The Garfield side of the river




My footsteps rustle the leaves as I move along this road.

The trees lean over me, naked limbs with outstreteched fingers against the pale autumn sky.

I cross the misnamed “Wall Street Bridge”, which connects Passaic with Garfield, with Passaic Street signs on both sides.

The river bleeds polution below, a stead flow of thick liquid so spoiled as to cease qualifying as water at all – banks litterd with so much debris, rubble and trash, I could not reach the water’s edge here if I wanted to.

Sad brown leaves dot the river surface, a few desperate refugees sailing for safer harbors before winter closes its grip.

Those unfallen paint the Garfield side brown, rustling with the frequent gusts of wind.

I almost hear a dirge playing in my head, a funeral procession for the change of seasons as we wait for the shroud of snow to cover all we see.

Everything already feels dead.

The bare land giving up its secrets only at moments like these.

The corpse of a cat lays at the root of a tree.

Wrens hobble near it, pkcking at the flies that feed on the dead cat’s eyes.

They twitter and squat, their small brown shapes camoflagued agianst the spotted background.

I walk and watch them, as the Garfield side of the river turns into a parade of rotting structures: old taverns and used car dealers clustered along the bank like soldiers at Dunkirk, the last defence of the fading past against the stern march of new development.

A lady wearing a fur coat and rings on every finger crosses herself as she climbs down the steps from the church.

A latino man my age passes me going in the other direction, a cheap portable radio blasting brassy music pressed up against his ear.

Then comes the quiet again, or perhaps the softer sounds of the moaning and groaning iver, creaking with the loose hingers and battered warfts from days when people sailed boats here.

These sounds come and go, breathing in and out between the rush of traffic, trucks sending thundering booms in echoes across the river at each bump. Car horns impatiently broadcast complaints at comumters too slow to move after the change of the traffic light.

I look towards the edges where the brown water laps at exposed tree roots, hoping to spy the web-pattered backs of the cat fish who in warmer times feed there.

I see none.

Even the ducks and geese have taken the hint and flown south, or perhaps have taken refuge at the old lady’s place upstream where they find cracked corn spread across her lawn like Christmas candy.

The air shivers with the promise of Christmas, lights blinking from windows of houses along the other side of River Road.

For me the tradition fades, losing meaning as I grow older, a relick to a different Passaic before my friends moved on to other places.

Their ghosts still stroll these deserted paths along with me, keeping me company in memory when they can no longer do so in the flesh.

I see old men strolling along the road at time, they, too, keeping the company of memories like mine, passing institutions of their youth as I pass institutions of my own.

The Safari Longue, Outwater Plastics, the hardware store, the insurance broker, the Cameo social hall, the coffee shop, the factories and mills, each ending after more than a mile walk at the Service Diner where we and our ghosts purchase cups of coffee to go and then keep on walking.





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