Rain forecast for today. Last week on crawl day it was just a threat, but today its a sure thing. Since the first crawl Ive been distracted by the next leg of the journey and the overall distance I plan to go. I daydream about new kneepads, crossing the street on all fours, getting run over, getting the right footage.
I dreamt I was crawling alone late at night up Broadway and the city was empty. There was no sound but my breathing. I woke up on my back in bed and I realized I should crawl at least once at night, alone. No wingman. No pictures or video or even a mention.
I've sent out emails and pictures and the first diary entry to at least thirty people. An old friend who I don't see much anymore wrote back, "Get a job, kneepad."
Another guy I know said, "There's got to be a twelve step program for you."
A close friend in Memphis said he thought the photos were funny but he was,"...really on the fence about the whole thing."
I talked to him on the phone and he asked me questions.
After ten minutes he said it sounded like a walking meditation. He's into that sort of thing. I told him I'd like people to crawl with me sometime, in a long silent line. He got excited.
"I get it now! I thought you were just being a Jackass," he says.
I'm glad one of us gets it.
He says he's going to come north and crawl a few blocks with me. I doubt he'll make the trip.
Other people have been tickled, a few genuinely sparked and moved. One friend said, "..what you're doing is so out there is makes me dizzy. I love it."
Overall the response has been positive. That's nice, but it doesn't stop the rain when it's time to get down on the ground.
I'm set to meet this week's wingman, Larry Fessenden, down by Trinity Church at 11. He's a old friend, a filmmaker, he's got a great camera and he knows how to use it.
I start in one hour. Maybe it's the weather. Low sky fat and gray with rain, about to break open and fall. I feel a sense of dread. But I get the dread sitting at home too. I want to shed something, a layer of itchy anxious skin, some cloak of doubt and worry that weighs me down. I want it off me.
I leave home wishing I had never told anyone about this "project". Then I would be able to back out. But I don't want to back out. Nobody really cares if I do this. Its not like I'm Evel Kneivel blowing off his Grand Canyon jump at the last minute. There's no sponsor that will sue me if I pull the plug. Just a handful of sympathetic people, friends and family with a lot of other things on their mind.
I've painted myself into a corner. The only thing harder than doing this would be not doing it. I can hear the low chuckle, the nemesis me that lives inside my head.
"Checkmate, motherfucker," he says.
In my suit reading The Wasteland on the train. I feel like a teenager discovering poetry for the first time. A pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floor of a silent sea!? That's me! The book is coming to pieces in my hands, an ancient paperback version, falling apart at the seams.
Now I've got altered blood, just like last week. My chemistry is changing as the time approaches. It's coming up inside me like a drug. I make eye contact with strangers and smile in a distant way. I feel pity for everyone, including me, like a terrorist struck with wave of remorse just before he blows himself up.
Or maybe a monk about to go light myself on fire in the street.
Or maybe this is what it feels like to be some middle aged white guy in his dad's suit about to go crawl up Broadway in the rain. Yeah. That's more like it.
A profound downer engulfs me as I arrive exactly on time at Rector and Broadway. Trinity church is wet, dark stone, gold and copper leaves on the trees, vibrating in the graveyard.
It's the secret again, making me nervous. And the rain. I loiter outside a bank and the security guard looks at me sideways, like I might be about to rob the bank. If you look twice you see my suit fits wrong and people who are paying attention to such things mark me as an oddball drifter.
Not today. I should postpone. But I'm here, I'm dressed, ready, with the new pads and the work gloves and Larry coming to be my wingman. He will video. The show must go on. The low must be strong? I consider getting a drink first and Larry appears grizzled and ready, no raincoat, just his Carhart and a horrifying strip of scabs and half-healed cuts across the knuckles of one hand. It looks like he dragged his fist down the highway at high speed. He shrugs it off. Something happened while he was shooting.
I walk him down to where I stopped last time and give him some information,
"I won't talk to you at all but please keep close when I cross the street, or be prepared to warn me if I'm in danger and don't know it. I won't stand up at all either, all breaks will be on my knees only."
We agree on a few other things and I gear up. He films me putting on my knee pads and gloves and I give him my backpack to put on. I crawl with no phone, no wallet, no ID.
The rain is soft and steady now. I look up at the sky and take a couple last upright breathes.
When I dropped him off at school this morning my nine year old son, Mason asked what I was doing today. I said I had to write, run some errands, and crawl for a while. He didn't blink.
I feel like I'm about to fall backwards off the edge of a boat with scuba gear on my back. It's like I'm going under water, but I don't have a tank or even a snorkel. I'm holding my breath. I'm surrendering again in public, begging but not giving up. Two hands are banging strange dissonant chords on the keyboard of my soul.
Down I go.
Once I'm moving on all fours the rain becomes steadier but my spirits are on the rise. I can't be sad down here. Lonely, but not lost. Not confused. Thought is replaced by purpose and heat, muscles working, the weight of my head pulls on my neck in a new way. I can breathe down here just fine.
A thin slick layer of water on the sidewalk makes it all seem cleaner. Not as many scents today. They're all getting washed away.
Clear puddles and tiny rivers wet the leather of my gloves. For a few blocks nobody says a word. Passing Trinity Church I barely glance left to see it. I keep my head forward, my gaze a few feet in front. I start to hear people say things.
"What the fuck?"
"That's a new one."
"I saw him already."
I see Larry's wet leather work boots rush by and up ahead to get in position and shoot me coming towards him. Some other guy crouches up ahead a few times, filming. I know him by his wet canvas sneakers. His sneakers look French. I can't see any higher than his knees.
Zucotti park is all yellow leaves on trees strung with party lights. What do I Occupy? Maybe I'm a sign that says things are really starting to fall apart. The end is nigh. I imagine someone going home and saying when they saw a guy crawling in the rain, that's when they knew things were really fucked.
Under scaffolding I crawl by a couple of seated homeless people and we stare at each other. I can tell by their faces they've been living outside. The impulse to stop and chat is there but it feels wrong. Too photo op. I'm not one of them and they're not one of me. We barely exchange a nod. We're almost growling low at each other, canceling each other out.
I few yards ahead I move past a mentally ill woman's filthy bare feet with toenails like infected scabs, so close I could lunge forward and bite her big toe.
"He's making a movie."
A construction worker yells down, "What are you crawling for?!"
I yell back, "I'm crawling for you!"
Some teenage kids move alongside me. They look like the kind of kids that get loud and nasty and scare people on the train.
The kids ask me questions and some film with their phones and tell people on the phone about what they are seeing. I am not prepared for how gentle they are towards me, because I am below them? They seem stumped, amused and sympathetic. One girl leads the interest, but they all chime in.
"What are you doing, mister?
Mister, why don't you get up?
Why don't you walk?
Take the train or a cab?
Are you ok?
Do you have a family?
Does your family know?
Are they worried about you?
Do you have job? What does your boss say?"
Where do you live?
Where are you going?
Mister, are you insane?"
I try to answer but it's hard to talk and crawl so I stop to rest on my knees and they surround me. I answer a few questions. I don't want to say too much. I thank them and one of them says,
"Damn. He's sweaty."
"Yeah. It's hard," I say. " I live uptown. I have to get home. This is the way it has to be for me now. But I'm okay. It will take time, but I will get there."
They are listening.
I drop down and keep going.