it; yet I was intrigued. I chased after it, making fruitless attempts to grab it. That’s when I saw the first of the crabs. I stopped. Someone once told me that crustaceans were the cockroaches of the sea. I couldn’t recall who, or when I was told this; but safe to say, it stuck. I didn’t like them.
The first crab was an azure blue. He came at me snapping his claws and was soon joined by his brethren; there were a lot of them. This army of dark blue crabs made it’s way towards me, with the ominous click; click sounds both their legs on tram floor and their intimidating claws made. I was paralyzed by fear. They closed in on me faster and faster, but when they arrived at my feet they simply stopped. I felt the stare of pairs of tiny eyes all upon me. It was clear that my newfound friends didn’t intend any harm; however they did have intentions. I half expected them to talk to me, or communicate their plans in some way, shape or form, but they did not. Instead what must have been several hundred crabs, just looked up at me: expectant.
The train came to a halt and the crabs took it as their cue. Several of them grabbed me with their claws and led me back from where they came. I was being escorted away; the wind picked up as I went and I heard the sound of the ocean.
The crabs led me to a door, but not a subway door. By this time the train had tilted downward, and water began to seep upward and back down, like a tide. One of the crabs scuttled his way to the doorknob and opened it. It was beautiful. The passage led to a vast ocean, with great big white puffy clouds in the background. I stared out into the vast infinity of the surreal world that lay ahead of me. Perfectly still I stood, mesmerized by it’s Magritte like meditative force. The crabs had different ideas about me enjoying the view. One of them had the audacity to climb up my leg and pinch me. I withheld on the impetus to slap the little fucker away, but thought better of it, as the little guy was only trying to get me to move on. The crab held onto my pants skillfully with one claw, while he swept the other in a silky smooth motion to his compadres. Again the gravity of a thousand crab’s eyes was upon me. In a wonderful synchronized move, the crabs all pointed a claw towards the door.
“You want me to go in there?”
The crustaceans responded by going through themselves, all the while using their claws to beckon me inside to the outside.
“Fuck it,” And I followed on through to the other side.
There I was, standing on the endless ocean. I didn’t know what to do, especially since the crab army dissipated into the water. They had been my guides to this beautiful place; what was I to do now? It occurred to me that perhaps I wasn’t supposed to do anything. I closed my eyes and allowed the sounds of the ocean’s symphony sweep over me. I felt a gentle breeze. Suddenly, it seemed as if I was moving, and when I opened my eyes I discovered that I was. I had moved, without moving, which was particularly odd because I was seated instead of standing. I was the sole rider in a Ferris Wheel. I had finally made it to Coney Island! I looked out at the ocean, still able to hear its gentle sounds, but I also had the glorious feeling the soft wind the ride created. I was enjoying myself up until I noticed the carriage in which I rode had a plaque witch read: “2010.”
Contemplation of the number sent chills through me. I wanted off the Ferris Wheel, and as if my thoughts now dictated action; I found myself off the ride without having to disembark. There I was standing next to the wheel, as it moved on without me, as if I was never there. It’s steady, slow, and deliberate movement mocked me, as if I would never ride on it again.
The park was desolate and lonely. I had been so certain that this was exactly where I wanted to be, but now I wasn’t so sure any more. I craved attention, interaction, and human contact. I had been a loner most my life, not caring for the company of people, but as I stood next to the Ferris Wheel, I wondered: where was everybody? It was a clear, beautiful day, replete with gentle breeze; yet there was no other soul in sight.
I decided to walk through the park. Searching. Needing. Wanting. My fucking soul was thirsty and I needed to slake at any form of life. It was empty as the rest of the park. The rides were operating without operators or passengers. The park was alive, yet devoid of life. What I had thought would be a relaxing day out had actually been an anxious day filled with bouts of internal subterfuge. I decided to get away from the park, and walk on the boardwalk instead. I felt better by the ocean, and the endless water and sky gave me hope. I sat down on a bench to enjoy the picturesque calm. It took a few moments for me to realize that the seascape I looked at was completely still. There were no movements of the clouds, and no waves in the water coming in and out on land. The tide was on pause as if someone had pushed a button on the remote. I paused with it, in a near meditative state, but in the end couldn’t hold onto myself in stasis.
