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Monday, September 30, 2002
By Paul Ford
I take my heart back from the East River.
Not long ago, the dust in my head finally settled long enough to dig a deep foundation for something new. I've looked at that foundation for a while, studied it, tested it, jumped up and down in it, written papers on it. I think it's going to stay there long enough for me to build something in it. Of course, you can't build anything without a heart. Which means, a bit more than a year later, I had to get my heart back from the East River. I'd committed it there in the hope of finding a new one. But I wanted the old one back.
I woke up early one morning and walked up Court St. to the Brooklyn Bridge. I walked out onto the middle of the Bridge. I was totally alone there. I spoke to the East River.
You have to give a reason, and the river needs proof of identification. I threw in a copy of my passport, and I yelled, “I want to give my heart to other rivers. Or maybe the sea. Or perhaps even other people. Maybe I'll even have kids. They'll need heart. Or I'll teach others how to do things, and they'll need heart, too.”
The Hudson, the East River, the Thames, the Liffey, the Mississippi, the Amazon, they meet in the oceans and tell stories of dead gangsters, sunken submarines, unlocateable treasure, fish, and pollution. They share raunchy jokes about estuaries.They love us, they hold our secrets and our hearts. So, with all the lore of the rivers swimming through it, all the waters mingled, the East River of course understood me completely.
There are a lot of hearts under the East River, and it took a long time for it to find mine. But eventually it was produced, and I put it right back. It felt strange there, like waking up with a big slice of peach in your mouth and no idea how it got there.
For a moment, all of New York was still and calm, and all the buildings transparent. I could see everyone in their beds, the mouths a little open, feel their cumulative breath warm my arm. Some of the breathers' eyelids were twitching in anticipation of the alarm, some had fallen asleep moments ago, after making love. Some had left the radio on. The sun was coming up in the east, over Long Island. I went home and sat on the bed for an hour, then I called my friend. She was just waking up. “Guess what happened,” I said.