“The Existential Reader”. Have you ever considered the fact that a book might not exist until you read it, or that once you start to read it, it becomes neither a reflection nor a dictator of your own existence but rather something, somewhere in between? Probably not, but you also probably haven’t tried to read NO EXIT in a public café. “The Existential Reader” is a lost story about life dictating fiction and fiction dictating existence. This is an excerpt from chapter 3, Letters to the Month of June …
Letter to JUNE/6 2011
Tonight was so beautiful, a true June summer’s night. The air nipped at my bare arms for a minute before adjusting to the temperature for a comfortably warm walk. It’s a sin to be inside or alone on nights like this. At least I won’t be inside. I headed north to experience the sparkling lights and restaurant life of the main strip. It is Monday so things aren’t too rowdy but the humid air has kept the place alive, breathing.
The whole way I’m debating whether or not to go into the big book store for a cheap copy of Lone Wolf. I can really escape a morning’s mourning inside those adventures. I’ve also considered popping into the record store for some music but the truth is I’ve downloaded it all already. Any attempt to browse the records would be as transparent as a street walker with her thumb out and the last thing I want is to be judged by strangers tonight. So I resigned to walk, just walk, stroll a good city block, then head home to work. I brought my writing machine with me but more out of habit than intent.
Then something impulsive happened. I walked down the stairs into a small second hand book store, turned the corner shelf unconsciously, picked up the “Tropics of Capricorn” and bought it. The cashier was engaged with an older lady when I disturbed them. They’d been talking about Buddhism, quantum physics and some other such strange things. I apologized for interrupting what I called their “crazy” conversation “These things are always just under the surface, waiting to be discussed” replied the clerk. I told him quantum theory was fun and thanked him for the Miller. Somehow this brief exchange alleviated my suspicions that all people who buy Henry Miller are perverts and I knew that the clerk had thought nothing of my purchase. I felt like a human being, such a small connection can do so much.
The Main Street is brightly lit by flickering signage and street lamps so I opened the book to the first paragraph and started back down the strip…“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with certainty, even in the midst of chaos. From the beginning it was never anything but chaos: it was a fluid which enveloped me, which I breathed in through the gills. In the substratum, where the moon shone steady and opaque, it was smooth and fecundating; above it was a jangle and a discord. In everything I quickly saw the opposite, the contradiction, and between the real and the unreal the irony, the paradox. I was my own worst enemy.” (Miller) Wow. I felt the feeling, the tingling spine. It was almost as though a violinist and piano player had set up beside me performing some thunderously gorgeous Chopin sending the thrill of a well executed concerto through the moist summer streets.
In fact, they had.
I put my book away and stood still watching the players. They had actually wheeled a piano out onto the walk way. The violin was so pure, the duet so real, it almost sounded like a recording. I continued to listen while I perused a street merchant’s selection of books. He’d laid them out along the walkway in his usual manner, though the live musical accompaniment was excitedly out of the ordinary. The things fine weather can do to New York. I wish I was there. But I’m not in New York, I’m right here, listening to Chopin and buying a coffee on the patio across the street from a street vendor who sells books and two buskers playing Chopin.
I’d never walked away from that book merchant without buying something before but there was little hope of his topping my Miller. I was already satisfied. Instead I just gave him a 2 dollar donation (the price of his books) and sat down at the café with my writing machine and composed this letter that no one is now reading. However had there been someone here to read it I’d probably be reciting verses from Capricorn for her rather than creating a story of my own; the story of a radiated nude holocaust eliminating rich folk and celebrities from the market square all in the wake of trying to excite a publisher. Nevertheless the music played on and I walked home, alone, and sweaty.