On a grey November afternoon I was not in the best of moods. I hid my sadness with smiles and buried my sorrow with alcohol.
Life was hardly worth living.
I hadn't seen my children for over a year. I missed them more and more with each passing day.
Especially little Fenway.
They were growing up without me.
The hurt wouldn't go away. An inner voice spoke a dangerous language. It only had one word.
I looked out my window. Condos along Fulton Avenue blocked my view to the west. Thailand and my family lay on the other side of the world. I hadn't left my room in three days.
My phone rang.
I answered hoping it was a job lead.
Instead it was Shannon, my old basketball friend. We hadn't played in a long time.
My legs were gone.
"You wan to join me for a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. We can have lunch in Chinatown."
"I don't know."
Shannon knew my weakness for a free meal and agreed to meet at the Masonic Temple in Fort Greene.
"Ten minutes." We lived close to each other. Shannon with his wife. Me all alone.
Seeing a friendly face was a good thing.
"So we were walking across the bridge?" I pointed up. The sky was darker than before.
"You scared of a little rain?"
"No." We were both dressed for the weather, although I was wearing sandals instead of boots.
"Then let's go."
"I don't have any work." I had been laid off from the Plaza store. "No one's buying jewelry."
"Any idea why?"
Millions of dollars of diamonds and gems sat in the window.
"My old profession is dying in the new century, but enough talk of business, let's walk."
The Brooklyn Bridge was thirty minutes from Fort Greene. Shannon and I spoke of the past.
Basketball games, fights, and long-gone loves, then he broached a forbidden subject.
"When are you going to Thailand?"
"No time soon." I was living on food stamps and all my money went to my family. I was lucky to spend $40 a day. "I don't know when I'll get there."
"One day you will."
He knew how much I loved my kids.
Shannon had suggested the name 'Fenway' for my son. I had checked online for Fenway Smith. Surprisingly I found none.
"You know I was walking down Lafayette the other day and ran into a guy with a dog wearing a Red Sox hat. I asked him his dog's name. He said, "Fenway." Now I realized why people don't call their kids 'Fenway'. They call their dogs 'Fenway'.
"Sorry." Shannon was a Yankee fan, but a good friend and I said, "I still like the name."
We had reached the pedestrian pathway and climbed onto the bridge.
Few tourists braved the damp mist. Shannon was a faster walker. I lingered at the railing. The height of the wooden walkway was 132 over the water. A thick obscured the city's inner harbor. Its thick grey matched the color of my heart. The dangerous language repeated the only word in its vocabulary, as the wind strummed the steel cables and the grated roadway hummed with traffic.
I thought of Hart Crane's poem about the wind and struggled to recall The Bridge.
One line stuck in my head.
"Under thy shadow by the piers I waited Only in darkness is thy shadow clear."
Darkness was my only friend.
Hart Crane had jumped or drunken sailors had thrown the gay poet off the bow of Orizaba. He drowned in the Caribbean, confirming his prediction.
"The bottom of the sea is cruel."
The height of the bridge was ruthless and the tide said the word.
Shannon looked at me. He read my eyes and said, "The fog leans one last moment on the sill. Under the mistletoe of dreams, a star — As though to join us at some distant hill — Turns in the waking west and goes to sleep.
Shannon had read Crane too.
The poetry mirrored my soul, but Shannon was too far away to stop me other to say, "Fenway."
I didn't budge.
He said another name.
My mother was an Angie.
She was in after-life, but my daughter was here now.
Thousands of miles away, but there same as Fenway.
He was not playing fair.
Not with my life on the line.
We were standing underneath City Hall.
Are you okay?"
"Just remember you have something to live for?"
"Bringing Fenway to Fenway Park".
"I'm sure he'd like that."
"Tough getting swept by the Indians in the playoffs." Shannon really was a Yankee fan, but they hadn't been to the World Series since 2009.
"I really touched by your concern."
"Shall we have a drink at your bar."
I was friends with the afternoon bartender.
"We deserve a beer after that walk."
"It'll be good to be off the bridge."
Because I still had places to go.
We had more than one beer.
The 169 had pretty lights.
And pretty lights kept away the darkness.
For sleep and dreams of jumping off a low bridge into the Charles River.