December 31, 1980
The decade ends with the river so low it might never refill, ice cracking from high tide leaving a landscaped filled with what looks like broken windows.
The coffee cup keeps my fingers warm as I stand on the dock and watch the last fast moving stream at the river’s center; its low gush filling the empty spaces between the rumble of trucks and cars on the bridge.
I feel as empty as the river and as naked as the trees, wishing I could cloth myself with evergreen for these dismal days.
The gulls’ cries makes this feeling worse, as if they and I are the last living things stranded in this winter tundra – even though I know a few other stragglers remain – ducks and geese left behind from the flight south their brethren have taken. A few ducks float in the low polls. A few swallows swirl out from the bridge’s stained arches. I even see a robin pecking at the frozen mud, which shows the recent footprint of a river mole or badger. These last at least are savvy enough not to be seen above ground during the day.
I even see a turtle half hidden under a log, and rats scurrying from shadow to shadow in some dark thievery over which all the birds squawk.
I ought to go home, giving up my daily jog half way through to try and warm my bones in a cold water flat I can’t afford to keep fully heated. I ought to dump my rapidly cooling coffee and buy a fresh cup if only to keep my fingers from freezing.
But I can’t move, caught up in some internal traffic jam the way the morning drivers are, unable to make sense of where I am or where I am going, needing all the more this sad and polluted river to flow again so as to carry me – like a fallen leaf – to the next stage of my life: me, the rats, the turtles, the moles, the robins and the sea gulls locked in this deteriorating winter bliss already desperate for spring thaw still too many months away to even contemplate.