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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Two realities

March 31, 1981

I live with two realities, never certain which one is real, my day life preoccupied with the rage of every day living: rent, utilities, band drivers and the prospect of war.
And then, I come here each morning and think: “This can’t be real.”
No whisper of the falls behind the Service Diner.
No stooping trees with arm-like branches reaching out into the river.
No bird song, bird flight or fish stirring up the mud.
The bridge is real and the traffic rumbling over it, reflected not in the thin sliver of wet the drought has left, but in what must be glass, an illusion to fool fools like me into believing that nature can thrive or even survive with all else that goes on around it, dumps into it, or drags out of it.
Maybe all this is a Wordsworth or Coleridge exercise, a mysterious transient thin I call up out of my imagination each time I come here.
I need to see the sea gulls feeding, so they feel, wings outstretched as they dive towards the reflected surface and come up with a slithering silver shape.
I need the trees, the reeds and the rocks, so they exist – though I fear they will vanish if I blink.
I have always needed this river to exist, to cross when I was a boy scout, to sail on with a home make raft, to come back out to after a long underground trip through the sewer we called Emerald’s Cave, the mouth of which still steers Curry Park Brook water from the center of Clifton passed School #11 to this place.
My uncles, grandfather, his brothers and uncles and their father, all needed this place to exist, too, from the land speculation of my great, great grandfather who tried to sell chunks of its shores to my grand parents who swam its water off a Fair Lawn beach, or fished from the bridges crossing it to feed our family during the Great Depression, before we all learned it was too polluted to safely swim in or eat out of.
These days I share this dock with shards of glass, the shattered aftermath of teenage drinking, boys and girls coming to this place, to this river for reasons of their own, leaving behind testimony to the shattered age in which we live.
So are the charred remains of the small island half way across the river between here and Clifton, the old trees and reeds someone set to blaze during the worst moment of the drought, a brief glow in the middle of the night kept from spreading by the vastness of mud.
None of that is real either, not the night glow or the remains, not even the time when Dave and I set foot there, claiming it as our own the way Columbus must have done when reaching America.
Or perhaps it is, and the rest – all that preoccupies the rest of my day – is not real.
If only it was so.

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