TRUE and I walked beneath the GW, not saying much as we looked up and followed the underbelly of its majestic span across the Hudson and into the gray rock of the Jersey Palisades.
We took a path along the riverbank, where blocks of ice were being slowly ground down against the rocky shore. A lane of old trees twisted leafless to the left. Above them stretched the green metal girders of Riverside Drive. Tucked down below were black railroad tracks.
The twin drones of traffic—the steady, existential hum of the Bridge high above us and the broken-up, more discernible sounds of the highway—served as the soundtrack for this strange and beautiful place, the edge of the island, where nature and man met and battled for every square inch. At certain points the path twisted between hills covered with trees and snow, with squirrels running about and the wind shooting off the river. In those places, aside from the bridge, there was no evidence of the city. It could have been anywhere—a roughly beautiful, unpolished corner in some Austrian mountain town. At other points, the path crossed a footbridge, went through some mud and came out onto an embankment, overlooking the opening of the harbor. Out in the distance, the hazy shore swung out to sea, and the blue skyscrapers of midtown glowed like the promised land itself, shot in wide-angle cinemascope.
TRUE stepped carefully among the rocks and stood at the river’s edge. She had the thick collar of her sweater pulled up around her chin. Her hands were shoved deep into the pockets of her long, black cashmere coat.
“I hope a train comes by,” she said, wistfully.
“This is a great place to get some thinking done,” I said, as I tried to light a Dunhill.
“Or to shoot a rape scene,” she said.
“Oh, come on—think about it. It could happen right here on the shore, in the jagged rocks. There’s no around to help except for the traffic overhead and that Coast Guard tug boat out there, watching. Helpless.”
“Nonsense. They too could help. They could focus in with some supersonic scope and blast the guy’s head off with a single rifle shot.”
We walked past a tennis court and watched an old man dressed in a black and fuchsia warm-up suit hack away at the thick layer of ice that covered the court.
“Guess he can’t wait to play,” I said.
“It would make a good Nike commercial,” TRUE remarked.
She held out her hand and I passed her the cigarette. She took a long deep drag, her baby face twisting into an ugly knot.
“You look tired, darling,” I said, as I pushed the bangs out of her eyes.
“I’m OK,” she said, shaking her head to send them tumbling the way they were.
“Which Beatle are you trying to be?” I asked.
“All of them.”
“Of course. What’s wrong with Ringo?”
“Listen, TRUE, I hope you know that the most important thing is your writing.”
“Yes. That’s what you should be spending most of your time on.”
“Oh yeah? Says who?”
“Says me. And Sterling…let’s face it you’re not a web designer…or photographer.”
“But I’m not NOT one of those things either, obviously.”
“Well, obviously,” I said, laughing at the way she always managed to unravel the point I was trying to make.
“BRANDTRUEBOY is mine. But by default that ownership requires me to be a jack of all trades, master of none,” she said.
“Well, I don’t know. You might very well be the master of the soft-focus boob shot.”
She blushed and looked at her feet.
“I think that’s when I knew I was coming back—when I saw those pix.”
“For real?” she asked.
“That’s when I knew you still meant business with this blog thing.”
We watched as the old man put the shovel down and picked up a broom. He set about sweeping up the broken ice with the same maniacal energy he used to chisel at it with his shovel.
“He’s freaking me out a little,” TRUE said.
“Why? He kind of reminds me of you…stubborn as hell.”
The wind blew and she huddled close to me. I could feel the warmth of her legs against mine.
“Hey,” I said, “Do you think any of your readers jerked off to your pictures?”
She looked up at me and narrowed her eyes.
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Did you think about that when you posted them?”
“Yeah. I guess. I mean, of course I did. But only a little bit.”
“C’mon, you thought about it a lot and you know it.”
“Yes. So what
“They’re just my tits,” she said.
“Sorry darling, a rack like yours could never be just
“I bet there were a fair number of perverts squirting all over their mouse pads.”
“Fuck you,” she said.
“Oh, see…that bothers you.”
“You don’t like if I talk about your precious fans like that.”
“They’re you’re fans too!”
“No, not any more,” I sighed. I gently pulled the brand new, expensive titanium glasses off her face. She looked up at me and blinked heavily. There were purple rings under her blue eyes. I held her glasses up to the light and proceeded to clean the lenses with the end of my scarf. Then I put them on my face and turned to her as the world went out blissfully out of focus.
“I have an idea. Why don’t you let me be you for a while?” I asked her.
“I could take the load off. I could carry it for you, you know. Like in that hippy song you like.”
“’The Weight’,” she said. I could tell from her voice that she was pleased that I remembered. “By The Band.”
“Yes, whatever. I can take it from you. I can protect you for a little bit the way you protect me.”
“It doesn’t work that way,” she said, taking the glasses from me and putting them back on. She crossed her arms and stared off into the distance, as lights flickered on in Jersey, pouring bright bands of white and yellow across the river.
“Believe me,” she said, her voice low and numb. “I wish it did.”