Umeboshi Plum

The south side of the Manhattan Bridge frames a New York ready for her close-up. Liberty stands behind the Brooklyn Bridge, which swoops into the steel-and-glass asparagus patch of Wall Street. In the evening the sun drops behind the Brooklyn Bridge, the skyscrapers light up, and the moon rises over Sunset Park. It makes rent here feel like a bargain.

But since I last biked a month ago, they’ve moved the cycle path to the other side of the bridge. The pedestrians now have the south side to themselves, while the bikers have to spiral into a metal cage on the north. It overlooks the skeeviest part of the Lower East Side, a few housing projects, a suburban-sized PathMark drugstore, and the FDR Drive. No more Liberty, no more skyline, no more sunsets. Even my beloved Brooklyn looks like Queens from here.

It looks, in fact, startlingly like what you see from the 59th Street Bridge bike path. Same eerie emptiness, same metal cage. That view belongs to the loneliest period in my life, so much so that I hope never to cross the 59th Street Bridge again.

Almost three years ago, I moved out of what the paperwork later called the Marital Residence and moved in with my sister in Queens. I still worked for the company that my husband had founded. It was deep in the New York recession. He was begging for crumbs of investment, and the company was bet on a project that had been assigned to me. Somehow, this came to mean that we couldn’t tell anyone that we had split up. It would hurt funding. It would hurt the company. We ourselves were already hurt beyond repair, and so we acted our parts for six months, pretending that no one else noticed. We were ghosts. Every night, I circled the block to avoid being seen going north instead of south.

He got the funding. I finished the project. At a staff meeting, he made a short, kind speech thanking me for my contribution, and then I left.

The company survived. Few others from that time did. Its existence today is due to nothing more than the will of the modern Gatsby I married.

On Monday I heard that shareholder documents were making the rounds for signature. It wasn’t a surprise; at dinner the week before my husband had told me he was reviewing buyout offers. I sent him an instant message on a pretext. (Tentatively. These pings are always tentative now, since he is always busy.) He told me the deal would go through that night, and we chatted for a while. I knew how hard he fought for this business, and here was cash-money proof that he’d saved it. I didn’t tell him that I already knew about the deal. It felt shameful, somehow, to have heard third-hand, through such a throw-away medium, the price of our only offspring. I didn’t want him to know that.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture, still,
treat each guest honorably.
He may be cleaning you out
for some new delight.

And oh, such a motley crew of guests I’ve had these past few nights, biking home with this bleak, familiar view. I don’t fully understand why, but they are still arriving. Tears for the last five years, and for the months of skulking to Queens. More tears for the partial vindication of his dreams. Pride, resentment, fury, sadness, bittersweet pangs. I see him with his young business partner at the whiteboard in our tiny living room, and wish we were back there, and wish we’d never been there.

6 thoughts on “Umeboshi Plum”

  1. The price of a bittersweet tea appears to be higher than an ordinary sun tea, although the latter does require a special jar in its making. Could google the bottle/jar/whatnot cost although to what purpose?

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  2. Dearbhaille, please don’t ever stop writing such beautiful posts – they’re filled with wonderful humanity and make the planet a brighter place, I’m sure for many of your readers. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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