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Crowds

by Jack Anderson


A distinguished lawyer and I call upon an aged lady, an immigrant from some obscure village in the Balkans. The object which dominates her parlor is a sort of shrine consisting of numerous photographs of crowds clipped from Life Magazine interspersed with ancient icons. The immigrant lady and I have tea in another room, and when we return the shrine is gone, having been dismantled by the lawyer and the lady’s daughter who contend that it was totally absurd. I defend the thing as a piece of folk art and call for the restoration of at least the icons. The lawyer, annoyed, snaps, “I thought I could trust you implicitly in this.” The immigrant lady remains silent.

The women leave and I strike up a fresh conversation with the old lady’s grandson. He has red hair and a red beard. We undress and have sex. When I am ready to go back, he helps me find my clothes in what is a remarkably sloppy house. My coat is at the bottom of a pile of dirty shirts and old icons in a corner of the dining room. I discover my socks jammed into water tumblers. I am unable to locate my new silk tie.

The grandson and I walk down the street and are jostled by a crowd. Eventually, I lose track of him. I cannot even see his hair or his briefcase. Now I come to a block which is closed to automotive traffic by a police barricade. No stores are open on this block. No street lights are shining. There are few people about. Then a crowd of toughs comes up. The leader—better dressed, I note, than the rest of the gang—takes off my belt and my pants fall the pavement. He laughs, shaking the hair from his eyes. I shout for help. The toughs disperse as a policeman with a not to be bothered look appears. When he hears my story, instead of sympathizing with me, he berates me for having distracted him from more important duties and accuses me of having brought it on myself by hanging out with the wrong crowd of people. The bystanders snicker.

As he walks off, one of the bystanders says, “You need a drink.” Burly, bearded, and officious, he looks like a boring person, but I do need a drink. He leads me into a crowded bar. Everyone there soon learns what had happened. They buy me a drink and warn me against dangerous acquaintances. They cite examples and we compare our experiences. The conversation is dull, but not intolerable. The drink is okay, but slightly watery. When I finish it I leave, having nothing further to say to these people.

An important man and I go to the house of an older woman who is not from this place. There is something unusual about her place, but when I look again it is usual. I go to bed with red hair and after trying to find something smooth I leave with someone swallowed up by a crowd. Something is done to me, and I am taken someplace else by someone with a beard. Something is given to me there and we talk about instances. When I have finished, I leave.

I go someplace and something unpleasant happens. Then something pleasant happens in the same place. Something unpleasant happens in another place, and a neutral thing in a third place.

I go and do and leave. Then, as I am going, I meet, and after that I meet again and go to some other and disappear, and so I am gone.

 

Jack Anderson is the author of two book and has received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship for 1973-74. (Fall 1974)


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