On the bus to opticnerve™ in Red Hook, No-Body told me about a plane crash Jon Kane witnessed when he was fifteen. As she told the story, I closed my eyes and imagined I was there, eying the golf flag flapping down the fairway on a par four in the outskirts of Pittsburgh…
… and as I swung my nine-iron into the sky, I saw my father flailing wildly with both hands in my peripheral, and looked backward over my shoulder. Bearing down through the clouds was a twin-engine Cessna. The next thing I knew some groundskeeper’s shoulders were plowing me out of the crashing plane’s path. I was thrown into the rough, though I felt as if I were floating through a dream.
As soon as my eyes found the plane, an explosion rocked the links and I felt a ripple of terrible heat. I threw my forearm over my face. Screams penetrated the haze of smoke and noise, and out of the heap of crumple aluminum burning like a fallen star on the bright green grass, a man with no clothes, no lips, no eyebrows, and gray skin like seared steak struggled out of the inferno and groped toward me…
I shook the vision out of my head and entered the opticnerve™ studios where No-Body immediately began making coffee, building a fire, filling candy dishes with almonds and chocolate-covered raisins, and restocking espresso canisters, wondering if I would ever hear the real plane crash story from Jon Kane. No-body introduced me to the whole opticnerve™ staff, who were busy but welcoming, and much better dressed than me.
The morning took another turn toward the apocalyptic and strange when Spills pulled up footage of the Japanese Tsunami on his laptop and everyone gathered round.
Mile-long jetties of rolling trash bulldozing acres of farmland. A man in a third storey window waving a white towel helplessly at a circling helicopter. A huge hole opened up in the ocean and slowly swallowed a ship. On CNN a reporter was asked, “What is the mood like there?” and incredulously replied, “Tense.”
Everyone at opticnerve™ looked out the window at the Statue of Liberty in the distance. The waters of Buttermilk Channel remained calm, speckled with seagulls. But for a moment we wondered when our time would come. No-body’s fire crackled apocalyptically in the background.
Just before lunch No-body and I took Zucchini, Jon Kane’s Yorkshire Terrier, on a little walk around the waterfront. As we neared the end of the pier a tugboat pushed a gigantic, rusty barge around the corner of the dock. This is only my third time visiting New York. We smoked a cigarette and I felt like I was in the Sopranos.
During lunch Jon Kane called me into his office. I was nervous because I was wearing a pair of really ugly Nike tennis shoes, and at one point sitting in front of Jon I crossed my legs so that my shoe was very visible. But if Jon judged me, he never let on. He simply told the plane crash story, and in my mind I watched…
…the Cessna’s wings teetering down the fairway, flicking pine trees into the sky where the wingtips touched the earth. The man with no skin walking out of the fire and into a life that would never be the same. The Pittsburgh morgue van skidding across the grass to a stop. The emergency workers lifting a skeleton locked in a sitting position, whose seat had vaporized beneath him, and having to break his bones in order to fit him into the body bag.
As Jon told this story I watched his hands. They flew around his body in a whirl of comic and dramatic expression. He described the entire experience as if it were not even his, as if it were seen from the point of view of a stranger. Then he told me he’d felt like he’d seen behind some dark, strange curtain, as if he’d seen a glitch in the inner mysterious workings of the universe. As Jon told me this I watched his eyes. They didn’t blink.