it's the phone's ring
February 14, 2002 09:11 AM

There's a scene in an Amy Heckerling movie. In the scene, someone is mocked as having "reduced" Kafka's Hunger Artist to an anorexic teenage girl.


Well, if you look at it. It's not too far off. There's an echo of adolescence in Kafka. In his logic. In the way people are in Kafka's fiction. Maybe teenagers should be reading Kafka instead of Camus, instead of Melville. Can a teenager relate to Melville? But, to Kafka. It's not too far off.

Or to Sartre. Disaffected youth knows instinctively, hell is other people. And then most of us grow up and can't quite get how true that could be again. Not the way we could have at fourteen.

I have to wonder, too. About a grammar point. What are the rules? Why is Kafka -esque and Shakespeare -ean?

If I walk down this hallway
Tonight it's too quiet
So I head through the dark
And call you on the phone
Push your old numbers
And let your house ring
Till I wake a ghost

The other day I dreamt about a phone call. A message, really. And I know the phone number left but not an area code. It's not much good in a reverse lookup without an area code.

In the dream, a very very old friend called. Other things happened, but the most important was this call. And this phone number.

And then last night. I dreamt that we had been out all night. Driving, I think. And I was alone, or not alone but almost, practically so, and someone I knew broke into the house. With a key. So I guess that's not exactly breaking in, but still unwelcome and unexpected. And I was chasing someone out of my house when I woke this morning.

Let him walk down your hallway
It's not this quiet
Slide down your receiver
Sprint across the wire
Follow my number
Slide into my hand

It made me feel. This morning. That there was someone behind me. Or to the side, or something. Like there was someone waiting, needing to be chased out.

It's unsettling, to dream like that. It disrupts trust.

Particularly the first thing, the specificity of that thing being followed by something like the second. It makes the accidental seem prophetic, makes everything seem dangerous. Imbued with some sort of malice, some intent against your person.

I can't drink this coffee
Till I put you in my closet
Let him shoot me down
Let him call me off
I take it from his whisper
You're not that tough

And I was thinking this morning how this sense of foreboding, completely specious, was not unlike waking up to discover that you are, in fact, still fourteen. It's creepy. There's something wrong, someone out to get you. But what and who remain completely undefined (for most of us) until we're grown and don't remember the feeling in the first place.

Being a kid. Is Kafkaesque.

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