A conversation between Lily Bart and Nomi Nickel at Grand Central Station
“What we see when awake is death, what we see asleep is sleep”
Ethics and Crthtive Imagination
November 27 , 2012
Professor Kingwell 2
The year is 2005. Lily Bart sits on an empty bench at Grand Central Station, Midtown
Manhattan. She is still 30 years old, and is unable to speak or touch anything or anyone.
Rain starts to pour on the station’s glass ceiling, and Lily observes the first daylight. The
first train is about to arrive. She stares at the Grand Central Terminal Clock. She waits.
LILY: (internal thoughts) How peculiar time drills. I sit here day by day on this very
bench marveling at all the busy bodies bustling about. What purpose they have with their
urgent strides! I think and watch but do not talk, and do not age. Time seems like a
wasteful concept to me. What good does it bring except uncertainty? I remember dying,
but here I sit a century later. The absurdity feels rather normal now.
(The first train arrives, passengers depart its swing doors. A girl dressed in blue jeans, a
shirt with the caption “EAT SHIT AND DIE” holding a Walkman approaches the bench.
She eyes Lily Bart and her 19 century attire.)
NOMI: (Sits down glances at Lily) Are you going to a party or something? I haven’t seen
one of those dresses in months, elders from my town are crazy about that shit, though
they’re much uglier than what you have on. (Silence) (Nomi shrugs her shoulders and
takes out a cigarette). It’s nice to be free, you know? Haven’t said that once since I left
months ago. No more small town boredom and fundamentalist voodoo. Just freedom, and
the smell of cinnamon buns. (Lily sits in shock at apparently being spoken to. She stares
surreptitiously at the girl and her cigarette.)
NOMI: I don’t mean to be a creep, but man I’m wasted. But you know something? When
I got off that train, I whistled one sweet note of freedom. I thought hell, I’m in New York.
The city never sleeps and I’ll never be bored again. Boredom is one hell of a business,
you know? (Nomi shrugs her shoulders, and turns to Lily, smiling) 3
LILY: (Tentatively) Can you see me? (Nomi nods)
LILY: Impossible. I have been here for nearly a century and you are the first passenger to
remark on my presence. (Nomi laughs and throws her cigarette on the ground)
NOMI: You’re a strange jelly bean, miss. What’s your name?
LILY: Lily Bart, though I am quite sure I am dreaming, if that is possible in my state. And
NOMI: Nomi Nickel. Pleased to meet you. And I’m sure I’m dreaming too, life being a
speedball of hot wind. (Offers hand. Lily offers her own but Nomi’s fingers go through
Lily’s skin.) What the…? I have to be mad smashed for this to happen.
LILY: I am unsure as to what you mean by “smashed” but like I said, it is impossible for
us to be conversing. I am of ghost material, whereas you are living. For us to speak to one
another would mean that I am either living again, or you are dead.
NOMI: I’m cool with both those alternatives. But if you’re dead, then how can I see you?
LILY: A strange phenomenon indeed. Where do you come from?
NOMI: (Bewildered) Who cares? You’re dead. Tell me about yourself.
LILY: I have a rather interesting story, though not very pleasant.
NOMI: I’m familiar with unpleasantness.
LILY: Well, I’ve been in Grand Central Station for the past 106 years. The day after I
died, on an overdose of sleeping pills, my soul was plucked from my body from some
supernatural force, and here I am with no time retrains, physical urges, or obligations. I
am unsure as to whether I am fully dead and this is my afterlife or if I suffer from
immortality. In either case, I am here, and you are there.
NOMI: Interesting. You said an overdose of sleeping pills? Were you suicidal? 4
LILY: An accidental overdose would be more appropriate. I craved sleep desperately, just
to be able to detach myself from thought and a disastrous life. How brutal one’s mind can
be, especially when one would rather not think to begin with.
NOMI: Sounds grimy.
LILY: Dingy is more the word. I remember life being a fraught battle if you were poor,
and only money could satiate the ache of dinginess.
NOMI: By poor do you mean not having enough to eat and pay the rent?
LILY: That is surely one aspect, but rather being a slave to society. Living life with no
money is living one with no joy, love, or comfort. The time I was wealthy was most
satisfying, though short lived in retrospection.
NOMI: Money for love and joy and comfort? That sounds mad. You only need enough
money to get by, aside from that you’ll realize you were just as happy before when you
had very little of it. Money doesn’t make you a better person, it just makes you greedy.
LILY: Is it greed? Money can secure a life of optimal comfort and security by rewarding
one with endless goods and opportunity. This, my dear Nomi, is what most people want.
NOMI: Why does it matter what most people want? Most people want a lot of evil things,
like revenge and power, but does that make it worth having?
LILY: What is evil about power? With it you could conduct an ideal world. Comfort
however, cannot be compared to revenge or other forms of evil. Comfort and luxury will
give you a good life and in turn perhaps make you a good person. Why not live as good
and best as possible?
NOMI: Why is a rich life a good life? What about a life full of great thoughts, and good
people? What about music. And love— 5
LILY: You are too hasty. Wealth is a provider for all these things. Great thoughts can be
achieved in times of leisure, and what can bring you leisure if not wealth? Enjoying
others company is best done with champagne and card games, can you expect that whilst
living the life of a proletariat? And as for love…well, I’m no expert.
NOMI: Agreed on love, but living the life of a proletariat? What does that mean?
LILY: Oh a tragic life. Those who slave away their lives at a miserable job with
excruciatingly long hours for very little pay. It was a life of complete alienation and
insomnia for me. Whereas when I was wealthy… ah the warmth and good rest.
NOMI: Can’t you be a proletariat and enjoy your job?