This is the city, somebody here must be enlightened, must have
come across the secrets of the universe in some mysterious den or cave
or bar where people in beards say their great thoughts, but they won't
catch my eye as they march by, they won't smile with their eyes, their
eyes are busy measuring the depth of the soles on the shoes going by putting
them into boolean algebraic formulas that will fit into their computers,
witching fingers drumming data onto invisible keyboards. They carry their
cubicle walls around them, pasty pale beige imitation horse blinders forgetting
to see sideways now that they can, following invisible computer terminals
through the streets not recognizing the jokes they stumble over, thinking
with fear that all jokes are computer viruses trying to invade their systems
and crashing them. I don't think anybody here will tell me the secrets
of the universe.
Maybe the bum will talk to me, sitting by me on gray concrete, watching
the five o'clock parade. Here's two bucks tell me about your life. He talks
about his war, his wife, his wine and pulls a shirt out from under his
coat. This is brand new, still has the tags on it, he says. It's too small
but I buy it because maybe he and I are viruses, gumming up the carefully
orchestrated bureaucratized computerized citiscape just a little while
we look for the answers to the great questions. He thinks he used to know
them but forgot, and maybe he'll remember if he has another drink because
this half drunken haze is no good for thinking he says.
The old Greek widow woman sweeps the sidewalk around the brave little tomato
plant growing in the chink where the concrete broke off. People walk
around it thinking it's a virus interfering with the perfect continuity
of the eternal gray sidewalk. They're afraid they'll catch it so they avert
their eyes and hold their breath. The old Greek widow woman sees me and
I know she knows something. We squat down on the sidewalk together and
remove the french fries and chewing gum cleaning its shrine.
The tomato plant knows the secrets of the universe, but I don't speak tomato.