I. Two mornings ago, crossing the Albany Street Bridge: a brown slick two or three yards wide winding slightly off-center with the currents and eddies of the Raritan River. The river at that bridge is shallow. Fifteen or so years ago, a professor tried to commit suicide by leaping off the bridge, but the river was too shallow to drown in. I think he died of cartoon embarrassment. Or he lived, which might be worse. The river is filthy and contact with it should be avoided at all cost, especially if you are a fish. Or a person who eats fish. The greenish water is not a good kind of green but this time of year, falling leaves dance in the currents. That is kind of pretty. Two mornings ago, I was startled by a strong smell of gasoline.
II. I see the big picture.
Tata: Remember that time twelve years ago I wanted you to leave your wife?
Tata: Remember that time you didn’t leave your wife and it broke my heart?
Him: And mine, and hers.
Tata: You were right.
III. The first time we saw him or her, Daria said, “A groundchuck!” Her son said, “Doggy!” Outside my bedroom window lives a groundhog or woodchuck of exceptional taste and intelligence. Monday afternoon, the sunshine was glorious, the air was warm and perfect. I walked home, staring at the heartrending blue sky between the green, gold and maroon leaves; if I’d thought about it I probably would have tripped over nothing and broken my jaw but I was elated. At home, I threw open every window. The groundchuck of exceptional intelligence happened to be standing in the courtyard about ten feet from my bedroom window, pretending not to see me. I spoke to him – let’s suppose the groundchuck’s a him – gently. I told him he had nothing to fear from me and I thought he was oh so handsome. Wasn’t he handsome? He was very handsome, and had excellent taste in fallen apples from the tree. And wouldn’t he like to just have a lovely chat with me?
The groundchuck followed the sound of my voice and came to the edge of the concrete steps below my window, and he walked to the spot closest to me, turned and walked around to the other side, where he put his paws up on a pipe about six feet below me, and stared into my eyes. I told him I could see he was special, and he should remember not to be afraid of me. I was certain if I pushed up the screen, doves would land on my fingertips. I used to be the fairest of them all but my magic mirror is a fickle bitch.
IV. This man is a New Yorker.
He: A plane or helicopter hit a building on E 72nd Street. We can see the smoke. Internet is way slow, just like on 9/11 – probably just an accident.
I saw this just before I left my office and, pressed for time, didn’t answer his email. A few hours later, I felt uneasy. Even before I knew the plane crash was an accident, I was afraid for him. He watched the towers burn and fall from another office window. He calls after dinner.
He: Are you okay?
Tata: Yes, of course I was frightened but not for myself. I was never in any danger – I’m forty miles away. I worried about you, about the responders, the poor people who must’ve been killed. Are you okay?
He: What do you mean?
Tata: You sound a quart low to me.
He: What? I guess I am.
Tata: Quit it with the soda. No starches. Are you eating fresh fruit?
He: I ate an apple today.
Tata: So did the groundchuck. That turned out well. What’re you watching tonight?
He: Episodes 3 and 4 of The Six Wives of Henry VIII.
Tata: Hey! You know how that turned out, too!