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Sunday 13 December 2009

Night City


The men and women go searching, hunting for the great ornament, the perfect page of appearance, the photo, the product, the celebrity link. They hunt in the lit-up social networking space for a form which by its form alone, without diamond blazons or flashing chains of circumstance, by its form alone, by being right, becomes the perfect stone, the essential attracting element they seek.

Walking in the street after going out for a drink with her friends at night she saw strange unpleasant men lurking in the shadow spaces between the dark buildings. They looked at her. She looked away. Then when she had passed the men and was crossing at the stoplight with her friends she turned and looked back over her shoulder anxiously. And then looked back again, as she reached the other side of the street. The men said, What are you looking at?

Or was she hearing things? She looked back over her shoulder again at the men, as though her head were on a leash at which they tugged without moving a muscle, they merely stood in the cold darkness and light misting rain and wore no expression on their faces, perhaps they were not really there, she was no longer sure what had happened and a car passed and another car turned the corner blocking out the space behind her and when she turned to look again the shadows were empty, the men were no longer there. Perhaps they had never really been there, the mind plays such tricks.

Later in the night she logged in. She counted her friends, clicking on their links, wondering about the products with which they identified as if displaying character traits, secrets about themselves, their inner realities, their dreams and longings, the celebrities they admired. The time passed and her nerves grew calmer and she could feel herself beginning to float into the familiar relaxing space of her life in which she felt comfortable and at ease, everything in its place again after the unsettling experience of the streets and the men, lurking in the shadows, asking her why she was looking at them. She remembered she was not sure about what she had seen or heard or whether she had actually seen or heard anything at all and so she went on allowing herself to drift and float.

It was a cold night in the streets and cars were passing by the corner on which the men stood in the shadows still, silent. Then one of the men began to cry, softly, gently, barely audibly, and the other men made no sign of taking note or hearing anything. A strange shyness among the men, a deference, as the man went on crying, murmuring into the mindless traffic stream, The world is myself, Life is myself.

File:Facebook and Firefox.jpg

Earth viewed from space: image by NASA, 2002
Notebook screen with Facebook logo: photo by Frydolin, 2009


timmy said...

excellent. five stars.

~otto~ said...

This made my hairs stand on end. Chicken skin. Each word building to one of my favorite finishes yet: "The world is myself, Life is myself." I contemplated crying.

TC said...


Many thanks.


Sometimes the world does that to all of us.

Anonymous said...

i love the complexity of the relationship between the "real" and the "virtual". and the evidence that the crying unpleasant man gives that the poet still has a place in the web. i am a global village idiot.

Anonymous said...

"To be or not to be" in the twenty-first century. Impressive.

I loved to read your prose. This shows you are much more than a great poet. =)

TC said...

Zev, Lucy,

Many thanks. I suppose we're all global village idiots here. It's hard to tell any more whether or where we are. Are we in over our heads? How deep are these waters?

In the ethernet where you are what you pretend to be/It's surface surface everywhere

gamefaced said...

totally enthralling. one of my favorite books is Asimov's, the naked sun. for these reasons, you beautifully put. 'and that finish' i say, echoing otto.

TC said...

And no one shall come to harm

human being said...

you're right... but i think the depth is the same for each person both in the real and virtual world...

i loved reading this especially after an unsettling experience i had this afternoon with some women... i was a woman too but why i didn't belong?
when i was home with my virtual friends, i asked myself which one is real?

TC said...


'Tis a strange world in which we attempt to be real within the vast echoing canyons of contemporary unreality.

Last night one of the street denizens of this town, a declared Type B bipolar, revealed he spends three to four hours a day at the public library "having fun" on Twitter. He keywords the names of fashionable restaurants and lurks the twitterers he finds.

Like who? asked curious I.

Like a world famous writer who is also a world class paranoid neurotic, said he.

And what do you learn? I enquired.

All about what happens in her therapy sessions, came the reply.

"The world is myself, life is myself."

A universal chorus of isolated monads chattering into an empty virtual night sky...

. said...

Where will it lead Tom ? It's almost like there is a parallel universe right here right now. Intriguing,if maybe a little worrying too.

Wonderful prose..sparking so many questions.

TC said...


Shorn of the bells and whistles, 2010 is beginning to shape up as the number-set of a stripped-down, denatured digital multiverse. I, too, child of a simpler universe, worry and wonder... perhaps in a week or so we'll know a little more (or less)?