My life is a set-list.
Sometimes I think that there have been more shows than there are possible memory configurations in the brain. Certainly I've lived more concerts than I can remember. There is no question of that, no question. I guess I need to assume at least one twin of every show I've seen, so close to the one I do remember that I've found it necessary to silently reduce the overlap. Maybe even twins is just a manageable illusion.
I imagine that my mind has found very ingenious methods for shaping, thinning, making my remembered geography light, plastic, portable. It feels fine, though. I feel as though -- more than most people -- I carry just enough in the way of the past. I can remember music with digital precision. I can hear any song I've ever heard, exactly as it was played. Even songs from shows I didn't see flicker to consciousness, out of the descriptions I've heard from people in roadside diners and campgrounds. My mind interpolates what must have been played. I can remember the various, sweet groups of deadheads I've traveled with from city to city. I can remember the distinct feel and character of each of those groups. Memories like a small rack of bootleg tapes, a partial plastic testament to the live and unknowable whole.
Everything I remember has happened at a show, on the way to a show, after a show, or in long, rare intervals when there were no shows, such as December to June of 1974, when the Dead became Eastern mystics and spent months in Punjab, in seclusion, foreheads touching mats at daybreak. In my mind there is nothing else. What came before me? The musical roots of the Dead, which, when they had shot from the ground, matured and blossomed, flowered into concerts in every major auditorium in every major city of every state in this very large country. I appear, like a sea-green aphid, on one of the leaves of one of those shows. My memories begin with a ticket in my hand, years ago, years ago. I was in an extremely long line. Dead music played invitingly. It was a Friday show. There is no question of that.
Of the more than thirty shows in or outside Denver, Colorado, one will never be collapsed or excized for lack of space: I am up on the top of a Winnebago, a top-of-the-line model, big as an aircraft carrier. Many people are on the top of this Winnebago. We sit like dark fighter jets on top of it. It is late in the evening, and we are all facing a huge band shell some three-quarters of a mile away. There are mountains in the distance, brooding, bullying. It is blue-dark, and there is enough of the taste of summer lightning in the air to feel like the end of the world. A light desert breeze is blowing. The music falls and rises, changing moods and temperatures and outlooks. It shifts as invisibly and absolutely as atmospheric pressure. There is the sweet, floating smell of marijuana. Some of the people on the Winnebago are dancing, but many are huddled in blankets. I am huddled in a blanket. Little pinpoints of lighter fire go up, burn and then go down, in small, disposable tributes.
There is a couple sitting next to me, kissing intermittently, wrapped together in their own thin green Army surplus blanket. They are very young, and everything else is lost on them. They touch one another's faces, turn occasionally to stare off in the distance toward the bandstand. I can tell that they are not supposed to be here; they've told their parents that they're going to the movies.
He is seventeen, thin, with untameable curly black hair, rimless glasses, bad skin, and a start at a beard. It covers his chin and certain parts of his cheeks, it does not join with his wisp of moustache. His green jacket is Army surplus too, but covered with leftwing pins to dilute the militancy of it. He sees the jacket as an aggressive and manifest contradiction, but it isn't; it's a very coherent statement of his desire to belong, to the right, or the left, or whatever fringe will have him. He wants what we all want. He is very happy to be with the girl.
She is fifteen. Her parents don't allow her to car-date. She is only just beginning to realize that she is very pretty, that she will be sought after. She is waking up to a sense of her own force in the world.
But now she is still content. He is content. A half an hour ago they smoked a joint which he produced with an exquisitely studied lack of ceremony. He has his arm firmly around her, as much like an oversized, flesh-and-bone engagement ring as he can make it.
I like them. The beauty and the pain of them sitting there is almost enough to distract me from the music washing up from the bandstand.
