“Waiter,” Mitchell called, “a dozen blue points, please.”
“Oysters… I’m not sure if clams are supposed to do the same thing as oysters, but to be on the safe side, I think I better have some of them, too. And seeing as you like ’em so much,” sliding the bowl to Marsha, “you can finish these… And don’t worry, I promise, I’m not going to offer you any oysters.”
“Thank you so much!” she said sarcastically.
“Maybe we’ll come back next week and I’ll show you how to eat oysters, too.”
“Nooo, thank you!”
Far Rockaway, New York
The Fifth Day of Their Lives
December 22, 1955: 2:35 p.m.
Raising the top, going back to the Shore Parkway, they drove the two miles to Flatbush Avenue, then over the Floyd Bennett Bridge into Rockaway.
Stopping outside the U.S.C.G. Rockaway Lifeboat Station, Mitchell pointed to his old bedroom window, then drove the bone-jarring, four-mile road past The Rockaway Bar & Grill. Past Pete’s Tavern. Past The Rockaway Eatery and Bait Store. Past the last of the winter isolated cottages to the end of the road, to the tip of the peninsula… and the tower.
Due to the lonely memories held here, to Mitchell Lipensky here the air was colder, here the wind was sharper and here the sky was darker.
Although, in fact, corralled by the Atlantic Ocean and Sheepshead Bay, at Rockaway Point the wind is always stronger, the wind-chill factor always lower, and in winter, sand, grit and snow blew with equal stingingly velocity.
Surveying this barren point of land, Marsha had the same illusory sensation she had earlier as she’d stood on the opposite side of Sheepshead Bay looking here. “Good, God, Mitchell…” Now, though, the surrealistic landscape caused an involuntary shudder. “…this has to be the loneliest place I’ve ever seen.”
“Yeah, but in summer…” His words trailed off as, staring at the tower, mentally transported across the one-hundred-and-seventy yards of sandy soil that he’d so often trod, and up the fifty-seven steel steps he’d so often climbed, where, transposing himself with the seaman on watch, remembering, sad memories of this forlorn place tumbling through his mind, quiet for a number of long seconds… “Sometimes…” Shaking his head as if reviving from unconsciousness, picking up the thread of conversation as if he hadn’t had a loss of thought, “it’s lonelier than at other times.” And Mitchell hadn’t the slightest doubt that the Ford convertible was being watched through the same high-powered binoculars that he’d used watching a cherry-red convertible.
“Come on, Marcie. Take a walk with me.”
“It looks really cold out there.”
“I know, honey, and I’m sorry, but there’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now. Come on… please.”
Zipping and buttoning their coats, pulling their hats low on their heads, opening their doors, he held an arm about her waist as they made their way across sand, stone and snow to the rock barricade that held the ocean from the land.
Holding her hand, helping her up, they climbed onto a flat chunk of high and dry granite.
Looking seaward a moment, turning Marsha in his direction, with one arm about her shoulders, with his other hand beneath her coat, where he held an, oh, so soft, so warm breast, Mitchell kissed Marsha’s cold, ocean sprayed salty lips.
“Look, Marcie,” pointing, “see there?” Northeast, across the white-capped, churning water, there was a misty horseshoe of land. “That’s where we came from. That’s Sheepshead Bay.”
Having no ghosts to bury here, shivering, not in any mood for a geography lesson, “Mitchell, the wind’s terrible! I’m freezing! Can we go back now?”
“Sure, honey.” Not sure why, “This was just something I had to do.”
Helping her off the granite slab, his arm about her waist, starting back to the car…
As Mitchell walked he felt a tightening in his chest and an almost… What? Nostalgic attraction. Turning his head, looking back, looking at the shack he tried to see through the impenetrable windows, but all he saw was the reflection of sky and clouds, and…
Transposed, becoming the seaman in the shack once again, a deep, oh, so deep wave of loneliness assailed Mitchell as…
He stands inside the overheated shack with the binoculars pressed against his eyes watching… Oh, so enviously watching… himself and Marsha, just as he’d watched so many people on so many watches. Watching, if for no other reason than to break the sheer and utter monotony of the four-hour watch, and…
The loneliness overtaking him, “Oh, God!” The words breaking from his heart, stopping, turning, “Marcie!” Hugging his wife to his chest, “My, God, how I love you!”
Looking in his eyes, “I love you, too, Mitchie.” Seeing tears, “Honey, what’s wrong?”
Having no understanding of this emotion, and having no words to describe it, “Nothing, baby.” Wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, “It’s the wind. Guess I got some sand in my eyes.”
Opening the door for Marsha, he walked around the front of the car, but before reaching the driver’s side door, stopping, Mitchell stared at the sharply defined, silhouetted tower, and for some unfathomable reason felt as though something had been lost here… As though some part of himself had been lost here never to be found again…
Actually a part of Mitchell Lipensky had been lost here….
For it was here he overcame his love of Susan.
For it was here he learned to, if not cope with loneliness, then to adjust to loneliness.
For it was here, also, that he fell captive to undisguised prejudicial hatred and the resulting treatment, and because of it… it was here he learned, in some small way, to protect and defend himself.
For it was here that Mitchell Lipensky grew from a boy to the semblance of a man.
The ghost of his boyhood was here.
Sighing, Mitchell waved, both to the man watching from the tower and, unknowingly, to himself—to the boy; to the part of him that was gone forever.
Shaking his head, attempting to rid himself of the depression he felt, forcing a smile, opening the door, looking in the car, “I’ve always wanted to do that.”
Watching him through the windshield, “What? Wave?” Marsha said, “We’ll teach you how to use the potty next.”
“No!” Having the knack of making him laugh, his depression dissipating, “I’ve always wanted to neck with a girl on the rocks, there.”
“Necking? Oh, is that what we were doing? Freezing is more like it.”
About to step into the car, hesitating, taking one last look at the tower.
Pulling his eyes from the steel structure, looking into the car, “Yeah?”
“Will you get in the fuckin’ car already! I’m freezing my ass off!”
“Jesus, Marsha! Where’d you learn to swear like that? I’m going to tell your mother!”