Everywhere, we are a stranger arriving into light
✎ Wayne K. Spear | April 3, 2018 · Essay
EVERYONE IN A CITY is a unwritten message, a scriptless actor, a hidden quantity suspended between two moments of familiarity: the known they have left behind, and the known toward which they rush, through the tower atrium where calèches and footmen once passed. You are the next in the line, the subsequent fare, a neuron of commerce passing the bill, to a woman who pretends she is happy to see you. In a city, you befriend alleys and skylines, the shadows cast by skyscrapers, and the smell of foreign shops. You embrace the philosophy of the crane, its iron doctrine of destruction and rebirth, and you peer into the bones of a gestating condo, where love will take root, or not, among strangers of the future.
In a city, you wear your anonymity like a childhood sweater. We are all theoretical, without sin, mute yet plenipotentiary, emerging into the rush-hour light with undeclared purpose. Mere inconvenience compels us toward the sterile momentary intimacy of crowded subways. A portal disgorges us, severally, seeds to the wind. I have never seen you, and I will never see you again. The life of the city is the purest form of grace, a work of love, a perfunctory cohabitation without grievance or jealousy, without expectation or agenda, without the unbearable sweetness of hope.
We meet in moments of city inconvenience, with our burdens and propositions. You provide directions, hold the door open, carry the stroller down the stair, lend a stranger the charger for your phone. You feel embarrased to ask for these things. It is an imposition, perhaps even a mild trasngression of the unspoken compact. In the city we are, all of us, unto ourselves. We go out into the world with the requisite provisions, mindful of the hazards. The city is a living, unaccomodating beast. We accept this and get on our way.
A city is a bookshelf in a house where everyone writes, but does not read. The idea of reading, a vision of the forever- unread and unreadable, intoxicates us. But in the village, everyone has memorized the stories. There are no secrets and no strangers in the town. In town, you are an open book, a fully parsed sentence, always Mary or John or Maria. You have only one face, and you wear it wherever you go, to every human purpose. In town, you give the cashier an accounting of yourself, obliged to the currency of human curiosity, tethered to the law of ceremony and consanguinity, forever reconciling the ledger of entanglements.
The city is not better than the town. Nothing is better than another thing. Everywhere, in the skin of the earth, there are cracks and crevices. We call this place by one name, and by another name we come to know another place, or we think that we know, but nothing truly has a name. Everywhere, the road we are on will one day end suddenly, like the wrinkles of a palm. Everywhere, we are exchanging bits of data and drawing from our accounts. Everywhere, we are between two places. Everywhere, we are a stranger arriving into light.