Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My Last Defense

The bicycle was blue, like a summer sky. Its handles were black from the grip tape. The components were a mixture of metallic silver and black. It weighed about 17 pounds. I could pick it up with one finger. Being made of aluminum made it light. It had been hit by a car yet its structure was undamaged. It was a strong bike.

The rainy season had ended. It had not rained in over two weeks. The sun was rising earlier in the morning and setting later in the evening. The morning's were cloudy but the sun would burn through the clouds by early afternoon. The temperature was slowly rising, day by day. But like in the winter it was still warmer in the sun. I stood in the in the sunshine on the corner of 40th and San Pablo. I held onto the top tube of my bike so it would stand motionless next to me.

The traffic wasn't heavy. It was 2 o'clock in the afternoon on a Wednesday. There were a few people walking up and down the street. Most of the pedestrians were either coming from or going to the Oaks Card Club a block up from the intersection.

The card club had been around for over 20 years. The building was shaped like a cube and made of brick. Outside people would smoke cigarettes and talk about their losses. There was a security officer in a small hut by the parking lot. The parking lot was west of the building. The officer's hut was 50 meters from the building.

I could see the security officer from where I stood in front of Black and White market. The officer looked bored. The market was a liquor store. It sold a variety of microbrewed beers, chips, cigars, and magazines. Most of its sales came from malt liquor, lottery tickets, and the last minute beer purchases. It sold liquor later than any other market in the area. The market would sell alcohol until 1:45 am. Law dictated that purchasing alcohol ended at 2am Monday through Sunday. Most markets stopped selling alcohol at 1:30 am or were closed by midnight.

I waited another five minutes at the intersection then checked the time on my cell phone. At 2:15 pm I got back on my bike. I rode down San Pablo. San Pablo is a major north-south route connecting Oakland, Berkley, Albany, and El Cerrito. The buildings this far south on San Pablo were beaten. The brick buildings on the west side of the street were run down. The occasional shop on the east side of the street looked liked they'd seen better days.

My pace was slow. I was in no hurry. The air was clean, despite being so close to downtown Oakland. I breathed in evenly. My legs moved in an regular cadence. There is no bike lane on San Pablo. I rode five feet away from parked cars, far enough that I could avoid getting doored.
I rode without purpose. I'd been bike riding for 3 hours. I'd ridden down to Alameda, up to the Albany Bulb, east into Rockridge, and then south into West Oakland. I was trying to ride myself into exhaustion. I didn't sleep the night before. I wasn't sure that I wanted to sleep.

As I laid in bed the night before I heard a small creaking at my window. My window is right above the head of my bed. The window was slightly ajar and let in the cool night breeze. The window gasped as if it was being opened even more. I checked the window but it was unmoved. I shut it after my examination. I wrapped my blankets around my cooling body. The room seemed to get colder. I felt a weight fall onto my chest. It was the heaviest weight imaginable. As my body began to grow heavier I began to feel hotter. I threw off my blankets as my body began to lightly sweat. I didn't feel sick, but the room was on fire. I tried to sit up in bed but failed. I scooted myself up a little so I could look around the room. The room was dark with night. The weight seemed to get only heavier. I saw a shadow by my bedroom door flicker. It was darker than the other shadows in the room. It moved back and forth.

The shadow whispered to me. At first his voice was light, then it turned into a screech, then back into the original airiness. The changes in voice were not changes in volume. It was always a whisper. The shadow said to me:

"This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more ...All the events in your life that have occurred will occur again. Every pain, every failure, every humiliation. Will you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse me? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment and so when you answer me will you say: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.'

I laid in bed for hours after the shadow left. Slowly the room was brightened by the sun's rays. I didn't have to work and at 10 am Irose from my bed. The weight was no longer on my chest, but its heaviness lingered inside of me. My movements seemed to be in slow motion. Everything was happening at once, and also retrospectively. When I opened my bedroom door into the bathroom, my hand moved, and I also saw my hand open the door as if it was a shadow of the present. As my feet moved into the bathroom I saw not only my feet moving, but having moved. It was like having double vision. As I urinated into the toilet, the double vision, the sense of being both present, and in the past, evaporated. I flushed the toilet and looked in the mirror.

