I was walking down the street one night last fall when I had a thought about an actress who lives on the block behind us. Not so much a thought exactly, but a sense of her physicality, an arm or her face: a face from one of her roles. It occurred to me I hadn’t seen her in a while; had she left the neighborhood? And just as I’d had that thought, I was looking into her face, her actual face, not three feet away, moving toward me. I didn’t say, hey, I'd just had a thought of you. I didn't want to break the code of privacy that makes New York possible for us. But my brain might have been jolted alive with current. The fact that she was famous matters little to me, though I admire her work. I’d have felt wrenched awake if the same thing had happened with the mailman. Whatever you want to call it—intuition, premonition, awareness—is also beside the point. I went into the supermarket, both humbled and awake to myself, as if I’d been sent a reminder that said, we don’t know the half of it when it comes to understanding what consciousness is.
Which felt more like a promise, finally, than a warning.
I walked back to the apartment. I opened the mailbox in the vestibule. Inside the single envelope in the mailbox was a letter from my gym telling me I owed an additional penalty for a charge I’d taken care of months back, even after I’d been assured that I’d never have to worry about it ever again.
My face burned. You can guess which incident shadowed the other.
I write because my life would be taken over by second incidents if I didn’t have the means to make order of the randomness—the revelation on the sidewalk next to the annoying, the absurd. I’d be flotsam, done to, a feather flying around on a current of air. Nothing makes me feel more solid, or present, than when I’m sitting at my laptop, even when it’s slow, and the sentences strain against the contours of my speaking voice. At least I am making something. At least I am listening--or trying to. Looking at moments, the dimensions inside moments. Thinking. It’s as necessary to me as food or sex. It’s prayer. And I couldn’t imagine the day without that act of attention being a part of it.