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  • Before Dawn

    We stayed late at our friend’s loft.
    Food, wine and conversation were hard to let go of.
    After 1 am on 8th avenue I saw a sign.
    Is it an advert for a Broadway show or a portal to Hell?

    ***
    Hell’s Beach

    In 1987 we took a trip to Coney Island with our friend R, who was passionate about literature and is now a teacher on the other side of the Continent.

    R’s girlfriend, at the time, was passionate about many things too.
    On this very hot day in July she was passionately angry with someone who was staring at her during the train ride to Coney Island.

    On a crowded train traveling to an even more crowded beach, I clutched my bag and winced as R’s girlfriend spoke her mind to the staring stranger.
    The staring man responded calmly with a series of curses.
    Not swear words, but an incantation:
    “Curses on you,” he said to her with a practiced hand gesture.
    It was not an obscene gesture, but almost a benediction.
    One by one with gesture and the words he cursed each one of us.
    “Curses on you, and you and you.”

    My beach reading that day was Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell.
    It was the perfect book for the heat and crowds and my youth.
    My mind was on fire.

    “You have to have the hot dogs at Nathan’s” R, insisted.
    We had hot dogs at Nathan’s.

    I went into the water and saw a diaper and some chicken bones float by.
    I got out of the water.
    I saw two young people drag an old man into the water by his feet, pulling him along the sand.
    I read my book and planned my escape from what seemed to be a beach at Hell’s shores.
    I planned my escape from the city at the end of the world.
    The curse seemed to be working it’s dark magic over the day.

    ***

    Last Season

    We had lunch yesterday with my husband’s Father at my Father-in law’s wife’s garden apartment.
    The conversation after lunch was all about Doctors and medications and appointments.
    We listened to the small complaints that contained hidden dangers.
    A slight cough, persistent, with difficulty swallowing sounded ominous.
    One swollen ankle meant something that we could not understand.
    Tests had been taken, more tests were underway, and Doctors were getting phone calls, last week and tomorrow.

    “Old age is the most difficult stage of life,” my Father-in law’s wife said.

    We discussed their plans to come Down East to visit in August.
    We continued to make plans despite the phone calls to Doctors and the portents and signs that we cannot understand.

    We continued to plan despite the fact that a curse was laid upon us by a witch on a train.
    “Men plan and god laughs.” is one of my Father-in-laws wife’s sayings.

    But I think there is a Devil at work.
    I saw the sign, after 1 am, on 8th avenue.
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