The first rays of morning sun warmed the walker’s goose-pimpled back. The man with freckles across his nose and cheeks smiled slightly as a shadow of his old-inner self slipped down a sewage drain on Tillary Street and reappeared on the sparkling cement walkway leading along Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard. In his thoughts, the world had blossomed, for in his soul, ungodly depression was easing.
Glancing through the squint of shameful eyes and half-closed reddened lids, he began once again to drop his invisible load. He sensed the sun approach the imaginary line wrapped around the world known as the Tropic of Capricorn and knew there were just a few warm walking days left. Lost in a maze of random thoughts and a need to figure out what life was all about, he was pulled from calm contemplation again; his soul driven from that place so sacred, and lured to the tranquility found up above while walking on water. He was dreaming of what peace of mind was, yet awake in broad daylight, and only here, at this magnificent temple of the modern world, did his soul unite as one with the universe.
An invisible current guided his steps; his feet swatted at the pavement, his arms moved as fins, as if indeed, like he had imagined, he was a tiny sperm again.
Would his mind ever remain still again? he asked, with the unspoken voice of thought that everyone uses in contemplation. His was chattering inside again.
Would ever there be a moment in life when dread would not tap him on the back, only to stab him the moment his concentration slipped from a carefully rehearsed inner trance? One thought; that was how Buddhists reached Nirvana. Hell no, this was not Nirvana, this place was somewhere else. Too simple a path for most to understand, he thought, this absolute shedding of oneself and throwing one’s soul to the wind is sweeter than hardly anyone knows. Yes this is the way. No more fear of death. My God, he thinks, I could just jump today. This place of pure inner tranquility is paradise.
He was walking again to clear his mind from dreams he had while still awake, meditating for hours, motionless, telling even God to be still. He was beginning to comprehend the beauty of the way of the divine and had a need to throw everything, except his own soul away. That was what he was thinking as he strutted along. He could focus on just one word or phrase as soon as the theories started churning in his mind again and he did just that the moment he crossed the heavy bridge traffic.
On the bridge, meditation was easier. Pedestrians on the wooden walkway seemed to tune themselves out easily too. The all seemed walk so fast on the bridge, trying to prove perhaps that they had somewhere to be and were not headed up there to jump off. Not his intention either, but he was the only man walking slowly– smelling the carbon dioxide from the thousands of tiny cars that passed on the bridge, yards below from the footpath and the walkers on the bridge. They were walking so fast– like Ruth Madoffs in the grocery store on the Upper West Side. They seemed to the man walking slowly as if they perhaps were making plans– plans perhaps to jump if things soon didn’t get better.
Up here, above the city, just one thought at a time could pass through his mind, that of controlled meditation.
A bridge with gushing water beneath was ahead– a means to sooth worries that were all around. Such hopelessness flooded the city since the Muslims won the war. If one was not from a certain stock of people, well then, it seemed to make sense just to jump– if only he could sleep up here, it all would pass, surely it would.
The waters below were only a few degrees above freezing, deep and flew by with the ferocity of a jew seeking organs to buy. An iceberg clamminess surrounded Manhattan as fresh water from the Catskills merged with currents from the sea just under the bridge. Fresh flows of Hudson’s twin sibling stream, the East River, confronted warmer waves of the great gulf stream below and seemed to boil in a watery splash of frigid lava that made the morning seem dead.
To the left, the expanse of channels that separate Staten Island from the mainland laughed at the gentile walking to find peace. Under rapidly moving patent-leather, high-top sneakers, he saw the river squirming below. He had not spotted translucent, emerald currents on the first of several hikes across the giant loom that weaves the two most important boroughs of the city together because it felt so good to just get away from so much sewing of thought and look out, towards the Atlantic, towards the still demolished and scattered Holy Land. The water appeared thirst quenching and it lured him to tie the knot once and for all and go on and get another body– perhaps a black one this time for that’s what was in now. He was breathless with cotton-mouth walking up the boardwalk on the Brooklyn Bridge. He was high on God.
The man, burning with terrible sadness and despair within, searched for hope in the Verizon skyscraper straight ahead– a seemingly windowless building from afar, but there was no mistaking the trademark of the godly corporation– that big red, glowing checkmark on the far side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Verizon on the horizon.
Downstream where the sun was not shining and warming the backs of bridge-walkers, patchy clouds cast shadows on the bay which remained unilluminated under partial cloudiness. The water on all sides of the bridge seemed dull and brown, but below, under his footsteps, the currents were glowing like the corroded skin of Lady Liberty perched far away in the sea, for the sun was still to his back and setting the soul of the river under the bridge on fire.