And as I watch the small lighter fires blink on and off, an almost coded randomness, an intelligible sequence of lights and absences of lights, a helicopter passes over us in a chopping wash of rotor noise. One helicopter, almost invisible except for its running lights. You can see just the moving outline of it, thrashing above us like a dark fish. Many in the crowd don't even look up. But I look up, and see the belly of it, the flashing lights there, and I feel the ordering intelligence there as well. And suddenly those lights tumble in my mind into the lights of the lighters in the hands of the crowd, and I turn to the couple and put my hand on the young man's shoulder. I feel the bone of his shoulder under my hand. He turns. His girlfriend turns.
And I tell them this story. It is the first time I have ever told it. It pushes its way up out of me, I almost vomit it up. The Providence story of Edward and Sonjee and myself, and as I am telling it I am listening too, stunned and listening. It is a story I have never heard before. The memories restore themselves only as I speak them aloud.
Listen. It's important.
The Inglewood Shows
And it was so, that Sonjee saw me dying quietly. Curled in a blanket and in fever, between a Jaguar and a Bronco in the parking lot of the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. I had my temple against the blacktop, and I lay watching the small silver ornaments on the cars above me war with one another, the jaguar raking the horse's silver-white underbelly. The fighting animals would disperse as a helicopter passed over, pouring colored spots down into my eyes in long white showers. Then lope out of the colors and the confusion and recommence, the stallion driving its steel hoof into the jaguar's skull, shattering its sleek head into small blue sunbursts. Sonjee touched my head and told Edward I was on fire, and I woke in the back of their tired, clothes-scattered limousine with Tiger Balm burning at my temples. They left the limousine in that back row of the lot, until I could ride without being sick. Four hours: they played bootleg Dead and waited, and the music came out of a speaker next to my ear and crawled inside it, guitar somehow Asian in movement, at that rarified octave where guitar meets mandolin and sitar.
They asked me what had happened to me, and it took four hours to tell them that I had eaten something, and that the Great Western Forum seemed a huge single organism, perfect, respiring through a system of fans, defecating in subterranean white-tile chambers where water continually flowed. That I had felt the group will of eighteen-thousand people, felt them and their stares as a hive intelligence, fainted and felt them cast me out in my weakness and eliminate me from within them through a gentle knot of men in tan and black who placed me outside under the helicopter lights. That I had fallen between an expensive car and a large truck, seen their murderous hood ornaments, and that I was just twenty-six years old that day.
The Long Beach Shows
They took me on with them, to Long Beach, the Arena Shows, and I paid my way with a credit card that I had in my wallet. I never looked in the wallet other than to pull out that credit card when I needed it, at a cheap restaurant or a ticket window. The wallet was thick with other things, but I never allowed Sonjee to peek inside it, though she once asked. When they would ask me about myself, I would show them the credit card, use it to buy something, and that would be the end of it. I learned that fifty-one-year-old Edward hated the music of the Dead, that he refused to go inside to see the shows. He would remain in the driver's seat, brooding, or leaning against the hood of the square-backed limousine, the ornament poking up his windbreaker. From a row of cars away his thick, florid face drew stares. I learned the history of their attendance, the number of their concerts, the geography they pursued in season with the Dead.
Sonjee was picked up by friends she called from a Denny's on the highway, her Long Beach friends, and they came with fringe hanging from their elbows, and with their hair unwashed, approximating homelessness, joblessness. They hugged her and were familiar with her. And there was a hint of deference also, to the sort of woman who shines at gatherings of the Dead, to a sexuality breathing both paganism and naivete. To her blonde hair shining in calfskin-tied braids. To the freshness of her body in a print stitched in Guatemala, and sandals purchased from a Rastafarian outside of San Francisco, two years ago at the New Year's Shows. To the prisms she wore in her ears. She was twenty-three. I saw them take her from the parking lot full of buses with cooking stoves and tin chimneys and handwrought silver, and I would have followed but for the fact that the Arena brought back images of long lines of bodies passing into deep white-tiled cells and the sounds of air ducts, and the intelligence of a municipal complex. And but for the fact of Edward's possession of her, its savor of the falsest hope.
