07 March 2010

Lost With Memory

Today I did about two hours of bike riding. I made a couple of stops along the way, including one at a park in Red Hook, Brooklyn. En route, I rode for a bit down Fourth Avenue. Let's just say it ain't le Boulevard des Champs-Elysees. But now it runs the risk of going from merely drab or ugly to truly grotesque. The Atlantic Terminal Mall, where Fourth Avenue dead-ends on Flatbush Avenue, looks like something from the deck of a baroquely cheesy (Or is it cheesily baroque?) cruise ship with an almost-apocalyptic post-industrial background. In that background, some developer wants to build some humongous sports arena where the Nets will play. Just what New York needs: another terrible NBA team!

A few blocks further down Fourth, at the corner of Carroll, a multi-story condo building has been erected since the last time I was in that area, which was probably a year ago. It was just as gaudily sterile as the Atlantic Center Mall.

From there, I zigged and zagged along streets where my mother and uncles played as children, and where an aunt and uncle lived for many years. It was only a few blocks from where Tammy and I lived together and and even less than that from the place where I lived by myself before I met Tammy.

After buying a bag of white cheddar popcorn in a deli, I rode toward the Red Hook waterfront. It's a strange combination of maritime bucolic and early-industrial grittiness. There's an upscale food market just a couple of blocks from splintered tenements abandoned from the deaths of dock workers who once loaded and unloaded the ships that came and went to and from New York Harbor. There is an IKEA store only a few hundred feet from a lot that, not long ago, was full of rotting couches and chairs.

From that IKEA, from the upscale foodstore, from the abandoned cement plant, from the warehouses that have been turned into artists' studios, one has the best views of Miss Liberty to be found anywhere. In fact, about ten or twelve years ago, realtors tried to make the area--much of which was abandoned--more appealing by calling it "Liberty Heights." Of course, they didn't fool any born or bred Brooklynites.

Anyway, on my way home, I stayed within a block or two of the water. Near the old Brooklyn Navy Yard, I saw a man who was probably my age, or close to it, fixing a flat on the bike of a younger gay (or possibly genderqueer) woman. They looked like they were having trouble, so I stopped to see whether they needed hlep.

It seemed that the man had the situation in hand, but the three of us got to talking. The young woman was very nice. The man was rather charming and reminded me of someone, though I wasn't quite sure of whom. Finally, he mentioned his name. His last name is, from what I have seen, uncommon. In fact, I have known only one other person who had it. So, I asked whether he had a sister whose first name was X.

Turns out, he did. That name is one most people wouldn't associate with their last name, or a person of their ethnic background. And I described his sister a bit, at least as I remember her. He was flabbergasted and wondered how I could have known her.

Turns out...Well, I didn't tell him the real way I got to know her. And let's just say that now I'm very different from the man she knew, albeit breifly, back in the day.

He said that she's married: No surprise there. She was possibly the most beautiful woman I ever dated, or with whom I had an affair or relationship. (Can anyone define the differences between them?) She was born in India to a black Jamaican mother and a father whose parents hailed from India, so she had that wonderful skin tone that was somewhere between copper and mahogany. She also had a long, lean body with gentle curves, an almost perfectly aquiline nose and lips that were plush but not plump. The only parts of her body that weren't exquisitely beautiful were her eyes: They had a nice almond shape but, in spite of their deep brown hue, felt lifeless.

Still, I tried to keep the relationship going even after I knew full well that we had nothing in common.

I don't know what, if anything, she recalls of me. It may be just as well if she doesn't remember me.

By the way: When he asked how I knew her, I said she was a student of mine. She was in fact a student at the time I dated her; she just wasn't my student or even in a college in which I was teaching. And she was about my age--mid '30's--at the time.

As we parted, he said, "Small world!"