Will you remember this day, Gogol?" his father had asked, turning back to look at him, his hands pressed like earmuffs to either side of his head. "How long do I have to remember it?" Over the rise and fall of the wind, he could hear his father's laughter. He was standing there, waiting for Gogol to catch up, putting out a hand as Gogol drew near. "Try to remember it always, " he said once Gogol reached him, leading him slowly back across the breakwater, to where his mother and Sonia stood waiting. "Remember that you and I made this journey, that we went together to a place where there was nowhere left to go.
I used to walk out, at night, to the breakwater which divides the end of the harbor form the broad moor of the salt marsh. There was nothing to block the wind that had picked up speed and vigor from its Atlantic crossing. I'd study the stars in their brilliant blazing, the diaphanous swath of the milk Way, the distant glow of Boston backlighting the clouds on the horizon as if they'd been drawn there in smudgy charcoal. I felt, perhaps for the first time, particularly American, embedded in American history, here at the nation's slender tip. Here our westering impulse, having flooded the continent and turned back, finds itself face to face with the originating Atlantic, November's chill, salt expanses, what Hart Crane called the 'unfettered leewardings, ' here at the end of the world.
To the bankrupt poet, to the jilted lover, to anyone who yearns to elude the doubt within and the din without, the tidal strait between Manhattan Island and her favorite suburb offers the specious illusion of easy death. Melville prepared for the plunge from the breakwater on the South Street promenade, Whitman at the railing of the outbound ferry, both men redeemed by some Darwinian impulse, maybe some epic vision, which enabled them to change leaden water into lyric wine. Hart Crane rejected the limpid estuary for the brackish swirl of the Caribbean Sea. In each generation, from Washington Irving's to Truman Capote's, countless young men of promise and talent have examined the rippling foam between the nation's literary furnace and her literary playground, questioning whether the reams of manuscript in their Brooklyn lofts will earn them garlands in Manhattan's salons and ballrooms, wavering between the workroom and the water. And the city had done everything in its power to assist these men, to ease their affliction and to steer them toward the most judicious of decisions. It has built them a bridge.
Jacob M. Appel