I'd turned 25 two months ago. At some point I'd turned from a boy into a man. I wasn't sure where that point was. Perhaps it was when I stopped having to pop my zits on a daily basis, That was when I became satisfied with my pock scars. My face had a slight shade to it from three days of stubble. I splashed water on my face and brushed my teeth. Today I counted the number of times I stroked my teeth's enamel with the brush head. I made it to 126 strokes before the toothpaste filled my mouth preventing me from brushing any further. I spat into the sink and cupped my hands under the running faucet. I drank a bit of the water and swished some in my mouth. I gargled and spat back into the sink. I decided not to shave and went back into my room.

I sat down and looked at the clock. It was a small analog clock. I'd bought it a long time ago near a Walgreen's or Long's on Telegraph and 30th. The second hand was moving slowly, revolving around the center of the clock. The minute hand crawled as the second hand pushed along. The hour hand seemed to be at a stand still. I began to think of my college earth science class. There were two things I remembered about the class, this cute girl who sat an aisle in front of me and the professor's lecture on the expansion of the universe.

The girl had brown hair. She would put it into pig tails and wore baggy raver pants. She had a severe lack of fashion sense. She was white, and had a slim body with wide shoulders. When she smiled she showed a slight gap between her two front teeth. A friend of mine would always call her "The Robot Girl." I think it was the raver pants or maybe it was because of some shirt she wore. I couldn't remember.

The professor's lecture was boring. He explained that the universe is limited in extent and contains a finite amount of matter, Matter is constantly changing, creating different situations within the extent of the universe. Time, however, was infinite. This means that at some point the same situation would occur given enough time. He talked about how the universe was expanding. At some point it would begin to shrink back to its original nothingness. After returning to a point of void the universe would begin to expand again in the exact same sequence. After that I began to daydream of the Robot girl walking to her chair in the lecture hall thousands of times in the exact same way, at the exact same time, in the exact same place. That would mean that I would be sitting in the exact same way, at the exact same time, in the exact same chair in the hall.

took San Pablo to the intersection of MLK and San Pablo. I veered right down on MLK passing the greyhound bus station and the social services building. I ran two lights and when I reached 14th street I took a left. I was in downtown oakland. The downtown area had a mixture of restaraunts, mainly cheap burrito, or chinese, and office buildings. In contrast to the other areas of oakland the buildings were large and well maintained. I rode past the Bart station, which is at the intersection of 14th and broadway and continued on towards Lake Merrit. If I continued east on 14th street I would end up in east oakland but I ended up getting on the sidewalk and riding around the lake. I rode my bike clockwise around the lake. The weather was nice and a large number of joggers, walkers, and sightseers were making their way around the lake. I stopped at a small bench about a third of the way around the lake. I gazed at the lake. It moved slowly, the water slightly bobbing. Nearby me ducks, geese, and the occassional sea gull walked about on the grass shore. I sat staring at the lake for twenty minutes thinking about the slow movement of the waves. My eyes shifted towards the ducks that were pecking at the ground. One duck looked at me and said:

"Everything goes, everything comes back; eternally rolls the wheel of being. Everything dies, everything blossoms again; eternally the year of being. All things recur eternally, and we ourselves too; and we have already existed an eternal nuimber of times and all things with us. Bent is the path of eternity."

I stared at the duck for quite a while after its speech. It was a black duck, with now webbing between its toes. I wasn't sure if it was actually a duck, my knowledge of birds being limited. It waddled around for a bit then dove into the water. I wasn't sure if the duck had actually said anything to me, or if I had assumed it had. I was becoming more confused with both my surroundings and the recent events. I thought I was overtired and picked up my bike and began to ride home. Perhaps sleep would cure me of these hallucinations.

I got back on my bicycle and started north towards Grand St. Grand st. runs along the north part of the lake going from west Oakland into east Oakland. Above the lake, Grand st. is composed of a few small apartment buildings and small shops. There is a tacqueria or two and some corner stores. The apartments are occupied by young business professionals, their partners, and their dogs. Thee immediate residents can often be seen circling the lake for their daily exercise.

