吻胸口解内衣R., a sculptor, rode a shuttle bus to the afterlife. He had no baggage. That the destination was the afterlife was understood, a given. This fact R. couldn’t have explained. He didn’t have to. None of the others on the bus—it was loosely packed, perhaps a third of the seats full—challenged R.’s certainty. They knew as well.
The facility was large. At a glance, all he had time for, R. failed to see its limits. Wide glass doors slid open, and R. and his fellow-passengers moved inside as if swept, yet willingly. Once they were within, the whole matter of the bus seemed irretrievably distant. (Had a movie been playing on an overhead screen? Had R. slept? What caused him to pay so little notice to the scene outside the windows, the journey that had led him here, to the afterlife?) In fact, as R. milled about, he soon lost sight of the doors by which he’d entered.
The central room, if it could be called a room, was almost unimaginably vast. Atrium? That was a word R. knew. This wasn’t an atrium, nor was it a hangar. The ceiling, though high, wasn’t so high as that, or arched. Instead, it was a flat, bland grid, translucent panels concealing the source of light.
Despite the size, R. was almost immediately aware of the presence of side rooms. Continuing to be swept by the general imperative of motion that had guided their entry, he and the others from the bus—which, he’d begun to feel certain, was only the most recent—dispersed and explored. There was room enough. R. turned a corner into one of the side areas, one relatively unoccupied. Windowless and featureless, in other situations it would have been a large room. It was small only in contrast to the larger area at R.’s back. There were at the start only three or four others here, others who, like R., kept moving, circulating across the endless floor, in some cases exchanging words. There seemed to be no prohibition on speech.
吻胸口解内衣R.’s work, his efforts for the past decade or more (the work his gallerist had advertised as his “signature”), consisted of a green-gray oatmeal surface applied over a variety of acutely angled abstract forms. They were sized to stand on the floor, at a height of three or four feet, to stand as unthreatening, enigmatic bodies in public space. The surface was pebbly and matte, neither exactly fleshlike nor vegetal. It was approachable, natural in affect, though actually consisting of polymers and resin. The shapes were derived from elements of functional objects—computer stands, electrical outlets, dish racks, etc.—displaced from their context and enlarged, so as to become unrecognizable. Sculpture was everywhere; it only took his eye to know it, and a few gestures to render it and coat it in the green-gray oatmeal concoction. His eye was good. His work sold in bunches.
In this place, as anywhere, R.’s eye scouted for uncommonly funky or graceful design features—bannisters or handles, sconces or vents, junctures where piping met ceiling or floor. He indexed these wherever he went, and turned the best he found into new sculptures. Here, there were none.
吻胸口解内衣R. began to wonder whether he’d find anyone he knew. Even as he registered the thought, he understood that this was a preoccupation among many of those roaming the floor. In fact, he saw now that it was this imperative that dictated the general movement, the characteristic circular milling. All present had seized on it by instinct, the urge to sort through the faces of others, in search of recognition. R. was party to this. More bodies had moved into the side room, perhaps feeling a kind of reverse claustrophobia, a terror of the vastness of the main space.
He grasped instantly that there was no reason to deny strangers acknowledgment. Or more than acknowledgment—brief, friendly greeting. Yet the hurly-burly militated against doing more. One was driven. There might always be a person one knew from before, if one only kept looking. Under such circumstances, even the briefest acquaintance would signify enormously.
A teen-ager, grinning, reached down, and touched the knees of R.’s pants. The gesture was obscure, not necessarily unfriendly. In any case, the teen mingled into the bodies and was lost. The crowd, loose at the outset, seemed to be growing denser. Was this happening only in the side room he’d entered? Perhaps it had grown crowded with those like R., who’d felt curious to see what it held. It appeared as though at the far end of the side room it opened to another enormous indoor space, one perhaps as without boundary as the one that R. had just left. Yet the density of bodies in the current room made it unappealing to attempt to cross. So R. turned back toward the large room from which he’d come, seeking free space.
Though things had grown generally more crowded, it was looser there, yes. He felt a little animation at this discovery, and a thrill—for the first time? Again?—at the extent of this space, and all the possible encounters contained within it. The smaller room, he saw now, had been a mistake, a waste of time. He resumed energetically milling. The point was to relish the freedom here, to refuse constraint. And among these numbers R. felt certain he’d find, if not actual acquaintances, then those like himself—his tribe, his type, his people.
“Monsters are us—”
吻胸口解内衣“How long does this go on?”
吻胸口解内衣“Apropos of nothing—”
“Everything happens at parties.”
“Does remembering make you sad?”
“I said to her, if the future of sex is bald men with ponytails, I want no part of it.”
“—songs sung by ghosts—”
吻胸口解内衣“They quit stocking the minibar—”
“Tell me about the time someone gave you money for something crazy.”
吻胸口解内衣“What happens to your shit when you’re gone?”
“—vicarious holiday weekend—”
“I need a date.”
吻胸口解内衣“—perfectly good empty apartment in Bed-Stuy—”
“Funny? Or stupid? Or in bad taste?”
The moment R. attuned to speech, it rose and swirled around him. The fragments jostled his ears like the bodies jostling in this space. If he could have written the words down they’d make epic mediocre poetry, or perhaps lyrics for a post-punk band. Here, now, on the floor, was a man who appeared to be doing just that, writing on a scroll-like piece of paper, but when R. knelt beside him he saw that the page was blank, and what he’d taken for a scribbling pen was only a moving finger. The man had a beard and glasses—he at least resembled a poet. Having gained the man’s attention by joining him on the floor, forming a little haven in the sea of motion, R. thought to salvage the encounter.