He was a retired plumber who had met Sonjee at a time when a large cash offer for his business was pending, met her outside a supermarket near Fairfax, California, where she had rolled herself in her sleeping bag beside a hot air vent. The leads of a portable cassette player were in her ears, and Edward heard small, tinny sounds from where he stood. Bootlegged sounds like tabors and tambourines and chanting but infinitely smaller. He drove her to the Shows in Golden Gate Park, and attended the first one with her. The music baffled him with its way of climbing half a peak and then settling for half a fall back, its refusal of climax and its tendency to trail off rather than finish. He was vaguely disgusted by the undulations of the dancers, the uniform and grubby vegetarianism, the colors that stabbed his eyes from shirts, pants, banners. He never saw another show, but always waited for her in the parking lots that were strange bazaars with milling bodies, homemade stalls filled with artwork offered up to the glory of the Dead.
When the Sunday show was over, he would drive her to his two-bedroom house outside Anaheim. Where he kept a collection of World War II souvenirs, but did not keep a single picture of his first wife in any of the drawers or closets, and where they played gin in endless tournaments. Where they would live together until the next shows, she cleaning house and playing tapes.
All of this he told me the during three nights of the Long Beach shows, and I wondered that Sonjee, unmarked, desirable, lived with this man and slept with him in his Anaheim house, took him inside herself and put herself inside of him.
But I asked him only whether he thought plumbing of a sufficient vastness might not develop the resonance of intelligence, especially when controlled in sequence with climate and bodies. I talked of Shows that we would cross the country to see, outdoor shows in the Saratoga Performing Arts Center of Upstate New York, where he would not be separated from Sonjee and I would be able to see the Dead under an open sky. Edward looked pessimistic, dubious. He would scan the crowd bleakly, and then stare in the distance, across a chain-link fence and a loud city-street, at the Arena, the moon full over it like an incandescent bulb. His distaste included everything laid out before him, a patient, slow repugnance.
I left and came back with an old plastic bag full of cooked brown rice and held it out to him. He looked at it hanging in my hand like Medusa's head and looked back at the Arena, and I knew that in his mind Sonjee was on a cool marble slab, her tanned arms drawn up behind her head and her unshaven ankles held by the strong hands of college men who carpenter in Aspen and in Virginia and sink swimming pool foundations in Carmel. As the Dead played over her.
The Steamboat Springs Shows
Of the Long Beach friends, Rebecca and James went on with us to Colorado, after James and I had helped Edward to disconnect the wet bar that stood between the crushed velvet back seat and the Captain's chair behind the driver's seat. Edward worked with smoldering irritation, confused anger that part of the vehicle which he had purchased for Sonjee should be cast off so that strangers might ride to another state to hear the Dead play three nights in a row of music undeniably the same as that they had heard for three nights in Long Beach. But his shoulders and back showed the enjoyment he had in twisting a wrench again, and he heaved the wet bar out of the limo door with a single grunt and thrust like passing a medicine ball. Rust flakes and water trickled from the interior fitting to the maroon carpet, soaking the fiber, and Edward smoothly threaded a brass piece to it, sealed it almost absentmindedly.
I traded the bar to a Cooperative, twenty-six men and women, camped in a bus behind us; I got twelve cassette tapes, bootleg Dead recordings from 1981 to 1986, a French bayonet which I gave to Edward, and a huge skin of a bear which one of the women in the Cooperative had shot through the heart near the Canadian border in the state of Washington. Rebecca and James found the music of the Dead an aphrodisiac and while we traveled they were very free in their touching of one another beneath the bearskin rug. I rode in the hollow left by the wet bar, watching Edward and Sonjee argue wordlessly by the light of an occasional overpass.
Just inside Colorado, she lay her head in his lap and he caught my open eye in the mirror before looking away. Palpable as the heat from Rebecca and James beneath the bearskin, I felt Edward's silent, resolute desire to jettison everything behind the driver's seat, everything unconnected to the gold head under his fingers, the pallid eyelid beneath his thumb. I finally slept, and bumped awake with a sick fear that he had taken the bayonet from beneath his seat and sawed the motor-half of the limousine free, leaving my bearskin-half to slow and wedge in sand, open to the night wind.
