“The Quiet”

In a gilt frame, there’s a painting of a man in a grey suit. The man in the grey suit is painted from the shoulders up. The man’s grey suit seems to have been recently dry-cleaned. Rendered how? wonders Wade. Shade and contour? Wade isn’t sure. It’s unclear. And there’s something else, too.

The man has no face. Where the face would be, there isn’t one. Or rather, where the face would be, there’s a window- or mirror-like oval surface. In the oval, a black and purple, star-spattered cosmos stretches for aeons, and strobes, faintly.

Wade B. Person keeps walking under Rockefeller Center. He walks past the other paintings, through the subway galleria. To Wade, the portrait he’d stopped to look at — the one of the faceless man — is like a koan. Its meaning is just out of reach. It thrums invisibly, just beneath the surface. Or maybe it’s just a feeling. Maybe this is one of those things you never forget, and who knows why.

Blood spiked with caffeine and fluoxetine,[1] Wade feels a glow rising in his stomach. He feels minute textures moving in his body. He moves in every snap-second quantum of time, every snap-second, every snap, in a kind of danse macabre, every move considered with an exacting attention to detail. He tries not to yack on the subway floor. (This is a nice part of town. He doesn’t want to be that guy.)

In the vaulted concourse leading from the D train stop to Rockefeller Plaza, Wade passes the corporate offices of a large, multi-national bank. The bank’s sign is dimly back-lit blue. The sign reads: CHASE BANK. The letters materialize out of the blur next to kind of folded circle emblem. The emblem is a wreath-like abstraction. The abstraction sorbs the same low blue as the letters of the sign, and puts Wade in mind of polite interactions with the very stiff, who will not be able to help, because of the rules.

It was the end of the Fall, and the beginning of the Quiet. Wade could feel it. Morning light glimmered in the grey sky. The clouds had gold linings, today — filigree-thin scratches of warm light. The Season of Death wouldn’t end until Halloween — the Days of the Dead, and the beginning of November — but he could see the grey dark of the next season looming. He could see little reminders of the seasonal change: omens: previews for the next show on the channel’s ribbon, with the newsbytes. (“COMING UP NEXT SEASON: THE GREAT WHITE QUIET that stretches; where the heart-rate of the world slows; and relaxes; and where moods are darker, and warmer, and deep — deep deep in the earth.”)

[1] Starbucks from a vacuum-sealed bag, and Prozac