Thursday, November 29, 2007

Silver Was the Color, Winter Was a Snowbell: Part II, chapter 13 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

Bino started seeing Paula all the time. He was, he told me, “in love.” He fell in love so easily. All it took was for a woman to smile at him half sincerely and he was hooked. He’d even been half in love with Thelma back in Ft. Myers, I found out. Half instead of completely in love because she never possessed even half of a sincere smile. A woman practically had to smack him in the face for him not to feel any affection for her.

Because of his attachment with Paula I began to see much less of Bino. Going out to dinner with her or just staying at her apartment on the Upper West Side watching television, he was always too busy now to hang out at the bars with me. Which meant that, aside from my job, I was pretty much on my own.

I began to take walks in town even more often than I had been before, and on weekends I’d take especially long ones. Taking my van on the ferry and leaving it near Battery Park, I’d set out in the early afternoon with Leon, my favorite dog, and walk the length of Manhattan Island. Through China Town, Central Park and Harlem, I wouldn’t stop until around midnight when I’d reach Inwood Hill Park at the northern tip of Manhattan. Standing there with Leon, I’d gaze across the Hudson River toward Englewood Cliffs, contemplating the land that stretched out towards the West.

I already knew that I’d never see that land, those cities Lily and Leonard had seen and which I told them I’d seen myself during my search for them. West was never where I wanted to be, but it wasn’t until I’d gone to New York that I realized I could resist its pull. And standing there at the edge of the park, gazing towards the West as the cool wind came across the Hudson, was like contemplating a car crash I’d never be part of, a sad tale which would never be mine to tell. My life was heading in another direction altogether, a direction few people had the courage to take.

Walking back down to Battery Park after midnight I was king of midtown Manhattan. Although there were cars passing by—and, here and there, the silhouette of a person in the distance—the streets, in essence, belonged to me. Like at Christmas, I was the man who ruled all the skyscrapers and churches, all the shops and restaurants and hotels. Every neon sign was flashing just for me, every traffic light turned to green so I could proceed uninterrupted with my journey back home. Secure in my domain, I walked tall, with Leon several paces ahead of me pulling tightly on his leash as he sniffed the ground that lay before us. Whenever the moon appeared between the spires of the skyscrapers he would pull his head back to look up and ponder its grayish light. He’d then let out a sound, a howl that was almost human in its mournfulness. I’d look up at the moon with him, feeling as if that howl were coming from me. As if being king had an element of sadness to it.

It was always sunrise by the time we got back to Battery Park. Both Leon and I would be tired, with my clothes full of sweat and grime and Leon’s dark fur matted against his body. I’d put him in the van then drive onto the ferry. Back at my house I’d leave him in the living room, where he’d fall fast asleep, then go into my bedroom where, even though I was just as tired as Leon, I could never fall asleep.

But as it was, my insomnia was a good thing. It prevented me from dreaming, from conjuring up those strange images and situations which would often leave me disturbed for days. Those strange visions which, although they were completely removed from reality, would cast an unshakable sense of doubt upon my waking hours. I was glad to be rid of them. And so it was that one early summer afternoon of that year I began what was to be the happiest time of my life when, after coming back from a walk through the South Bronx, I slept for the very last time.

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