And it was so, that the Colorado Shows were the Shows at which I kissed Sonjee. Touched my tongue to hers, feeling something as cold as novocaine in my chest and a displeased, outer awareness of my hand coming to circle the back of her neck, her head moving forward with such subtlety that I could see her tongue glisten with reflected lights beneath the plum of her lower lip. Edward was gone to buy her mushrooms; she had a few hours earlier eaten the last dry caps, sharing out all that remained with Rebecca and James and me in a fit of Saturday night jubilation.
When she came limping back to the limo only one hour into the Saturday show, I had on a tape of November 1985 from the Meadowlands of New Jersey and I put her shivering body under the bearskin rug and started the motor, turned the heat dial to a picture of a genderless figure lying with an arrow pointed at its chest. Hot air filled the car, and she and I might have been in the Meadowlands, stuck out in the cold post-development waste of New Jersey, in a box seat. She was lying beside the captain's chair under the skin, her feet curled up so as not to trail in the cold well left by the wet bar. Only her face showed above the bulk of black bear fur. The moment was an outcropping of immediacy: we were both alive, both shivering.
She knew the concert playing on the cassette deck, and began to repeat the place and date over to herself, driving it like a piton into her mind, to hold on to. She reached out and grasped my arm just below the elbow.
I kissed her and as her tongue passed from her softly freckled mouth into my own, I knew that she was the daughter of a wealthy suburban contractor who finished kitchen cabinets with stain-proof linoleum, that she had thrown her virginity away like a graduation cap, that she would fly a second time to Egypt if the Dead chose again to play before the Pyramids, that at my age she would be married to a man other than Edward, someone nonchalant who would tell company of the years during which Sonjee pursued a musical group across the country and lived with an old plumber. She would leave Edward by plane, after a Sunday show on the other side of the country from his house, leave him with the used limousine. It was pressing your lips against a cold crystal ball, more a reading of chilled tea leaves than a kiss. Never repeated.
She shivered and slept. I climbed forward into the driver's seat and looked out the wrap-around windshield, searching for Edward's blunt, round body among the people selling crystals, and the artists boring into the antlers of deer to make pipes. Finally, I got out of the car and walked the lot looking for him. The colors I saw were profound, but no one that I asked had seen Edward.
I found him hours later on a small dusthill at the edge of the lot, overlooking the bright white circle of the auditorium, intent, saddened, uncomprehending. He stood looking at the security guards and cruising helicopters, the banners tied from column to column, snapping taut in the wind. Like some savage peering through pre-England trees at the high, closed culture of the Romans. The music played from inside, faintly, never cresting and never finishing. No one would sell him mushrooms; they were suspicious of his age and of his blue, bellied-out windbreaker, the sort that policemen wear. I wanted to take his head in my hands and press my lips to the cold baldness of it and pass on the vision I had from the lips of the young woman in the back of his used limousine. Instead, I took the three twenties he gave me and looked around until I found a small bag for the money, so as not to shame him with both a score and a bargain.
Late, confusingly late that night and halfway across Colorado, Sonjee threw up on the black vinyl mat lining the passenger compartment. Edward pulled over immediately, and his door struck a sign reading Open Range Cattle Grazing Next 50 Miles. Rebecca and James never came out from beneath the skin. Edward held her head, in the weeds off the road, and I cleaned the mess in the front seat with the napkins Sonjee kept in the glovebox beneath piles of condiments. Dead music filtered out of the speakers. I took the dripping napkin clumps fifty or sixty feet out into the scrub and threw them down behind a thorn bush, and thought about the vomit that Sonjee said she had left on the concrete walks approaching the Great Pyramid at Giza, and about how similar must have been the Egyptian reactions to my own, despite the fact that altogether different versions of the same songs were playing then and now.
The Chicago Shows
Just before the Friday show Rebecca and James bought an entire library of bootleg recordings from a slick-haired boy of sixteen or seventeen. I could look at his see-through eyes and know that he had stolen the recordings from some couple nearly twice his age who lived near or on the campus of the University of Chicago. There were rows and rows of tapes, in custom-built crates that had once held fruit and produce. All neatly labelled, first in a male script and then in alternating male and female, their romance beginning sometime after the Virginia Beach shows of 1989. Rebecca and James paid with starchy bills that they had teased from a large machine, as an advance against Rebecca's MasterCard, earlier that day.
