The Brooklyn Follies

Eugene de Salignac, Brooklyn Bridge October 7, 1914

« Every destination is arbitrary, every decision is governed by chance. You float, you weave, you get there as fast as you can, but you don’t really have a say in the matter. You’re a plaything of the gods, and you have no will of your own. The only reason you’re there is to serve the whims of other people.

And what whims, Harry would say, injecting a malicious glint into his eye, what naughty whims they must be. I’ll bet you’ve caught a bundle of them in that rearview mirror of yours.

You name it, Harry, and I’ve seen it. Masturbation, fornication, intoxication in all its forms. Puke and semen, shit and piss, blood and tears. At one time or another, every human liquid has spilled onto the backseat of my cab.

And who wipes it up ?

I do. It’s part of the job.

Well, just remember, young man, Harry would say, pressing the back of his hand against his forehead in a fake diva swoon, when you come to work for me, you’ll discover that books don’t bleed. And they certainly don’t defecate.

There are good moments, too, Tom would add, not wanting to let Harry have the last word. Indelible moments of grace, tiny exaltations, unexpected miracles. Gliding through Times Square at three-thirty in the morning, and all the traffic is gone, and suddenly you’re alone in the center of the world, with neon raining down on you from every corner of the sky. Or pushing the speedometer up past seventy on the Belt Parkway just before dawn and smelling the ocean as it pours in on you through the open window. Or traveling across the Brooklyn Bridge at the very moment a full moon rises into the arch, and that’s all you can see, the bright yellow roundness of the moon, so big that it frightens you, and you forget that you live down here on earth and imagine you’re flying, that the cab has wings and you’re actually flying through space. No book can duplicate those things. I’m talking about real transcendence, Harry. Leaving your body behind you and entering the fullness and thickness of the world. »

Auster, Paul. The Brooklyn Follies. London : Faber and Faber, 2005.