Cartesian dream 2002

The deafening noise of the underground train was the perfect mask for the fact that its passengers, seated, standing, their noses in the evening paper, white earphones plugged in, were always completely silent to one another.  On a normal day Levin, like anyone else, absorbed this event like any other, merging it into the cacophonous drone of one’s existence.  The train screeched, and Levin was shoved along into the man to his right.  His eyes landed on a sinister looking image on the page gripped in the man’s grimy fingers —

“Fuckin’ watch yourself, kid –”

and two seconds later, he brought his neck and head back in alignment with his spine.  He smiled at a nice girl sitting across, who looked up and looked down.  Levin’s eyes rolled from person to person.  He watched them as one stares into a campfire.  Some time later the doors hissed and in came a group of girls, preceded by the sound of their attractive — and endless — guffaws.  Levin watched them.  He saw their legs.  He followed them when they left the train, past the man handing out newspapers, past the young man clearing tables — tonight he saw everyone.  (He did not look at the girls, their laughter was a leash.)  The only time he remembered feeling so alive was stealing a cask of good Argentinian wine with Martín last summer and pushing it on a wheelbarrow to the coast, where they drank to the sound of waves.  They drank and made conversation into the night and somehow became brothers, or truculent lovers.

As Levin approached the assigned place and time he became more involved with the faces he saw, imagining them as more alive because he felt more alive.  There a society man and his wife were out on their anniversary; there long-divided family members experienced an indescribable reunion.  When the niece and aunt at last separated from their embrace, the older woman by chanced glanced in the direction of Levin and gave him a smile.

He went into the darkness and followed the rules, found Antony right away and shouted birthday wishes to him which were inevitably drowned out.  His vision rolled from dancing shape to dancing shape, and Levin knew he was in the hive at last.  He was still a believer.  Levin danced with the legs and bodies of women and men; all the faces were obscure.  Forgetfully he conjured up visions of the girl reading on the underground, the aunt smiling into her niece’s face, the youth who had sold him such good wine in Mar del Plata.  The club screeched to a halt and with terror, Levin saw before him thunderous shadows thrown by, standing up on their own, the menacing form of six slender white legs.  In a single moment of drunken arithmetic, Levin summed up all the faces to one — which is impossible.

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