A Stone in the Pond of Imagination
All day long thunderstorms tortured the city. At Brooklyn Heights Promenade a man of middle age is seated comfortably on a bench. Red raincoat, grey, lush hair, like a moviestar dreaming of better days. I’m soaked, after crossing Brooklyn Bridge, then wandering endlessly through the desolate citycentre of Brooklyn, and through the repetitive, brick chic of Brooklyn Heights. Now it’s dry, finally, but the pavement shines like a river under the overhanging, dripping trees in the backyards of the old, grumpy houses.
Although the line of benches glisten with rainwater, Alf is sitting on one of them as if he is relaxing after a hard day’s work in summer. Not a care in the world. He talks to me friendly. ‘Do sit down.’ And when he sees me looking at the wet, cold bench, ‘It isn’t too bad’.
Alf has a sharp cut nose and dark eyebrows, and with his blown-dry hair, I imagine he could be any type of New Yorker: restaurant owner, stockbroker, writer, fire chief.
No, I’m not a tourist. ‘I try to figure out the truth about the symbolism of the new World Trade Center, and its meaning for New York after 9/11.’
He smiles, staring at a point at the horizon that only he can see. ‘Mmmh, the Towers’, he mumbles. ‘I saw it happen, you know.’
He is silent for a while. Looking up at me with a faint smile: ‘I watched the towers burn, and fall. From my home. I live at the Promenade. There’, he gestures with his head. He lives there with his mother, who has Alzheimer’s. ‘I can tell by your face you yearn for coffee. Come with me.’