23AUG2010, 1730 – Riding home on the Brooklyn-bound “L”, midway between Lorimer and Graham, I experienced a sudden and overwhelming sense of deja vu.
The car was slowing down, and I moved toward the door. Looking down to my left, I saw an olive-skinned girl in a black polo shirt, unbuttoned. Black hair pulled back in an end-of-the-day ponytail. Blue jeans, battered Chucks. Eating pretzels from a brown bag. Me, I’m listening to Lamb’s “Lusty”:
When the echoing sound from 1:58 began to chime, everything hit me at once. I had been here before!
When I move to a new place, it is understood that a significant amount of time has to pass before I start to get the feeling that everything prior to that moment was just a dream, and that I’d always been there. Getting it this early isn’t a good sign; it implies burnout. I’ve been in NYC since June 3.
As soon as the car stopped and the doors opened, I did something I’d never done before; I stepped out of the car and walked to the left, knowing full well and good that the exit was to the right. Then I halted, right-faced and without thinking, I walked over and touched the wall. Turned back around and walked toward the exit but stopped short again, sat down on a bench, pulled out my notebook and began to scribble furiously: STAND BY TO BREAK CAUSAL LOOP. Stupid Uni-Ball let me down, threw it at the tracks, dug out a felt-tip, kept going, waiting for something…
Looked up. Checked my watch. Nothing happened. The ragged tunnels were as unapologetic as ever: no back-masked dwarves, no parquet floors, no red curtains. No offers of coffee:
Instead, I was alone on the platform. Just me and my dementia.
I stuffed my notebook back into my bag and capped my pen. The next mechaWorm had arrived, and I joined a fresh wave of tired bipeds as they shuffled toward the turnstile. We climbed the steps to the street. We waited for the light. We crossed Metropolitan, but I headed home alone.
I keep trying.