I went to a meeting this morning where honesty was the topic. A never ending contemplation, that one. Afterwards I ate brunch at a neighborhood restaurant. Upscale, French, when I eat there alone I am, like today, the only solitary diner there. I don't mind at all. Dining alone is a personal vacation for me - allowing me time to sit, think, observe, read, write.
A pause in the background jazz while the musicians take a break reveals the underlying sounds inherent to a place like this - laughter from every direction, the clicking of silver on china, the hum of a dishwasher just for glasses in the bar, snippets of light conversation, a scooper plunging into the ice machine the tinkling of cubes entering glasses, the rhythmic shooshing of martinis and ice in a shaker, the general hum of people content with their food, their friends and their lives, every table full of these people. Or so it would seem.
The man whose back is directly in front of me sits on top of a green sweater, its long sleeves hanging off the sides of the chair onto the floor and then curling up like puppets about to speak to one another. He is large, and like his sleeves, overflows from his tight cotton t-shirt, his belt and his bluejeans into the space all around him. A woman within my line of vision at another table sits with her three companions, silent, unsmiling, her eyes often clouding over with disassociation. She is isolating, separating in the midst of the hurdy-gurdy here. Yet she is not at all alone; I see her so clearly.
I am thinking of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Actor extraordinaire, found dead one week ago today, a needle in his arm, bags of heroin scattered around his New York city apartment. A tragedy, for him, his children, all of us who will no longer be receiving the gift of his brilliant, empathic work. Why, how, do we continue existing, some of us, when others don't? What allows our light to remain at least somewhat intact, unextinguished by the hazards, the brutality in the world we live in, the world we have created? If, like the woman above, the capacity to disengage, to mute, to dim, exists within us without outside assistance, or when that fails, we have created infinite avenues for smaller doses of invisibility, why then the need for extreme measures? How does the need for darkness become so great, the mechanism for inner regulation so overloaded, that one destroys the machine altogether? What tips the scale?
The musicians have come back to their places, the music resumes, I return to my goat cheese asparagus crepe and my St. Germaine martini. I do not choose heroin today.