Matthew Lickona 11:49 p.m., Dec. 10
It was eight years ago, another quietly sunny September morn, bland but for the start of that back-to-school bite in the air, and we were together all day. You called out from the next room, just as I was waking with a slight stomachache, and a feeling of disquiet.
Before the news could really absorb, you bent your head mulishly, continuing to reformat pages of your dissertation at the kitchen table. It was due today. With occasional firmness, you shooed me away from the staticky cable-less television and the tinny radio. I tried to feed us, pulling out the food processor, bowls, baking pan; an array of nuts, flour, vegetables, greens. Healthy, heavily pigmented things that had had roots. The vegetable loaf turned out as a kind of fallen pate studded with sunflower seeds, which you kindly spread onto a cracker or two, chiding and half-giggling, it’s ok, it’s ok, and no, no, no.
It was airless and stifling in the dining room. From the window, the bridge, the pools of hazardous waste in a human-made chemical wetlands, the view from which toxic sunsets bled towards south Jersey; all the same. I put all I had into lifting up a paint-stuck window pane and glass shattered, a neat red line running down my hand as a small breeze entered. Later, my landlady would yell without conviction; a hard pulse at her temple, and a plangent note curling up in her hammered-flat Jersey oh-s. Her eyes stared out over the jagged shards, and I can’t remember any words said that day.
From the other side of the house, the cloud approached, and a metallic-tasting silt dust settled in our eyes, noses, and lungs.
Limbs too loose and dialogue too punchy, we walked in the sepia light down to the little community park nearest the water. People were standing around in clumps, smoking joints and cigarettes, or just standing. Helicopters dipped, swayed and circled like gulls. The smoke mushroomed, billowed, and continued to spread across the water, acrid and stinging. It was hard to understand that we were in the cloud, because we could see it there. Downtown Jersey City took brown and hazed snapshots of itself, and we carefully talked around and away from the idea of people.
The video store was still open.
We bought some food and wine, and watched "The Straight Story," of which I remember nothing but what might be printed on its sleeve. The main character a man pushing forward on a workyard CAT, to deliver sad news halfway across the country.