By Harold Abramowitz
Civil Coping Mechanisms
There were a hundred of them there, at least a hundred honored guests, and there were bonfires and there was food and there was much, at that time, to marvel at. A holiday had come. There were many festivities, and nothing could spoil the enjoyable atmosphere.
And if only he'd been an industrialist, a politician, a clergyman, a hunter, a soldier, an assassin, a lover, a spy, or anything at all.
He could hear people coughing and crying and asking for help. There was a burning smell, an aroma, or odor, the scent of something burning in the air. The scent of something burning, and if anyone would have cared to listen. He could have heard voices, and it was curious the way the world ended, the way things ended, so suddenly, after all. And soon it would be done, the suffering would be done too. And he would have no need for exercise, or worry, or for anything at all. It was on par with the way the world already was, the way he'd always believed the world to be. There was no need to suffer. There was no need to think the way he sometimes thought. His way of thinking was, after all, often unhealthy and unwise. It was safer to sit off in the distance, it was healthier to mix with people, it was healthier to do what was asked of him, what was expected of him. It was safer to dream. And to dream. He was awake. Life in the hotel, his life, was slow, so slow, sometimes, it never seemed to end.
The hotel was in the mountains, high enough, famously, to inspire one toward a contemplative type of existence. The rooms were large and comfortable. He would meet people. He was sure he would make at least one important and lasting contact during his stay at the hotel.
There was light, and there was air, for the most part, from what he could see through the windows, through the trees.
The arrangements had been made ahead of time. Indeed, the funeral had been planned, planned well in advance.
There is something about the summer air, the spring air, the winter air, the autumn air, he feels. He is riding the train to the station. When he reaches the station, he will exit the train and walk, climb, down a steep hill and through the neighborhood, that neighborhood, that part of the city, where it is lush, and where there are many trees.
His friends, associates, sit at a table in the café and talk. It has been a long day: the funeral and the walk to the café and the sitting at the table and the toasts and the drinking of a variety of beverages and everything else.
It is too early to tell, still too early to tell, how it will all play out. He is not sure, but he is hopeful, sometimes, and, at other times, less hopeful. Still, the trees are most splendid at night, he feels.
It is nighttime and beautiful and he is crossing the street. He is in a different part of the city. The train station is, at that point, quite a distance away. The train station sits at the top of a hill, or, rather, he has walked, or climbed, down a steep hill. He is crossing the street and he notices the trees and plants and flowers, all the life of the city, that part of the city. And the life of the city, that part of the city, is rich, lush, compared to where he lives now. In the city. And the world is, more or less, different there, he feels. And this thought gives him a chill, sends a, rather, unique sensation, or charge, throughout his body. And, thus, he is confused. He can't, in fact, be certain anymore. Suddenly, it seems that it is hard for him to concentrate. And then there is a memory, a memory of a particular time and place. An engine. There is an engine, or the sound of an engine of some sort, working.
He is standing in the middle of the street, on the concrete pedestrian island in the middle of the street. It is daytime, and he has a meeting scheduled, or he is supposed to be meeting his friends, associates, at a café.
She has not arrived for their meeting. He is not quite certain what time it is. He is not sure if she is late, or if he is early, or if he is late. There is a name on the green, or red, door, or not a name exactly, but a mark, a specific mark, or some kind of sign, or symbol. He pushes the door, though he knows the door is, in fact, locked. The door is locked, again and again, but he must get inside. He is curious, certain, about what might be in the room. The door is locked, kept shut, with a chain and padlock. It is a green, or red, door. The door to a storage cellar that is used by the café next door. And perhaps he should call her on the telephone.
He is walking. It is a cold day, or it is a very warm day, or it is in the cool of the evening after an uncharacteristically warm day that he takes his walk, usually takes his walks.
There is not a cloud in the sky. It is a beautiful day, and there is not any reason to rush, not specifically, although his friends, associates, are, at that point, more or less, relieved to be exiting the cemetery.
His friends, associates, sit at a table in the café and eat and talk and drink a variety of beverages. And there are tentative plans, or arrangements, made for them to meet again, to meet at another time, though, perhaps, in a different location.
The day has been long. The trees and plants and flowers are beautiful, and he feels that there is much to be grateful for, much to be thankful for. And then he stands in the backyard. There are bugs, or insects, many, many bugs, or insects, in the backyard. On this night, the bugs, or insects, are especially noisy, especially active. The weather has changed, and then changed again. At this time the weather is warmer, much warmer, than it has been for some time. And it is almost like a dream. The time has passed by very quickly. What began as a spur of the moment decision to ride the train to the station has become something of a routine. And he is, typically, the only one left on the train when it reaches that particular station.
And it is strange, after all, in a way, very strange, that the funeral has been so well planned. There are many guests, friends, associates, and relatives, and others, other people who attend the funeral. Friends, associates, and relatives, and others, unknown others, strangers, in a sense, who attend the funeral. There are flowers and there is a casket. There is an open grave, a gravesite. And planning the funeral has been a hard and difficult process. No one can deny that planning the funeral has been a hard and difficult process. Even then, there might have been a place for the mourners to go, to meet, after the funeral, that is, the friends, associates, and relatives, and others, the others who have attended the funeral. Still, it is after the funeral and everyone leaves the cemetery, walks across the long expanse of grass in an orderly, dignified, and respectful manner.
It is a beautiful evening. He is standing in the backyard and he hears something, some unknown sound. And there are affirmations, he feels, in every sound he hears, especially in the sounds the walls make, in the sounds of the wood, and also in the sounds of the ceiling. And it is strange to be sitting there, after all, very strange, and, somewhat, unexpected.
It is night, or it is morning, or it is afternoon.
And the time, or time, in general, then, at that point, made very little difference. He is walking on the streets of the city alone.
He was late. Or she was early. And he saw them. At that point, he was certain that he saw his friends, associates, approach the café from the sidewalk.
And the café is crowded that day.