The bus doors opened and the kids tumbled out. Jesus, they were terrifying. Sunburned, long-legged, mosquito-bitten, and hood-eyed, all of them in camp T-shirts with the signatures of friends and bunkmates, and the older girls with the signatures on their T-shirts bumping over the lines of their bra-straps. The wind came off the Hudson.
By ELIZABETH POLINER
That summer, even before she took up mowing, Suzanne was doubting herself, an uncertainty that set in when her husband began to notice the Mandlebrauns’ oldest daughter, Alison, soon to finish college. Alison, who lived in the only other house on their riverside lane, was home in Middle Haddam for the summer and came by to play tennis on their court with their daughter, Michelle, also soon to finish college. The girls, never close friends to begin with, had drifted further apart during their time away at school. It was surprising, then, to see them suddenly pair up, even if only for tennis.
The plan was to take the bus to my father’s farm, to see him in person for a change. My mother said, Your father is too busy for you, and you don’t know his wife. But I went anyway. I wanted to be able to say that my father was unavailable, firsthand account.
I packed only one large duffel bag, and my mother drove me to the bus station.She told me, Call me if you need anything. I said I’d call her every day.
Among the snowy houses, a small woman in a white wool coat shoveled a path from the street to her front door. Meanwhile snow was falling, gathering slowly on the path being cleared, and on the small woman shoveling.
Each of the woman’s movements was like the second half of an echo: It seemed as if her gestures weren’t occurring now, but had been initiated some time ago. Faint, also fated. She emptied half a shovelful of snow onto a large bank, and then gathered more snow in her shovel.
We were unemployed and without a place to go, but we got up in the morning and pressed things under the iron anyhow. Our parents turned us out of their houses, telling us to Go get some fresh air!, then locked the doors they refused to give us keys to. We piled up in the streets like garbage, a dozen of us on every block, sitting open-legged on the curb in department-store suits. There was me, Mike, Paul, and all the rest of the guys we’d grown up with. We were a decade and a half past high school graduation, loaded down and barely breathing under stubble and spare tires and thick letters from Sallie Mae, but there we all were, out at the bus stop again.
In the courtyard were more of these men and women who—how should I describe them?—who still were. They didn’t do anything except exist. They sat, alone or in silent clusters. None would say yes to an interview. I circled the courtyard, asking. Most did not even say no.
Now it is just a question of what to do with Guy Gever. For extra money he works in the evenings to frighten the birds that eat the crops in the fields around the kibbutz. At night, he hunts the porcupines, the dorban, and sometimes the tiny kipod, the hedgehogs, with his brothers. But now people think he has gone mad.
Nanjing, the furnace of the Yangtse, is a city so big it swallows. I can stroll through the streets and brush by anyone, but a weight presses on me like a singular, enveloping fog that never leaves. Men gather outside my apartment building and smoke in the afternoon. On some days a neighbor calls the Chengguan—the Urban Management Enforcement. They arrive in their white van and white hats and chase the smokers off. The smokers flee like carrion birds shooed away.
Ramesh Thakur had three houses—one in Defence Colony, one in R.K. Puram, and one in Malviya Nagar. But he was not happy.
“So much dusting, Chandar. I go to each house once a week. I dust, I dust. The sofas, the tables, the mantelpiece. I do not forget anything.
“But it is hard work, Chandar. It is not easy.”
But still I was happy for him. He was retired, he needed something to do. This kept him busy. He had three houses: there was security in that. He had some place to go three days a week: this kept him busy, there was security in that as well.