ever go out all night? ever just step out of your own skin, your own life, and seek out a bar, a diner, a bus station or a place like that, where you can just be late into the darkness, and watch the world turn from daylight to starlight and back again?
i did that a few times in college. i slipped out after dark to escape the dormitory, went to the house of pies on kirby, or hung out in a computer lab in the honors college lobby. i even had this spot at the bottom of a stairwell where i could go and read and rest and decompress away from all those people all the time, all those people.
get away from your beds, and your safe places and take to the night. see if you experience something.
i read this book that i liked quite a lot by haruki murakami that dramatized that experience.
a young student reading a book goes to a Denny’s, where an acquaintance who had a crush on her sister shows up between practice sessions with a trombone and a cheerful attitude. he sits down to chat with her, a lonely young man with a conspiratorial nature that unpeals in conversation all the layers of defenses that she carries with her to stay safe in the night.
the novel, at the surface, appears to be a series of vignettes that occur in the night, but watch out for all those rambling conversations and stories and cinematic asides into the periphery of two characters – a violent insomiac salaryman and a somnambulist sleeping beauty – and there’s layers of meaning wrapped into the words.
imagine each character stepping out of the novel of their own lives, each one capable of carrying a novel on their own. instead, they fall into each other in tokyo, after dark, and reveal the core of their story to each other in conversation, what it all means that they’re all trying to communicate, that there is a darkness in the world, rising up from the depths of the unknown and subconscious nightmares, and being together, falling into each other and trying to become one person and to cross the gap between the subconscious depths of two narrators, two novels, two stories…
“after dark” in a city is like saying “in the woods” in a fairytale. the park where children play changes in the nighttime into something hideous and terrifying. the bus lines turn from cheerful commuters to empty, restless men with dead eyes. after dark is when puck and the fairies come out, and wicked men walk the streets, call into a cellphone that lingers in a cheese aisle of a 24 hour food shop, where passing strangers pick it up and hear the terrifying threats. there’s a mystery in the world, rising up from the depths of the subconscious, where dreams happen and nightmares happen, too.
the answer to the darkness is to hold each other close. share the dreams and nightmares. talk to each other. just say what you’re thinking, and trust the people who are also running into the darkness like you to understand that something important inside of you is trying to escape or you wouldn’t be out here so late, deep in the city, where the great mysteries of time linger in every shadow, and people are hurting each other, running from each other, playing jazz music, and trying find something – some truth or something – that they can carry back into the day.