A thunderous sound prompted me to stand. I realized that the sound came from the planks of the boardwalk on which I stood. The noise grew in strength, and the planks shook even more, as if I was experiencing an earthquake. In the distance I saw them coming towards me: runners. Had the New York Marathon taken a detour? Closer and closer, the horde ran towards me. From a distance I could tell that the runners were all wearing the same uniforms; all made up in black and gold like wasps. Closer still they came upon me. The runners were faceless and moved in perfect synchronization. I was scared shitless at the sight of the expressionless mob that made its way towards me. I closed my eyes and wished I were elsewhere. Nothing came to mind at first and I opened my eyes again to see them almost right upon me. Quickly, I shut my eyes again. Nathan’s. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. The sound the feet of the faceless made was gone. I opened my eyes and discovered that I had moved off the boardwalk and been placed at the famous hot dog eatery.
I remembered Nathan’s from my childhood. My family had taken me to Coney Island, and the first thing we did after disembarking from the train, was go to Nathan’s for some of those famous franks. It was different. There were no other customers aside from myself, and nobody working behind the counter. There were hotdogs on the grill and they seemed to be preparing themselves. I sat at the counter and watched as two hot dogs got off the grill and headed towards the buns. When the hot dogs reached their destination they looked at me and said: “we’ll be right with, you!”
Mmm…good. I think I was more satisfied with the fact that the hot dogs were the first company I had had during my sojourn; how could I eat them. Regardless, the hot dogs leapt quite gracefully into their buns. Once settled inside their bread counterparts, the hot dog spoke again: “How do you like us?”
“How do I…”
“Yes, yes, a bit of mustard, some onions perhaps? We aim to be tasty!”
“Oh. Mustard and relish please.” I asked politely.
The two hot dogs rode the buns into the condiment area and stopped under the mustard. “You ready Mustafa?” The hot dog cried up to the mustard.
“Come on through, me and Reli are ready!” Responded the yellow condiment.
The hot dog went under the mustard, then under the relish, both times being given a dollop of each. The second hot dog followed suit. They then made their way to me. “Bon Apetit!” Said the first hot dog and then remained silent.
I looked down at the food. It somehow seemed less appetizing since it started talking to me. That was beside the fact the food had made me forget my desperate loneliness for a few fleeting moments. I cried. My tears dripped onto my food, prompting it to say: “ Hey look pal, it could be worse, you could be eating tacos! Fucking Mexicans are taking half our business these days, you know! We have been around a lot longer, at least on this strip of beach!”
I buried my face in my hands and cried as hard as I could ever recall. And when I looked up again, I was staring at myself in a drawer. I looked around me, and there were several other steel drawers, but mine was the only one that was open. I was in a morgue. I was fixated on my dead self, until I heard voices. My first instinct was to hide, but as I stumbled to move about two men entered the room.
“It’s just this way, sir.” The mortician instructed.
With him was some man that I didn’t recognize. Did I know him? The men appeared not to see the standing me, but only the drawer me.
“That him?” Queried the mortician.
The man breathed a deep sigh of relief.
“No, that’s not my husband.” The man said as he begun to cry. I joined him in tears, but for all together different reasons.
“Why are you crying, sir? There is still hope that your friend is still alive,” the mortician pointed out.
“It’s just so sad. This anonymous man isn’t claimed. What happens next to him? How can he have a proper burial?”
“We wait and hope some one claims him, otherwise he gets a public burial as John Doe 2010.” The mortician said as he closed the drawer.
I watched myself get closed in. I wept as the men walked out of the room. I was alone again in this mess whatever it was. All I could do was obsess over the number that was printed outside my cold, steel home: 2010.