Grand intersects telegraph avenue six blocks from the lake. Telegraph is another major north south thoroughfare like San Pablo. The shock troops of gentrification, hipsters and artists, have long established claims on areas of Telegraph. Around 22nd and telegraph is a bastion of this progress. A small, dingy cafe called "Mama Buzz" sits on the eastern side of the street. A hundred meters south of the cafe is an art space called "Paper, Rocks Scissors." Fixed gear bikes, and chain smoking twenty somethings litter the outside of the cafe and art space. The two house trendy, dirtbag, hipsters who excrete art. Moving further north is an Asian section composed of sushi restaurants, karaoke bars, and Korean market.

It took me about 15 minutes to ride from downtown Oakland to the upper edge of Oakland. Oakland turns into Berkeley around 67th street. Somewhere after the White Horse, the east bay's gay bar, is the border between the two towns. After riding past the gay bar, and the liquor store with the same name across the street, I stopped at the Whole Foods that is a few blocks below the intersection between Ashby and Telegraph.

Despite my sleepy and delirious state I wanted to pick up a few things. My housemates (I have two) and I share food but one of them had recently eaten all the avocados. For the last month or so I'd been making all my sandwiches with avocados. I enjoyed the thick, creamy texture of an avocado in my fake turkey sandwiches. It provided a nice compliment to the other sandwich ingredients:fake turkey, lettuce, tomatoes, and mustard.

The Whole Foods is mid sized and unlike the Berkeley Bowl, the other "organic" market in the north Oakland/Berkeley area, is frequented by a more bourgeoisie crowd. The prices are slightly more expensive and the ambiance more sophisticated. There are more gourmet cheeses, pastries and meats than at the Berkeley Bowl. The staff is composed of regular working class folk with a decent spattering of tattooed, and pierced hipsters. I picked out a few avacodoes and some pico de gallo flavored tortilla chips.

The cashier was an inch or two taller than me at 5'8" with shoulder length brown hair and light brown eyebrows. She had fair skin and was dressed in a nondescript blue shirt and jeans. Her name tag said "Leslie."

"How are you?" she asked.

"I'm fine."

"It will be $7.86. Do you want a bag?" she said.

"No. I can fit in my bag."

I stuffed the groceries into my messenger bag and walked toward the exit.

"Have a nice day," she said.

I made no reply. I'd locked my bicycle to the handicap sign immediately outside the grocery store. I unlocked my bicycle and stuck my small lock into my back pocket. The back of my jean pocket had become worn and loosened after constantly holding my lock.

From the whole foods I went left on Ashby and then I took a right on Shattuck. My house is six blocks north of the intersection between Ashby and Shattuck. My house was located behind Reel Video on Shattuck. It was a large house with four bedrooms and a huge front porch. One of my roommates was dating a rich kid. The rich kid's dad owned the house and charged the rest of us affordable rent. I'd met the roommate randomly by sitting in on a class at UC Berkeley on creative writing. We'd become friends after the class. A few months later my roommate said that she was moving in with her boyfriend and wanted to know if I wanted a room in the house as well.

I lifted my bike onto the porch and unlocked the front door. The front room is was the living room. There were two sofas sitting opposite each other. I propped my bicycle on the sofa in the living room. There was a television in the corner of the room. Moving forward I reached the kitchen then a few steps more and I had reached the pointwhere the house splat off into the bedrooms. My bedroom was the one on the right after the kitchen.

My bedroom is medium sized. I kept it pretty tidy. It helped that I had a bookshelf for my few books. The books shelves also doubled as storage for my various crap. I kept my spare shoes on the bottom shelf. My bed was a twin with no box spring so it laid low to the ground. I shut my door and laid down on my bed. I closed my eyes. I laid there for fifteen minutes before my clothing started to bother me. I sat up and took off my shoes and pants.

Attached to the top of my bookshelf was a small daddy long legs. The gangly looking spider was crawling down the side of the bookshelf. My eyes latched onto it. It turned to me and spoke.

"To recreate all 'it was' into 'thus I willed it' - that alone I should call redemption... Willing liberates; but what is it that puts even this liberator in fetters? 'It was" that is the name of the will's gnashing of teeth and most secret melancholy. The will cannot will backwards; and that it cannot break time and time's covetousness, that is the will's loneliest melancholy."

I stared at the spider longer. It continued to move down the bookshelf as though nothing happened. When it reached the floor it scuttled away into a crevice. I laid down in my bed and fell asleep.

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