I had meant to go walking alone in Berkeley tonight . . . I bought a bottle of wine and gave myself a haircut and everything. Then I did a thing I never do, which was to accidentally fall asleep. I was sitting on the couch watching The Twilight Zone and I slumped over and went the hell to sleep for an hour and a half. My doctor had told me that the godawful virus called mono might continue to make me feel like a rotted gopher carcass for some time, and I’ll tell you what, it sure ain’t let up yet.
Anyway: I woke up during ‘The Howling Man’, which is an episode about a guy who visits a German monastery and unwittingly releases Satan from a jail cell where he’s being kept by the monks. Some of this had appeared to me in my dreams. I guess that tends to happen when you fall asleep with the TV on . . . but I haven’t fallen asleep like that in so long that I had forgotten about this phenomenon. I dreamed that Satan was released back out into the world!
My head hurt and I didn’t feel like going out anymore. I tried to remember why I was even alive in the first place—tried to remember what keeps me here! Other than Dante I couldn’t really think of anything else. I looked up the life expectancy for a man living in the United States in the year 2017 and groaned aloud when I saw that it was nearly 78 years old and some change. Jesus Lord, I thought, how am I going to keep doing this for another 50 years??
There was something that felt wrong in a sort of unplaceable way. I have a fear sometimes that I’ve woken up in an identical helldimension that is usually occupied by some other version of me, or at least a dude who looks and acts and thinks like me, and lives in pretty much the same place. Were I to walk around with a checklist, it would all add up to being my life. The only thing that feels off is my being there. I can’t really describe it. I felt like that when I woke up and maybe still feel that way. And if I’m here, where is the other guy? The double exposure? Is he in my dimension fucking everything up? It’s my job to fuck everything up in my own dimension. I can’t have some other asshole doing it!
I was lying on what I hoped was my own couch, and I was thinking that I wouldn’t go out there tonight because it wouldn’t do me any good anyway. I felt sick and I knew that no matter how many thousands of times I face the great disappointment of experiencing nothing and returning home to nothing, I keep going out there anyway thinking that something will happen to me. I remember doing that as a teenager too. I’d go walking at night and I always imagined I’d run into a thing or get mixed up in something and then my whole life would change. For more than half my life I have been waiting for that to happen to me. And now, 16 years later, with maybe 50 more years of this to go, I have a dread suspicion that nothing is ever going to happen to me again. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a human face that wasn’t just a combination of some other face I’ve seen before. When I’m out walking I hope I’ll run into that new face and we’ll go off and do something together, god knows what, but let’s face it, baby: it’s just as much of a dream as a Twilight Zone episode. I’m more likely to take pity on the devil and release him from his cage!
What the hell, man. I’m still gonna go out there, even if I can’t transcend myself, or pass from This Place to The Other Place through a secret starry door in the Berkeley Hills. I just wish all the time that I knew someone who was always Down For Stuff. Most of my friends here, god love them, never really want to do anything. They complain a lot, bless their hearts. This is true: never in my whole life have I turned down free food, and I’ve never turned down someone who had just made coffee or tea or whatever else. I don’t think I’ve ever turned someone down if they invited me to go walking with them. I would have to be an extreme circumstance . . . like I was throwing up blood or something. I definitely don’t want to hang out with another Ryan. That would actually truly make me throw up blood. But to find a person who wouldn’t turn down The Night Walk. . . !
Ray Bradbury wrote a little short story called ‘The Pedestrian’ back in the 50s. I remember skipping ahead in my English book to read it. It isn’t very long . . . just two pages I think. In it, a lonely dude goes walking at night, every night, and he’s the only one who’s ever out there. All the houses are dark except for the glow of a television set inside. He describes his neighborhood as a “graveyard.” At some point a robotic police car screams at him and asks him what he’s up to. He says he’s “just walking” and the robotic police car asks him where he’s walking to and why. And the dude says: “Walking for air. Walking to see.”
Man, yeah! Walking to see!
I tell ya, I’m out there every night. I hardly ever see anyone. Most nights I walk for miles and miles and often I’ll never encounter a single other person. I’ll think: well, if I weren’t here right now, who would be seeing all this shit? Little raccoon families in Emeryville and deer on the UC Berkeley campus. I’ve walked down Shattuck Avenue at three in the morning and have watched the street lights flicker from green to yellow to red for absolutely no one. It’s great. Hell, man. I don’t mind going it alone. I just wish I knew a person who was Down For Stuff, that’s all. I’d take em with me everywhere. Yeah. That’d be real cool.
It’s so nice out there, man. Where is my Other?? Where is my Nighttime Buddy???