The subway was packed and Markus found himself crushed against the window opposite the sliding door. Ten years already. Karen screaming in the bathroom. The Potemkin Crew. The guys, the compadres, the friends. A strange feeling of old-fashioned nostalgia swept through his body. Sehnsucht. He recognized the first symptoms of Synth withdrawal. The melancholy. The regrets. The illusions of the past. Sentimentality. Self-pity. A longing for nineteenth century poetry.
The neons had taken on a bluish hue. His eyes filled with tears. He had to fight it, although he knew he had already lost. It was hard to be a willing victim, sometimes.
Markus got out at the next stop. He still had twelve to go until home, but he couldn’t wait. He pushed backs and crushed feet as he made for the door. Gasped for air on the platform. The glimmering lights of a soda vending machine attracted his eyes. The prices were outrageous but he had no choice. Drop the coins in, grab the ice-cold can. A slow motion dream. Cheap effects but real. I need to find a quiet place. He stumbled up the stairs. The rumble of the city welcomed him. The scent of CO2 was blessed. His eyes looked around. A quiet place. He saw a bench, next to a phone booth. His feet moved in that direction. The ghost of Synth was already sitting on the bench, waving to him. Yes, you control me now, you bastard. But wait and see.
Markus sat down and his fingers twisted the soda can’s screw-top. Cars zoomed by, pedestrians walked and waited, stoplights switched. A symphony. He smiled. The colors were blinding. Synth would tone everything down. It always did.
He rolled the two last pills between his fingers in the pocket of his pants, enjoying the feeling through the cellophane bag. In a few minutes, he would break free from Synth and control it back. Power trip. Total.
Markus dropped the pellets in his open mouth, washing them away with a gulp of the expensive soda. Cars zoomed by, pedestrians walked and waited, stoplights switched. A quiet place. Ten to zero, backwards. Place quiet a. Like it should be. He began to relax. His eyes caught a poster for the upcoming election on a billboard on the opposite side of the avenue. A picture of Olsen, the prime minister and leader of the National-Liberal Party. They shared the same last name. A coincidence? Words from a song floated back. I had to laugh. He decided to be on a beach, with white sand, palm trees and a beautiful sky. And he was. The grumbling of the cars was replaced by the gentle splashing of the waves.
images by Matt Bialer / text by Seb Doubinsky
Seb Doubinsky is a bilingual French writer, born in Paris in 1963. An established writer in France, Sébastien Doubinsky has published a series of novels, covering different genres, from classical literature to crime fiction, as well as a few poetry collections. His novels, The Babylonian Trilogy (Goodbye Babylon in the US), The Song of Synth and Absinth have been published in the UK and the US. Two of his poetry collections, Mothballs and Spontaneous Combustions, have been published in the UK. He currently lives in Aarhus, Denmark, with his wife and his two children. (The text in this post is an excerpt of The Song of Synth, coming out in 2015, through Talos).
Matt Bialer’s photographs are in the permanent collections of The Brooklyn Museum, The Museum of the City of New York and The New York Public Library and his watercolors are in many private collections. His photographic monograph, More Than You Know, was published in 2011 by Les Editions du Zaporogue and Shadowbrook, a book of his paintings, was issued by the same publisher in 2012. He is also the author of nine books of poetry and has had many poems published in journals and zines. Matt lives with his wife Lenora Lapidus and daughter Izzy in Park Slope, Brooklyn.