Sonjee and Rebecca and James spent almost an hour, after having eaten their caps, pointing to the small plastic boxes and asking one another if they remembered the shows inside them. Edward was outside, leaning into the grill of the limo. His back was straight, and I could see that he was pointedly ignoring the nods of passing deadheads. He and Sonjee had fought openly the night before, in the parking lot of a Chicago polish sausage stand, Edward always backing off from the ultimatums that burst from his thick chest, always reaching out for her with his pipefitter's hands.
I got out and told him that I was going to try to see the show that night, told him I felt good about the Stadium. He looked at me, down at my tie-dyed shirt, looked away. I was just another of the lame followers to him then, and I could see he hated me for paying my way with a credit card with only one name on it, a name he thought untrue, and for the fact that I could leave and chose to stay. We left him standing and smoking, like a chauffeur.
The stadium was no problem for me. The dancers twirling level upon level, up to the artificial sky of the dome, seemed individually motivated and I felt no fear of the air ducts or the concessions spilling out simple foods in perfect, bland order, or the lines of men and women standing in line to use a tiled stall in the lower levels. But I pictured Edward alone at the limo surrounded by people he did not understand, listening to strains of music he knew by heart but had never respected enough to learn the titles or the words. I left Sonjee and Rebecca and James dancing, all of them dancing with their eyes closed and their arms looping.
When I got back to the car, Edward looked up from a map he was studying by flashlight. A fugitive look of welcome before he went back to tracing the complex veins and arteries that connect Chicago with the next stop. I clambered up on the roof of the limo, and he gave me a glance, not seeming to mind. I asked him if he'd eaten yet. At the other edge of the lot, somebody aimed a flare gun at the moon. A bass Thomp! and the sky over us was a red noon. I said that I was anxious to get to the summer shows, the outdoor shows, when the five of us could stay together.
And then suddenly he had the flashlight pointed at my eyes, and was shouting up questions: " Who the hell are you? Did you faint at the sight of a big stadium again? What do you do in your life, boy, do you work, do you have a wife you son of a bitch, or do you just eat rice and listen to that goddamn music?" He was trying for friendly bullying, but there was a tight, frantic note in it as well. As though he'd had too much confusion, too many givens he couldn't understand. The light from his hand came straight at me like a needle, and as it grew brighter with the fading of the overhead flare, I took the credit card from my wallet, held it out in front of me to shield my eyes.
He yelled up for me to hand down my wallet, he was sick to death of driving around somebody he didn't know from Adam and who would only show a credit card. I moved away from his reaching hands, scooting back and forth on the roof as he circled the car. He was a fairly short man and after a minute or two he began to jump beside the car, adding a few inches to his reach. Even so his hands never grazed me. Dust rose thinly around us. It was a frustrating game for him, and he was winded in a few minutes, bent over with his hands on his thighs. He shut himself into the driver's seat with a strong slam of the door. I jumped into the stream of colored clothing passing behind the car.
Not long after, I came back with a plastic bag full of pork-fried rice, and got into the passenger seat. Edward still looked surly, but when he saw that there was meat in the offering, he accepted a pair of chopsticks and began scissoring it into his mouth, the bag resting damply on the leather seat. He told me that he had learned to use chopsticks in the Philippines while he was in the Air Force. He told me that he had been there for six years, and that in the Philippines there were some weird goddamn things, but nothing like the tribe outside the car. I giggled. There was plenty of room in the front seat for us to turn and face one another. It was a casual moment. He asked me where I lived, lightly, amiably. I took out the credit card, and snapped on the small directional map light above us so that there would be no mistake.
