August 6th is a Monday and breaks hot with a fine grit, far finer than sand, finer than powdered sugar. It can’t be seen but I feel it walking through the thick heat, but not deep heat. Deep heat is farther south and west, the kind that permeates reality itself. This heat bears down but the world remembers there is another way to be. New York August heat is like icing.
I am walking, acclimating. I have some raw spots from sandal straps owing to not usually wearing them, certainly not all day for miles of walking. The fine grit works on them and I can see the fine grey wash off when I hang back from the kids splashing in the wading fountain.
Timed wrong, I’m at the Hudson in the late afternoon, the sun bearing down from the west. I had been east in the morning at the East River, so have had full sun all day. The river laps brown and purposeful, darker in color than I expected. I wonder what’s churned it up or if it’s always this color.
A park runs Manhattan’s western side, only broken in spots for garbage piers and other infrastructure riffraff. Grass is tended and trees frame interesting sculptures and other structures. I’ve walked past the Intrepid Museum and have gone back north as far as some burned-over blocks that look like an Eighties bad New York movie set, turned around with the flood of bikers and come to a little green space. I have the Arthur C. Clarke book with me and read a chunk sitting on the grass. I thoroughly inspected for dog bombs–clean. The grass is soft, pliable, cool, alive.
This is how the phone renders sunset over New Jersey. The cloud is upset, changing. Storms are coming with torrents of rain and cool. Today is all heat, light, and high cirrus not like elsewhere. These are East Coast cirrus like I remember from childhood: churned up more, somehow complexified.
This woman has sat with me while I’ve read, looking out over the river. She is better equipped with sunglasses. The sun doesn’t bother my eyes much and the heat breaks with its setting. Air doesn’t grab the skin quite as much, and there is a breeze.
I’ve been holding the book in my lap and humidity makes this uncomfortable. Placing it next to me I see this plea. I guess the person has drawn a surfboard and not a spaceship. I wonder what job they wanted with such desperation, and why. So he or she could move out of their parents’ house upstate, across the river, and into the big city at last? So he or she doesn’t get kicked out of the apartment they are struggling to stay in? So school loans can get paid off? Marriage is possible?
No hints other than the surfboard and waves and fishes. Maybe the job is in Australia, as a lifeguard. Maybe it’s at Coney Island. I don’t know. I won’t ever know.
When I take this picture I am at the beginning of my month in the city, my friend’s show in the future, programs unprinted, no tickets sold. I have walked miles and gone the wrong way on the subway, but it’s only a few blocks west and north from my sublet to here. I am lost but I am in place. School is starting and I want to be here.
As the sun sets I wonder how things could have been different had my parents stayed in this part of the world. Later, I will wonder together with my oldest friend who spent early childhood on Long Island, his father from Brooklyn. Would he have gone to a great jazz school, been one of these professionals playing in the park? Would I have met the writers I thought I wanted to meet? Would we both tawk like dis? For the first time I wonder idly and without judgment. There are so many futures to have had. This present is as unique as the others.
I hope the person got the job. I think I said that too, to the river, the sunset, to nobody: I hope it worked out. It is the city of a million stories and countless more we never know.