Last night, late, long after I usually go to bed, I was restless and wrestling with a decision I need to make. So I did what I frequently do. I put on a comfortable pair of shoes, snapped the leash on my dog and headed down to the river where thoughts run as steadily as the waters.
The river is a musical score. A symphony of rises and falls. Of soaring passages and lulls. Of adagio and allegro. If you know how to see it and hear it, the river speaks like Lester Young's saxophone or Miles Davis' trumpet.
The river started slow and simple last night. It was quiet and whispering. It didn't have much to say. It was like the silence in a Terrence Malick movie. Then as I walked further uptown, I reached Hell Gate, my destination. Hell Gate. The narrow strait, the confluence of flows where waters churn and boil regardless of time and tide.
I stopped there pondering my own private Hell Gate. I leaned on the wrought iron and looked out on the waters boiling and roiling. I spit and saw it disappear. After some minutes an older Puerto Rican man--another denizen of the waters, stood and leaned beside me.
"Jew ho kay, man?" He touched me gently on my shoulder.
I examined him vigilantly. Was he here to mug me? Was he a pervert? Could I take him? When he checked out ok, I answered.
"Just thinking. I think best here."
He offered me a cigarette and a swig from his pint. He lit his smoke expertly against the wind, cupping the match so I could see his face like a Hollywood close-up. He had kind eyes that were deep like the water. He took a quick gulp from the bottle. Hennessy.
I explained myself, my night-time pensiveness.
"Look," he said to me, his heavy accent gone. "Regardless of what it is, it comes down to two vectors." He was sounding like my therapist now. "You deserve to do what you want to do. You deserve to do something for yourself."
He cut me off like a conquistador with a machete.
"It comes down to two things. You pay now or you pay later. And it's money or life."
He pushed back from the fence and left me alone with my dog staring at the white water.