When these thoughts and feelings first coursed through my mind I didn’t focus on them at all. If I had paid attention, though, I expect I would have considered them a fantasy, a dim memory of a play I had seen, or, perhaps the kernel of a plotline. I had bought the couch at a Salvation Army facility when I had lived in Brooklyn. Although I liked the look of it, it wasn’t very comfortable. Nevertheless, I had sat, slouched, and sometimes even slept on it for over a year with only physical discomfort and nothing more. But, now, I sat on it feeling sad and demoralized, lonely and sick at heart. I was full of morbid thoughts about being buried by the city in a pauper’s grave, and my family wouldn’t know, wouldn’t even care. I was trying to remember something — what do they call that city graveyard, anyway . . . ?

Snapping out of this gloom, I stubbed out my cigarette, got up sharply, and took off for a walk around town. I ended up in Greenwich Village at Washington Square. Typical of summer weekends, the park was a jumble of tourists, musicians, dancers, and freaks. The cops, patrolling in threes, their gun hilts sparkling in the sun, seemed resigned to the innocent anarchy. Wafts of marijuana and patchouli mingled with charcoal smoke from the kebab carts and pretzel vendors. Conga rhythms, steel drums, and cheap guitars thrashed the air amid whoops and screams, laughter, and snatches of foreign tongue.

 

At first, I loped about conspicuously glum at the outer circles, behind trees, dodging children with ice cream, grandparents with cameras. The hammering of tom-toms clashing with the imperturbable silence of a mime artist. Then, I found myself relaxing, my shoulders unclenching, a half smile forming as I took to the simple delight of these things. Basically, to be alive and healthy. Having reconnected to myself and to New York’s relative normalcy, I wended my way back up 5th Avenue, feeling settled and reasonably at peace with myself and the world.

Back at my apartment, I worked the rest of the afternoon on Red Nails. Among a battery of mannerisms that suffused my comics work of that period was a propensity to draw noses about one-third the length and width appropriate to the whole of the face. Then, in an instinctual attempt at balance, I would draw the mouth and lips about two-thirds too large. I was clawing my way out of that particular stylism during the making of Red Nails, but my progress was inconsistent. Sometimes, in their competing intentions, my heads and faces looked more unnatural than ever. Feeling temporarily defeated by my quirkiness, I slumped into the corner of the couch and . . .

Overwhelmed by depression, I was once again grimacing at the fear of a lonely death. I felt ill and old. I remembered now, they called it Potter’s Field. That’s where they’ll bury me without a name or a headstone . . .