A sound, muffled but insistent, as if fighting its way through a fog, floats backwards from the street ahead; a car horn. And another, and then another, and now a chorus of plaintive automobile cries is rising up from the damp asphalt. The noise is raucous and full of anger; an orchestra of a hundred trumpets all out of tune.
A reflexive smile, nearly unnoticed, appears on his face as his feet pulse on and off the sidewalk. The frustration of each driver spews forth, hovering then amalgamating overhead into an invisible scribbly mess, a pissed off amoeba, expanding and vibrating. It’s a jarring cacophony that’s beginning to reverberate where his molars meet his gums, and yet the grin widens. There is no schadenfreude pleasure, no sadism to it, but the nature of his own countenance is so unexpected it confounds even the wearer.
Amidst the still-miserable throng of steel banshees, he then reluctantly sees a sort of perfection in it. Not in the awful song, but in the symmetry of the disconsolate mass, each driver wailing their hurried plea but no one listening - only joining in the noise. This is New York. A free market masterpiece - America’s masterpiece - and it’s a beautiful, unholy mess.
So he smiles. The notes of the broken anthem finally begin to decrescendo as whatever impediment that once dared to disrupt a hundred rush hour designs now makes way to the will of the mob. Gears turn, pistons churn. The beat goes on.
Outside of a Greek restaurant, there’s a waiter squatting on the sidewalk taking one last drag from his cigarette before retreating back to work. In the cramped studio apartment above sits an heirloom clock ticking methodically to no one in particular.
The moment having run its course, he passes underneath the unflinching timekeeper he doesn’t know is there while his shoes lithely contact the pavement in precisely the same rhythm as the second hand, but just a fraction behind.
Or is it ahead?
E.E. Norris is a photographer, founder-editor of Concrete & Light, and director of The Art Cart NYC. He would like us all to look - intently and in every direction - so that we might share a sustained and profound sense of joy that may come from observing the infinite complexity of the physical universe and human potential.