I hit the elevator button the same moment as my iPod, starting up the giddy laughter and calm strums of Did You See the Words. As the metal doors close and we descend, I’m enveloped in a soothing aura of sound, matched with morbid words: Have you seen them, the words cut open / Your poor intestines can’t deny when the inky periods drip from your mailbox / and blood flies dip and glide reach down inside / There’s something living in these lines. The elevator opens, sunlight from street, white and warm. There’s something starting don’t know why. Then onto the sidewalk, like a molecule dodging hundreds of sweating others, each on their own dedicated trajectories.
Onto Grass, in the subway station, hotter and steamier than the street. A table of red-shirted Scientologists hawking their wares. As they raise their hands, intoning some form of salvation, reverberating screams of Avey Tare: pow pow now now pow pow now now. Then down the stairs to the screaming airbrakes and whooshing trains. I queue up to the happy bounce of The Purple Bottle. I’ve gotta big big big big heart beat, yeah / I think you are the sweetest thing / I wear a coat of feelings and they are loud. A young couple hugs on the yellow strip, kissing before the encroaching L. Sweating, a man pounds a set of drums for spare change. For a moment, the percussion matches that in my ears.
We’re moving to Banshee Beat, first the wheels on the tracks a banshee wail, then fading to static ambiance. Fast, despite the slow song, I turn inward to the faces here on the train. Sullen, hot and tired, they stare with beady unseeing eyes at advertisements and dirty spots. And then an underlying chord and tone, as if from another room. The rhythm matches the bump of the tracks, aligning into something. And I bet he needs a shower – ’cause he’s just like me / Gonna let you do your thinking if you need a while. And I think of the weekend, the herding crowds of indie rockers in a faded blue field of concrete. The anthemic: I duck out and go down to find the swimming pool. It drains away.
Loch Modan, a haunting Aphex Twin homage. The train stops in the middle of the tunnel, an island of light in the darkness. No one speaks, only stares at places that don’t meet the eyes of another. The only sound is the air conditioner. The lyrics are indecipherable. For a full ten minutes we are stopped, frozen in this antiquated infrastructure, sealed away underground.
But we finally pull up, the door opens, the crowd surges. Giddiness is back with Turn Into Something, and with it the open air. I march out of the hellish dripping den and into the light. The sun warms the stone facades, glinting off the armies of yellow cabs, filtering through Central Park’s green. There muffled by buzzes and hums / So headphone tones do float me home.
Words fade to ambiance, echoing guitar strums, a mournful dirge, a joyous grandeur. I make a final turn, familiarity, thinning crowds, parked cars and clean sidewalks. I count the numbers on the doors. Twenty-seven. My earbuds die as I turn the key.