Eureka has a steamy, half starved look, especially late in the year from the second story as I turn to my right and stare out the window, stuck on a phrase or worse.
A generation or two earlier, the neighborhood was full of workers, fishermen, whores, gamblers, resident or gypsy loggers, and travelers meeting the ferry.
Tonight, with traffic rerouted and the workers gone, Old Town is not just the end of the world but somewhere beyond. I had walked my usual course to the ‘1091,’ the sad naval grey service vessel moored up the channel from Old Town, then downstream along the water to the oyster factory before returning up Two Street. The usual derelicts and oddballs were on foot and a few well-fed touri.
I was alert for dangerous behavior but nothing came after me. I stopped to get coffee and lecherously admired the shapely barista. Drinking from the paper cup, I came up the alley, still a little euphoric because she had fingered my palm as I handed her the dollar bill, or at least it felt like she had.
If I stand still with the lights off in the room, the office remains half lit with leftover glare from a street lamp on the corner, and I am more subtly aware of minute showers of grainy mortar as the brick interior wall slowly self-pulverizes and covers every surface with fine grit, unveiling an obscure layer of paneling under lath and plaster. The sound of mortar falling, or finding a bit of it, like sand, on a poem I have abandoned and laws, fills me with an emotion similar to love.
The magazine is arrayed on slant boards, half done, with the blue hatching underlying pasted-in sections of type and art. Some parts of the story are complete and understood. I can supply the details and give directions. But there are empty rectangles, where the narrative is not only unknown but unsuspected. I can think of my own past only in halftones. The future is a gap.
Now, as I indulge in late-night strolls along the waterfront, where the wharf buildings are still standing, perched on rotted decks — remaining planks more treacherous than missing ones — I have to be on the lookout for my own eyes looking back from shadows. When wind peels the shadow off water there I am in the mud puddle or immaculate channel, looking into myself as though I know my own secrets, one of which is that I have become, miraculously perhaps, a psychopathic killer.
Twice a day, high water surges beneath those complex walls and passages, stretching hundreds of yards between collapsed docks, green water with gull feathers twirling against the light scum on ancient tar coating stubbed off pilings. Instead of any number of useful, up-to-the-minute things I should be doing, I spend hours looking at the fragments of the old dock and warehouses, daydreaming, fatally, about what has happened already and leaving the future to others.
The classic mistake of the student is to presume there are beginnings and endings to stories. That was what I looked for by tearing into the framework of history. There is only a short breathless pause, at the maximum flood tide, when a photographer, but not a painter, might record an apparent culmination. But what rushes in to enlarge the day before noon will rush out later to drain it. Only the mud seems permanent, just kind of sitting out there.
The one time I slipped around the intimidating facade of crumbling walls, pasted with generations of trespass warnings, and truly explored the warrens of abandoned warehouses and nameless empty rooms, each with a heap of planks, lath and plaster in the center of the floor, fully equipped with lost pornography, black plastic bags of clothing, liquor bottles, and needles, I realized what is wrong with the world. It's all founded on treachery and murder.
There was a salty, sandy quality to the bedroll on the damp mattress, and a pile of black plastic bags stuffed with clothing which had been patiently gathered, probably during a long career of midnight raids over the fence behind St. Vincent de Paul. But it was far worse than just useless. The tangible evidence of dreadful musings: porn images cut in two or with neat punctures to heart and crotch. Boobs cut away; general, but clearly thoughtful, mayhem.
I stepped quickly back into daylight and skirted the dangerous scrap of dock.
My doppelganger made his desperado hideouts in such places, crashed on the damp mattress, and no doubt skulked, unsuspected, spying from blank windows and sunken passages upon the daylight world of Old Town, on the same innocents whose probabilities I assessed from the cafe table. And on me.