happy new year 1978!
Just wanted to post this short excerpt from Skin of Glass, the novel I may yet undertake to get published.
There isn’t anywhere in Chicago he can’t get to by taxi or public transportation, so David hasn’t bothered to get another car since moving here. There’s a bus stop half a block from the entrance to his office and another one directly across from his apartment building. Of course taking the bus means waiting for the bus, which is what he’s doing right now, and lately that means risking freezing to death. Once he finally boards, finds a seat, and thaws enough to stop shivering uncontrollably, the bus is nearing his stop.
He rises to join the queue in front of the exit door, steeling himself against the inevitable. The bus jerks to a halt, and the side doors screech open. A blast of frigid air reaches into the heated vehicle and sucks him into its vortex. Gloved, hatted, and wrapped tight as a mummy against the chill wind blowing off Lake Michigan, he steps down to the street. In seconds, his lips are numb.
Bent forward against the force of the wind, he strides across Grand Avenue to the entrance of his building, a seventy-story glass and steel monument to Modernism. The sun is almost gone, but it was so weak and watery it made little difference. The temperature hasn’t been above freezing for the past few days. With the wind chill factor, it’s actually below zero. At least most of the snow from the last storm has been cleared away.
The doorman is wearing earmuffs under his maroon cap and a scarf wrapped snugly around the lower half of his face. Only his eyes and red-tipped nose are visible. He shouts a muffled but cheery “Happy New Year” to David, and David nods in return. On the elevator heading up to the thirty-sixth floor, he feels the familiar tingling in his extremities that accompanies a rapid change of temperature. He unwinds the gray and black woolen scarf from around his neck and unbuttons his charcoal overcoat. Once inside his apartment, he warms some brandy and sips the soothing liquid as he turns on lights and music before taking up his post in front of the bay window overlooking the wasteland below.
The first apartment he was in had a view of Lake Michigan and the marina. What could have possessed him to take that place? Some harebrained notion he might get another boat? Not likely. As soon as he was able to arrange it with management, he moved to this side of the building, paying a hefty fee for the privilege of altering his lease. It was worth it.
He stares morosely at the desolate scene below. Here and there, between the hard-packed gray remnants of snow, are dun-colored patches of earth barren of grass. Black skeletons of trees seem to be railing against the hostile gray sky. He’d actually hoped for snow to transform Chicago into something soft and white, sparkling, totally alien to his past associations with the holidays. He’s cured of any desire for snow now.
Well, if he can’t blot out the dreary landscape outside, he can do his best to blot out his equally dreary inner landscape.
He’s been invited to several New Year’s Eve parties but hadn’t decided whether to drink alone at his club or in a crowd at one of the parties. But now that he’s home, there’s no way he’s going out again. Anywhere. Unless someone were to resurrect Coltrane. Or Miles were to come to his senses and stop playing rock and roll. And either one of them were foolish enough to put on a show tonight in this frigid, godforsaken place. He’s got plenty to drink right here. Besides, a person could freeze to death out there, and he’s not quite suicidal yet.
He hasn’t looked at his mail for a couple of weeks because he doesn’t want to see cards from California. This is the first time he’s spent the holidays alone. But it isn’t being alone he minds so much; it’s anything that reminds him of home.
Billie Holiday’s strangely lyrical seen-it-all voice is crooning Yesterdays on his stereo. It doesn’t really matter what the words are, her voice always seems to let you know she’s right there in the same miserable place you are. She sounds as if she always knew the way it would end for her. The way it’s going to end for you, too, baby. And there’s not a damned thing you can do about it so you might as well stop trying.
Not that he’s really trying.