The phrase "a flutter of paper in a mad house" is a line from Kenneth Patchen's poem "The Origin of Baseball," which has nothing to do with what I'm about to say, except that the line came to mind as I stood on the corner of 42nd and 10th Avenue, watching a flurry of book pages fall from the sky. From, I assumed, the rooftop of the highrise overhead.
It reminded me of 9/11, how the papers fell like fat snowflakes, singed at the edges. Watching the book pages flutter down, I smelled smoke and thought of fire, but the odor was only of pretzels burning on a nearby vendor's cart.
I picked up a page and read:
It was a page from a story, I later discovered, entitled "Say Goodbye to Middletown." It was written by a man named Mann, appeared in an anthology of gay short fiction, and was described by an Amazon reviewer as "a story of lost love, sex between men and boys, and eventual redemption."
What was it doing fluttering down over Hell's Kitchen on a sunny, unseasonably warm afternoon? Each page was torn, slashed, as if in a wild display of destructive rage.
I worried, for a moment, that a body would follow, imagining a young man at the end of his rope, tearing and tossing pages from his gay anthology as prelude to his own swan dive. The perils of the closet? A lost love affair?
Thankfully, no body fell. Not while I stood there.
But the pages--they just kept coming.