Later, when Edward and I were standing and scuffing our shoes in the dust of the lot, Sonjee came back with Sunday night passes for Providence. Two of them, astonishingly simple documents, admitting one each to spend the concert behind the stage, and later to drink champagne and to carry fine cheeses about on crackers with the Dead. I wondered not how she got them, but why she didn't have them every night. They were like silk and Swiss chocolate during the last World War, fine rare lures. I took the passes from her, to look at closely, and in their stiff stamped lengths I could feel the offer that had been made to her through them, by some man who had seen her dancing and had danced with her, watching the gentle rippling of her paisley skirt. But also tinging those backstage passes was her refusal, her true innocent surprise when they were given to her anyway.
She offered the second pass to Edward first, sliding her arms about his neck and then jumping unexpectedly up to twine her skirt-wrapped legs around his big waist. He hugged her quickly to keep her from falling, without bothering to look at the deadheads milling and staring all around him. He was happy. He hadn't expected to be offered his chance to refuse.
The Providence Shows
Sonjee and Rebecca sat cross-legged in the back of the limo, facing one another, anointing one another, threading gold and copper chains through the shining braids they made of one another's hair. Their smiles were vague and expectant, and the whole interior compartment took on the smugness of brides. They were mystically precise in selecting tapes for the stereo: this year, that month, in this town set down before this mountain, the Friday night show. They had told some people in our row about the passes. People brought small, bound messages for them to deliver, and flowers. A coffee-skinned man in a turban brought them mushrooms with the bulbous heads and attenuated stems of a daddy-longlegs spider.
When they followed the crowd out under the dusk, James squiring them, I watched from the top of the limo. I watched them cross fences and a wide city street. Edward was in the driver's seat, sunk in a detective novel. Night fell, and cooking fires came up. I ate three tall-stemmed mushrooms as though they were candy canes, breaking them piece by long piece. We could hear the music from the concert over the noise of traffic. Skyscrapers leaned over the Civic Center, and helicopters moved between them with the quickness and the rapacity of locust. Edward called to me from the cab of the limo. I hung my head down into his window. He had the map light on, and was studying a white, Xeroxed poster with a dark picture on it. He held it up toward his open window, toward my hanging face. Missing, Last Seen Forum, Inglewood, California, Five Foot Eleven, Blond Hair, Brown Eyes, Please Forward Information Concerning This Man. There was a Los Angeles number to call. This is you, Edward said.
I slid off the roof and came around to the passenger side. I leaned over the seat and reached my duffle bag from behind the captain's chair. I piled my clothes on the carpet until I came to the pile of posters at the bottom of the bag. Found at the odd show here or there, stuck to a camper, posted by unseen hands on a concrete auditorium wall. I handed the stack to him, and he shuffled through them, reading my small notations on their blank backs, which days of which shows I had found each. He handed them back to me calmly. These are all you, he said, and he might have been my high school principal the way he laid them on the seat between us. A tired, good man.
I snapped off the maplight. A black, almost confessional second. Edward, I whispered, there is something I have to tell you. At some Sunday show Sonjee will leave you, she'll board a plane with no luggage, but with tapes in her pockets. She will play those tapes on the plane back across the country, on the same small portable tape player that she wore the day you met her. That will be her last concert. She will marry a young man with black, black brows that match the blackness of a beard he allows to grow from Friday morning until seven o'clock the following Monday. He will be athletic and have a temper. Her marriage to him will face 180 degrees from the part of her life where you drive this limousine and wait for her to come back.
Edward looked at me for a moment, and then he hunched forward and turned the key in the ignition. The dash display began to glow. Dead music played from the Spring of 1977. He reached around his back and thumbed a switch. My door lock shot down.
" Now you show me that wallet, or we will go to war, the two of us," Edward said softly. He uncrossed his thick arms. The small fires burned in the lot outside the windshield. I handed him the wallet. He opened it, stretched its thick leather folds, taking out ripped ticket after ticket, small piles of them in each compartment, pulling them out with a certain disgust. He filled the seat between us with them. I reached for one of the moisture-smudged stubs and he slapped my hand back, knocking a small pile to the vinyl mat where it separated in the dark, an invisible geography. There was only the credit card, finally, and the wallet resting stupid and empty on the seat.
