On the Red Xon May 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm
On Saturday, Eugene (whose book you should read) and I were sitting in Madison Square, drinking tea lattes from Argo and chatting about lots of random stuff.
“That couple has been standing in the same place for twenty minutes,” Eugene said to me, pointing to a couple behind me. They were tall, well-dressed, with small overnight-bag-sized suitcases. They were hugging each other very tightly. And they looked sad.
They weren’t just standing in the same place: they were barely moving.
“Maybe something terrible happened. Maybe their dog just died,” I suggested.
We spiraled out into a world of potentials. Maybe they were trying for the World Record. I had been at Hershey Park the day that someone was trying for the World Record for kissing. Eugene had known someone who once held a world record for…something. I don’t remember what. Threads led to other threads, as conversations do.
But now we were watching them. Surreptitiously, in stolen glances. Our attention kept returning to them.
Five minutes later, they still hadn’t moved.
We noticed they were standing on a painted red X, the kind left by construction or road or sewer crews, to mark something.
I don’t remember which of us suggested it, but we started talking about the spot itself. Maybe it was a special spot. Maybe they had chosen that spot deliberately. Maybe something was supposed to happen if they hugged long enough. Maybe the spot had a powerful magnetic or gravitational force, and people walking by got stuck to it.
Maybe it drew people together. Maybe they were strangers before one of them stepped on the red X, and then the other was drawn in, too, and they fell in love, standing there on that patch of concrete. Maybe the only way to leave the red X was for them to energize the space by hugging until it let them go.
We kept talking. They kept standing. We talked about special places, places of power. I brought up a picture of the old Toynbee Tiles , we discussed graffitti that meant things.
And then, slowly, the couple disentangle themselves. They picked up their suitcases. They walked away.
Maybe, we said, they’d energized the X. Maybe they’d given it enough of themselves.
We saw another man, walking toward the X. We stopped, watching in silence, waiting for the moment his foot would hit the spot. There was one of those electrical frissons of fate in the air, the kind where the very expectation of something leaves a charge.
He walked right past it, untouched by the power of the X.
Maybe, we said, maybe it had been charged for now. Maybe it only took in two people a day. Maybe two people had to hit the X at the same time.
More people walked over it, by it, stepped on the cross-center of the X. Nothing happened.
But we kept looking.