Long Island Sound's socked in. Black jetty stones tumble into a short beach. Two days left in 2016.
24 hours of rain. The constant kind without a breath I got used to in college, that I realized New Englanders were used to all their lives, that I'd forgotten about, living on the West Coast. The pacific coast where you wake up 270 days in the year to nothing but blue skies. Drowning and not waving.
I'm 20 feet from the water. Across 15 more miles of it should be New York State, but all you can see are layers of grey and blue, washes in and across the water, above even the few houses visible on the land's narrow points. The soft shore's tree line a brushy charcoal under all the lovely hues of slate.
I miss these colors in California. Out there they don't exist. Even a Golden Gate storm has an undertone of glitter. Fog in San Fran is primed with yellow.
I'm frickin cold. Gets in your skin here. The core feels it and shies away, even a mile from I-95. Jogging distance to the closest mansion. One of my oldest friends and I standing here, and not speaking too much.
I'd shelved my memories of this part of the States. These dreamy secure towns I used to pass back and forth between New York and Providence. My college pilgrimages for love and knowledge. On the trains, I'd wonder who lived behind those warm windows clicking by, how could so many people be that wealthy, that lucky? I let it go. Or I did nothing about it, so I let them alone, let them be, get on with their immaterial lives, have kids, a generation of still breeding thoughts, and so on...... but here I was again on a spit of parkland just south of Stamford Connecticut, feeling it.
At the toe of a town settled in the middle of the Seventeenth century. Pequots giving way to Yankees and Sailors and farmers, fighting back but losing ultimately, burned and starved, erased. And then after the settlers and thieves, came the bankers and the billionaires, new thieves, burning and starving the nation and building their astounding homes along the shore.
Fitzgerald lived briefly on the other side of the Sound. I've always wondered did he dream up Daisy's green light gazing a few hundred yards from one spit of Long Island to another or did he look across the Sound toward what he knew were the new money manses of Connecticut. Fairfield, Cos Cob, Greenwich. Green light. Greenwich.
Gatsby dreaming across a greater expanse makes more sense to me. His inspiration growing with the distance. The challenge of the crossing. But then when F. Scott wrote the novel he realized, practically, to make the story work Daisy needed to be near by and Gatsby's madness buying literally the mansion next door became all the stronger. Art, always served by compression and release. But still I think, at the close of the book, when he speaks of the continent seen for the first time by Dutch sailors, when the inessential houses melt away, he's talking about, he's remembering, Connecticut, not New York. The distant shore he saw that gave him that smoky eternal image was here. Right beneath my feet.
You know those stories about War veterans: the glass or the metal, the fragments of shells or bullets or deflected debris or the obliterated bones of the friend standing next to them, these splinters emerging from their skin decades later? No matter how you think you've put it to bed, overused it, gone to the nostalgic well once too often, some stuff always comes back up. You can bury your shit, you can think it's done, it's got no more half life, but once in awhile you'll be wrong, on the way home you'll be driving along a tight little suburban street lined with faux colonials and you'll pass Random Rd, "ha check that out man, a street called Random Rd" and before you can laugh and point it out, before you can say a word to your friend behind the wheel you'll remember, oh that's where she lived. Her dad's house was down that road. Literally, Random Road.
And who was she? A girl with a Goddess' name you met freshman year but no one in your life's meander that mattered all that much much as you weren't much to hers. But there it is. The real thing. The actual road. Not even 200 yards long, bisecting an overbuilt, commuter heavy peninsula in Fairfield County Connecticut, where you spent a hazily recalled few days in 1986 with a red haired beauty and her sharp and winsome parents. Whose father built a bank in Pittsburgh you pass every day you're home. Who made love to you on a jetty in a summer storm, as she faced the water and you the shore. The breadth of the memory broader than the place itself.
You say nothing to your buddy, who's driving back to his son, who's waiting with his parents in their summer home 20 miles up the coast, because you two have been talking about his brutal divorce and how tight the lane is with all the SUVs going by, and whether Sandy when she hit leveled this or that McMansion but what you're thinking is, fuck, memory lives in the land, its power is the land itself and you need to go there, to the place where you were when it happened even if you weren't born when it did, if you want to feel it. If you want it back. And even when you don't. It will come. And maybe it should. Who are we to try and choose.