It was strangely dark last night, black-gray, thick, billowy. The kind of weather that heralds a redemptive rainstorm, a fresh summer breakthrough. It's hard to sleep sometimes in weather like that, so thick it stacks the air. At other times, though, the thickness swaddles tightly, cradling and caressing into parallel ether.
Anyway, last night was one of those nights, where the air was song and the songs were air. There's a poetry to the subconscious, illuminating dark corners and creating new pathways. Different musics flow in and out of each other, an intricate weave that forms new layers of cognition. Somewhere in there, I hear echoes of past immersions, times when meaning became meaningful. It's a dream, of course, collapsing affairs of the heart, sensual stimulation and noble rationality into one phantasmagoric essence, as all-enveloping as the thick air that surrounds me. Quasimoto comes out from around the corner (at least, I think it's a corner. What else could it be?) gripping a loose joint and preparing to light it. "Welcome to violence," he says with a wink.
Funny, it certainly doesn't seem violent here, sound wafting through chambers like silk smoke. Like repressed memories unleashed, sounds swirl from all directions–jazz on one wave, soul on another, hip-hop the next. "Watch your head," Lord Quas warns, "violence devours all it touches, its voracious appetite rarely fulfilled." Music keeps flooding, the warm blanket quickly becoming a hailstorm. "C'mon," he gestures, ducking quickly into a bodega for some smokes and a 40 oz. "We can master astro-traveling," he assures, collecting his vices and shuffling to the door at the back of the store. It opens, giving way to one of those rooms that only exist in mood lighting– pre-fitted with cigarette smoke, circular table in the center, and two chairs. Lonely.
"Siddown," he urges, tearing open the smokes and lighting one before unscrewing the bottlecap. "I try keeping it real," he laments, "but I should try keeping it right, I know. See, I used to smack chicks. Now I just bag dips. It's progress, I think." Thankfully, in this smoking room, we're out of the rain, and the music flow returns. Rakim murmurs. Mary J. Blige croons. A disembodied voice proclaims "The meek ain't gon' inherit shit, cuz I'll take it!"
"I was meek once," Quas confesses. "I was born in 1973. I got five brothers–we lived up on Ninth Street. On the 22nd of December, my pops shot six cops, I remember–never got caught, though."
Taking a moment to draw in his breath, he coughs and points to the wall. A picture of a young girl stands out; it's the only one on the wall. "You remember her," he asks, not really listening for an answer. "She drowned in that boat on Labor Day, fell on a big wide yellow hat–it was all yellow and brand new. Then the hat was gray, and she was too when they found her, 'cause she didn't come up right away, you know."
For a moment, there's a gleam in his eye. He's satisfied with himself, making a funny out of a tragic situation. He takes a long draw from the oversized bottle, eyes closed, shutting it out. And then the burst: "A curse on you! Your mommy tricked by the pound to buy that ounce! Your young daughters give rich old dudes head in limousines!" Flutes trill. Glockenspiels chime in endless reverb. The walls collect the sound, then redirect it, always holding a little bit for themselves. How else are they supposed to remember?
Following the bounce, Quas rises from his slouched perch and leans against the table, eyeing me suspiciously. "I've had it up to here with the black on black," he exhorts. "Man, that shit is worse than a Klan attack. Some niggas' brains lack common sense, common knowledge and confidence, you know?" Exasperation hangs in the air as Quas takes another swig, another swill, another drag. His eyes no longer plead, instead retreating back into his gaunt face, sinking.
"Come on, feet," he directs, moving one in front of the other until he's left the dark backroom, made his way through the store, pilfered a roll of mints, and returned to the storm. Back inside, the music's still clear, still crawling in my ear. Last night I had the strangest dream.