in the night
The Day is a chariot burning through the sky, overpowering the shadows of the city with the pure intensity of white light.
The Icons of Day — power suits and presentations, handshakes and motorcades, glass buildings glittering in Apollo’s wake — weld into a formidable mosaic of right angles and zero-tolerance. The Icons of Day declare, in mechanical succession: I am strong, I am impenetrable, I do not falter. I am a mighty conqueror and master of my own destiny. I am sparkling, spit-shined, and perfectly in order. I see clearly, and I make myself even clearer. I move like a victory-parade, and victory is my essence.
The Day-man wears a mask to face the world, hiding imperfections and desires behind four-in-hand neckties, botox, and silver buckles. Conquerors can show no fear, nor even smell of fear. They smell of breath mints, cologne, and new cars.
As dusk falls upon the city, the Icons of Day become sullied, loosened, discarded, transformed. The leaders of the free world settle their scores and meet for cocktails in downtown bars. Shirts are unbuttoned, heels are kicked off discreetly under skirted tables, wedding rings are placed into pockets. Maturity and propriety give way to transgression and indiscretion. The clarity of white light fades, irises dilate to see through the shadows. Things get blurry. Lines are crossed.
The Day, like every Day before it, surrenders to the Night.
In the Night, the Shadows reign. The roar of the mighty machine subsides, and the strangled cries of untold longings rise from dark alleys and dimly-lit streets. Slipping in and out of the shadows, the underworld comes to life in a ragged dance of inebriation, desire, loneliness, and abandon.
In the Night, Lovers thrill at stolen kisses and hands sliding beneath skirts and shirts, public displays of their private passions. Dealers walk the parks, whispering words that promise bliss, escape, and chemical courage, and make furtive exchanges beside phone booths that haven’t worked in years. The Young and Beautiful swarm the streets like flocks of dumpster-diving seagulls, squawking out the names of streets and bars, clumsily zeroing in on their carrion find, the latest coolest Hotspot, already yesterday’s news to the Hipsters, who have moved eastward, always eastward.
In the Night, ragged old men walk slowly speaking softly to themselves, reciting over and over things they should have said many years ago. Day-men walk quickly, squawking into earpieces, hoping others will take note of their importance. But in the Night, no one cares much about men with earpieces, unless they are bald, brawny, and standing behind velvet rope. The Night wears its own masks, and plays by its own rules.
In the Night, anything is possible. Hope, Lust, and Fear mingle in a heady concoction that makes its denizens drink too much, stay out too late, spend beyond their means, risk humiliation, and dream of elusive and illusory satisfactions. Out on the Night’s trading floor, the Children dance and preen, playing out their ancient mating rituals against the ancient backdrop of the New World. The same rules apply as from Time immemorial. Youth, Wealth, Status, Beauty, and Physical Prowess make for five suits in the game of attraction; hte numbers go up and down as excitement, intoxication, desperation, and moments of connection or clarity wax and wane. You play whatever card you have, hoping through bluff and bluster to score your prize. But beware the Fool with his mighty trump card. He will steal your prize and leave you standing in confusion, as he leers back at you with his carnival grin. At Night’s End, he may be the only friend you have left, so best let him have his way, or learn to beat him at his own game.
Finding their way to cash and liquor in the neon glow of names and symbols, the Children of the Night navigate the darkness by beacons of electric light, powered by coal-fired plants at the city’s edge, burning off the dim fossils of yesteryear’s Days, to feed their hunger for the things that only the Night can offer. Their faces bask in the bluish glow of handheld LCD screens as they text Friends and they plan to meet around the corner and friend Strangers they chance to meet on some other corner. The street is an amusement park, lined with an endless array of attractions. In the Night, Dream and Reality swirl around each other like Yin and Yang, occasionally merging in a vortex of ecstasy.
In the Night, the soul seeks the Cure for what ails. Emo-kids hemmed in by the endless rectangular demands of city life seek abandon inside the swirl of flashing lights and electronic beats, gyrating their bodies like urban dervishes, casting off the chains of the industrial machine by means of rhythm, sweat, and centrifugal motion. The Fame Junkies plug their guitars in for another 45-minute show; one more taste of glory, one more shot at a big-time that no longer exists, at least not for rock and roll. But it doesn’t matter; they are living the dream, and rocking the house. For three-quarters of an hour they transcend the unfathomable insignificance of life in an overpopulated world of terrabytes, likes, and statistics. They Lady-boys don their wigs and bustiers and step out into the Night free of the shackles of gender that torment their outward bodies. In the Night, they will find their tribe, they will find their lovers, they will find an audience that is mad for their irreverent out-ness.
Love and loneliness mingle perpetually in the Night. The Lonely lust for the hand the Lovers hold, unaware of the secret strifes that lie below the picture-perfect surface of their passionate kisses. The city holds temptations, too many temptations. There is always someone more beautiful, more intriguing, brandishing the promise of a stronger Cure. It is hard to hold on to a Lover in the Night, among the endless fleshy promenade of Fuck-me Boots and sculpted jaws.
In the City that Never Sleeps, the Night is a living force, just as frenetic as the Day, just as long, and just as powerful. But, like every night before it, it too must eventually surrender to the coming Day. The Whiskey Bars close at 4 AM; fast-food joints, pizza shops, and kebab stands swarm with hungry souls anxious to assuage their come-down with cheese, bread, and meat, comfort food for those who have survived another wild Night in search of soul-satisfaction. The truly committed will move on to after-hours clubs, speakeasies, or private parties. Those lucky enough to have found something to hold on to will escort their prize to someplace private, someplace dark, someplace where the inevitable rising of the sun will not disturb the illusion. Shades will be drawn, sleep and sexual pleasure will black out the harsh reality of Morning. Others will cling tight to each other on rooftops, on park benches, on rocks by the river, and glory in the Light of the New Day as their masks of mascara and hair-gel melt away. All around them the Good People of the Day are already about their business: clean-shaven, freshly-pressed, walking briskly to their gleaming towers, to their cubicles and corner offices. The Chariot rises higher in the Sky, the Shadows become shorter, the light becomes whiter. There are Meetings to attend, Progress to be made, Worlds to conquer.
The Creatures of the Night slip back into the alleyways and await the setting sun.