Glances made through spaces between wooden slats on the pedestrian walkway permitted slight observation of the emerald green river that appeared as boiling below. The East River was like the thick, heavy syrup of sadness pouring through and over the pensive pedestrian walker.
Through crisscrossed braided strands of steel rope, where suspension cables are secured from way above, where there appears an optical illusion of diamond shapes from overlapping stands of suspension wires, there appeared to the walker an illusion of wide-screen, high definition televisions on the sides of the bridge. He concludes that reality is not as real as high-definition tv. The city through this looking glass is no so clear.
The searcher ignored the thought of climbing to the top of the stone towers of the Brooklyn Bridge immediately. He was not going to tempt himself on this trip with deadly inclinations of immortality. He dared not again convince himself that it was fine to climb to the top. It was after all, a simple stroll to the top of the stone support structures that give the Brooklyn Bridge its charm.
Only a small gate would prevent one from going to the top. Such a low, little gate it is. Strings of metal to swing upon as a Tarzan of the concrete jungle on one’s way to perfection, he thinks. What prevents one from walking up there or out one of those steel beams to fight with God? So easy. Be still, he thought again. Just be still. Those were the words he stole and made his– Plagiarism from Psalms. “Be still and know…”
This walkway keeps calling him to return here and make it to the other side even though physically, there is really no place in reality to go. Take a walk up to where the wild things are to where American flags wave atop that bridge– two flags of glory up there above all that stacked stone– what better place to pray–one flag on each tower of stone. Over the emerald river he presses onward– up there atop those stone towers, one does not stand a chance of humbling one’s self, he realizes. Stick to the narrow path that leads within, he remembers as he tilts his head down again.
The man, looking up only when he senses the presence of another soul sharing the same space on the wooden walkway next to steel beams meditates happily with absolutely no internal dialogue consuming what was once a racing mind as his tired feet somehow trod on. Did the bridge just sway, or is he dizzy? It was only when the morning sun kissed his neck that he remembered his destination– perfection.
The tender kiss of the warmness from above and behind sucked him from a still inner-silence that he first had on the sparkly sidewalk leading over water– now somehow, his thoughts had raced in a million directions. Beeping car horns of stalled traffic below was a small part of a terrible delusion of what is invisible, noisy evil everywhere. An acute awareness rushed to the walker’s toes as his skin turned radiant like the roof of city hall in the distance. He suddenly remembered what he had discovered through constant meditation atop the Brooklyn Bridge and hoped that today the secret joy would once again flood his mind.
His thoughts froze for a moment and imagination was carried away by the loud hum of passing aircraft moving up the river–a police helicopter or maybe that of a news station was directly overhead. At first, a slight hum from a far away propeller tickled the drums of ears that had been turned to cotton during moments of perfect inner-stillness. There were days that he meditated from six am to six pm, never stopping to eat, for food alone causes one to think inside.
As the chopper rounded the tip of the city, its cry grew louder and now right overhead– it seemed to hover above just to distract the saint. The peace that passes understanding seemed to surround the bridge and the effects were heaven sent, at least when there was no aircraft overhead. Soon the helicopter was gone and he was back inside– thinking again of nothing but the mantra from Psalms– as he a trained himself to focus on so efficiently– ‘Be still and know…’.
His feet seemed to move of their own free will to a destination that his mind had somehow forgotten. Being outside before the sun ran its course across the city that never sleeps permitted the guru to sooth his wakening soul from the pangs of thought intrusion. He found relief high above the city– a desert of sorts it seemed to him, a place to go deep down within.
On his way into Manhattan, the saint passed through the first of four grand arches formed by the bridge’s waterway support towers and imagined that the inspiration behind the monolith was faith itself. Behind him, on the Brooklyn side of the waterway, Jehovah Witness watchtowers and green lettering across the buildings remind those entering the city, either by car or on foot, to ‘Read God’s word the Holy Bible Daily’– a horrific billboard if ever there was one in this town! Not the typical New York City Calvin Klein ad.
He saw the lettering on the riverside buildings next to the bridge every day on his walks and he read it over and over as he passed here each day. “Read God’s Word the Holy Bible Daily” was all that was really noticeable or worth looking at for the first ten minutes of the walk– at least until the city came into view. Eventually the Verizon skyscraper would appear with the big red checkmark logo on the side of that building. The logo is nearly as large as the cargo ships passing underfoot.
