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23

The Verrazano

I can’t say exactly how long it will take you to read this first sentence but what I can know for certain is that however long it takes you will be that much closer to death.

That was exactly the kind of thought that was dogging Neil Nathan Pre (pronounced /prā/). His mortality shadowed him everywhere he went and was becoming a problem. Being a reasonably intelligent man, religion offered him no comfort. The specter of death became his constant companion and made him a tiresome person to hang out with.

To rectify the situation he determined that he needed some sort of epiphany in order to avoid squandering what little time was left to him. The kind of epiphany usually reached while watching a sunrise. To that end, he planned out a thirty-day trip wherein he would watch the sun rise from thirty different strategic locations that would appear, on the face of it at least, to be ideal places to have a brilliant insight into life.

His first stop was the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge, the double-decked suspension bridge that connects the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn in New York City. Completed in 1964 it is named for the Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano. Three men died building it. You might be asking yourself how these details are important to the story and all I can answer is that they may or may not be. Better to include them than have you finishing the tale and feeling a vague emptiness that you can’t quite put your finger on.

He got there well ahead of time and began the walk across so he’d be right smack in the middle of it when the sun finally got around to making its big appearance. No doubt some of the cars passing him thought that he was there to jump, what with passing of Bob Casale and Harold Ramis in the same week, a double-blow to humanity that would cause the most stoic soul to waver, which was pretty ironic given he was there to avoid thinking about that very fate. In fact, he leaned over and saw The Narrows glistening beneath him and wondered how anyone ever had the guts to hurl themselves off.

He watched an enormous freighter heading out to sea beneath him. So large that it seemed impossible it had been built with human hands. As the sun broke over the horizon the first rays of light made the ship seem sluggish, almost hesitant to begin its long journey to somewhere far away. Then, only seconds later, more yellow poured over it and it suddenly looked eager and full of optimism. No disrespect to purple intended.

Neil watched the sun rise. There would be no need for the other twenty nine destinations. There could be no lovelier place on earth to watch the sun come up. He soaked it all in and realized, or rationalized or whatever he was doing, that every planet in the universe was made up of all the same stuff and each was just trying to assemble the elements in interesting ways. Few of them could take in the scene that stretched before Neil and not be envious. He couldn’t let his consciousness ruin what was going on. He was, and always would be, part of the Greatest Show Earth Is Capable Of.

An anthill needs ants to be an anthill, not any particular ant.

He forgot about the cars belching out exhaust behind him and the fact that Staten Island was really nothing more than a giant garbage heap with a few strip malls scattered around, and he just looked out at the sun crawling up over the horizon. His five senses tingled and traded bits of insight into what he was experiencing.

The ghost of Gerard McKee stood wordlessly next to him, drinking it in. Once the sun was fully up he nodded and went back to the important business of not existing. It wasn’t so much jealousy that Neil felt, watching him go, as much as the hope that one day he might get such a nice spot.

He wondered where Bob and Harold were.

He began the long walk back to his car, aware that his constant, scythe-carrying companion was no longer with him.

You wanted a story to read, maybe not this particular story I confess, but I hope it was worth the time just the same. If you’re waiting for me to wrap it up with some answers … I’ve got none. How could I when I don’t even know your questions?

Neil, on the other hand, would suggest that there is a Verrazano out there for you if you’re so inclined.

 

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