" These are me," I began to say and James was suddenly beating heavily on the driver's-side window with one fist and holding up Sonjee's bruised face and Rebecca wouldn't wait but pulled the door open, driving in the smell of the campfires and the staring of the crowd. Edward thrust forward his hands to receive Sonjee's small head and unmoving torso. He pulled her carefully up over his lap, gathering up her legs. Between the two of us we passed her body to the rear compartment, and laid her on the cigarette-burned carpet, covered her with the heavy bearskin, while James and Rebecca talked hysterically, jabbering like parrots: One of the bouncers, a big man, the man who had given Sonjee the passes in Chicago, he said that there was a room just behind the stage where the music would be so close, so very close, where they would wait for the Dead, the Dead wanted to meet Sonjee, not Rebecca, just her, just the room next door where they would wait for the Dead to finish, Sonjee was to go and meet the Dead.
We could still hear the drifting music from across the street, competing with our own sounds in the dark space. Sonjee slept, her small teeth chattering at the level of a whisper. I had my head on the carpet, listening to Rebecca still talking about the big man who had brought Sonjee back, who had taken the two of them to a rear exit and pushed them out among a throng of autograph seekers, and wrenched the door shut behind him, when I heard the front door of the limo open and smelled the fires. I pushed my face to the fogged rear window and saw Edward close with the crowd, pass into it.
I crawled to the front seat, I followed him. His blue windbreaker would appear in a break in the crowd and then someone would push a sign in my face Kind Veggie Sandwiches or I Need A Miracle and I would lose him, his stocky form thrusting quickly through the vendors and the colors like a bulldog. My balance was somehow hurt, and I kicked jewelry from spread blankets. I saw him waiting with a crowd for the light at the six lane street fronting the auditorium. I yelled his name and my voice sounded flat and recorded and odd in my own ears. You don't even know his name! I screamed at him. You don't know at what level he works, in which row! Which entrance does he work! Young people stood in T-shirts all around me and stared, first at me, then at Edward. Cars flowed in front of me in perfect synch, without interval, at forty miles an hour. And then Edward forced a break on the other side and sprinted heavily across. He ran up to the concrete ramps that led to the entrance. My knees felt as though they would buckle, and I passed my arms around the smooth pole which supported the light.
And it was so, that when the light signaled green for me to go, and the six lanes of cars had braked in a perfect row before me, I saw a large van with a warning light pass and a helicopter drop toward the entrances, both moving calmly and directly and both with radios playing the same garbled voice out of the same static. Both had loudspeakers from which they requested the crowd to part, and this parting was smooth and economical, a neat halving of the bright colors of the crowd. Vans and helicopters and partings of the crowd such as I had seen in civic organisms endlessly configured. In municipal complexes strung out on a national tour like the irregular spotting of a bacterial culture, with every attribute of life, that of breathing, those of irritability and of evacuating waste, that of reproducing themselves through endless cultural stirrings that ended always in growth. And this van and this helicopter of Providence were converging on a spot where identical large men in security T-shirts were holding something small between them. Then the spotlight from the helicopter shone down as knowingly as a dentist's lamp, and black-and-white policemen merged with the security men and they passed the small figure between them, and a tinier reflected flash that must have been the bayonet which rested for a year beneath the driver's seat of a used limousine and was destined to become a part of a private collection of war souvenirs. I saw the figure passed into the van, followed by two men as stiff as centurions with visored helmets, and I saw the doors of the van close and the van move to the six lane street, where an emergency light began to flash yellow, smoothly stopping the flow of automobiles, and I fell to the concrete sidewalk. As my head touched the coldness, I could see Sonjee's plane leaving the airport in the morning, queuing up with other oversized aircraft on a lighted concrete strip, perfectly on schedule, with Sonjee stunned and cradled within it, cool air spraying from a plastic nipple onto her face.
There was no inside for me to fear anymore, I saw that clear as colors. Because there was no outside, and had not been for many years, and I continue to walk among you to tell you without ceasing that this is so, my brothers and sisters in the Dead.