A digital clock is mounted atop one of the brown Jehovah buildings and faces Brooklyn. What terrible pressure we are all under as we start to cross the bridge. It is all that one has to look at when first making the hike or drive across the suspension masterpiece– that Jehovah Witness watchtower clock. Suddenly time vanishes and the temperature is displayed– Read God’s Word the Holy Bible Daily. It’s still cold outside. Be still and know. Be still and know…
Up the wooden boardwalk, he marches on, where a hill is formed under pressure of expansion. There are benches along the way where very few stop to rest. The walkway is too narrow to stretch one’s legs out while sitting on that bridge. When the man sits and rests with his size eleven patent leather tennis shoes taking up most of the space, he tries not to trip the runners or disrupt women pushing baby carriages without licenses.
He stops, sits on a park bench planted along the walkway and curls his legs under his buttocks, unzips a black Polo plastic coat, reaches inside a secret compartment in his coat lining, and lights a marijuana cigarette within the shelter of his down-filled windbreaker. Be still and know, he thinks. They’ll never catch you. With needle sharp precision, the guru manages to light a single match in the rush of wind that just burrowed through Wall Street. The tiny blue flame ignites the tight tip of white parchment and with one hurried inhale, the entire pencil- thin joint is consumed before police cameras mounted high above on the steel structure of the bridge catch the action. A woman running while pushing a baby carriage glances at him but he knows it’s not a contact high– she like so many are mesmerized by his hair. He returns to reality outside of his coat, having lit a real cigarette for the sake of cameras. He blends right in with the joggers.
Unwinding now sleepy legs, he marches on, stopping near the bridge summit to rub his pointer finger along the crease of hardened cement that holds the large, pyramid-like stones of the Brooklyn Bridge together. He makes a loop around the center of the stone tower which the walkway winds around, walking through the first of two sets of grand arches. With no emotion whatsoever, he looks up with a hardened face, and presses harder until his finger nearly bleeds from friction– wanting to leave his mark. He is brought back again to reality with a sore fingertip and a good high and quickly vanishes into the thought of being still and knowing again.
The man without a hat and fiery red hair faces Brooklyn, without having to physically turn around to look back. Far behind as the morning sun slaps his face, he notices that the parking lots near the river are jammed packed– so much cheaper to park in Brooklyn. The brail from the stone is still fresh in his mind. The writing is on the bridge: “Be still and know…”
Inside, the walker is warm again. He knows the change is coming and can’t wait to see it. He is back again from his loop around the stone tower and emerges at the exact point on the very brick from whence the tracing began. He moves ahead slowly towards Manhattan, sidestepping a bicyclist he feels approaching from behind.
Far in the distance, ships and tugboats appear to float motionless near the little island upon which the Statue of Liberty slightly turns her back on the city. There is so little business and commerce moving around her, in and out of the world’s greatest port. It is straight ahead inside the grand Verizon building where the world trades wireless lies and free nights and weekends, he remembers. Lady Liberty’s cold copper skin is corroded gangrene. He has walked this route so many times before, sickened and saddened at each passing by the grace of modern architecture and the lie that is true liberty all around. With the teeth of the city still missing from the World Trade Center and the arm of the great Statue rotten so far as to prevent much needed tourism to the island, the walker smiles and waves, not at the lady, but to the past.
With the morning sun still soothing his back, he senses the time has come to enter the fallopian tubes of reincarnation. To most, the bridge is merely a toll free- entry into the great temple, but to the sperm of man, this is heaven and a way out of the madness that we all convince ourselves is normal, urban life.
Few know how to walk and untangle worry with their minds in a noisy city or how with stone hope is preserved for generations of tomorrow. Be still and know, he whispers, looking overhead in wonder as to how the tall stone archways of the Brooklyn Bridge are pointed and not round and they lack visible keystones.
He hangs on by an invisible thread of sadness still unwinding as he goes, never stopping to glance at the temptation below or behind him. He just keeps on walking ahead, never turning his body to look back at the bobbins of despair. We are all mere buttons on the coat of what is rationality he realizes, as he carefully snips the passing thought of suicide and plunges headfirst into the silence of what is the stilled mind.
He pierces the pain in his soul with a prick from needle of knowledge deep down inside– soon, they’ll be up here too, walking with him next to the beautiful Verizon building that outshines the glory of Lady Liberty, he senses. The thought of the true meaning of his favorite passage of Psalms returns– “Be still and know that I am God” he prays for the masses who still don’t believe.
The rattles and roars of the city grow louder as he approaches land. He can almost hear the Nasdaq falling again, or was that the A train surfacing from the tunnel below the river? He zips up his black Polo coat, does an about-face, turns his back to the city and heads back to Brooklyn where there is true peace within.