Sackett Street

{Note: I have been posting in the chronology of the writing, so that the posts have appeared later than the actual time of composition.  However, for this post I am ignoring that chronology in favor of thematic consistency  by putting out a post written only a week or so ago because it picks up the reference in the last post to the time Carol and I shared in the Brooklyn of the 80s.

I apologize if my attempt at clarity only leads to confusion.}

Late afternoon.  It will be dark soon as we crawl toward winter.  We’ve already had two or three light snows, but today the temperature is in the 50s.  Back from my Tuesday lunch during which, at my suggestion, we discussed the options available to me as the lease on my Nissan Altima soon expires.  I professed my love for the latest gadgets available in the newest models, an argument against deciding to purchase my current lease car.  It was pleasant to talk about something, which in any serious way, is not consequential.

The tentacles of the past continue to wrap around me.  In truth, I do not fight too hard to free myself from them.  So to do would place me in the immediate present facing an unknown, and unknowable future.  In that respect, reminders from the past, though still painful, serve some useful purpose.

The one that just intruded itself into my consciousness came from a review of a new Thai restaurant.  I came upon the review while skimming through the headlines on the online version of the Times.

I am not particularly a connoisseur of Thai cooking.  I believe the last time I had Thai food years ago I suffered an allergic reaction.  So the ethnicity of the food did not attract me to the review.

The location of the restaurant did.

It is in Carrol Gardens in Brooklyn.

On Smith Street.

Not far from Sackett Street.

Where Carol rented her apartment while working and finishing her undergraduate degree in the Gallatin program at New York University.

Sackett Street, a short hop from Brooklyn Heights where we would sometimes dine at a café on Montague Street.  We delighted in starting our meal with dessert, usually chocolate mousse, and then a cocktail.  After eating, we would walk down Montague Street and onto the Promenade and find a bench.  There we could gaze across the East River to the Manhattan skyline, see the World Trade Center towers, and to our north the ancient grandeur of the Brooklyn Bridge.  The promenade would usually be busy with joggers, bicyclists, parents pushing strollers, people walking and talking, or listening to the music in the headphones attached to their walkmans, that ancient device that played the even more ancient cassette tapes.

Those were hectic times.  I was working full time, but also teaching overload courses, and adjuncting at Empire State College. Carol was finishing her BA degree and working at the handicapped desk in NYU’s library.

In a year or two, she would finish her degree, join me out on Long Island, marry me, and together we would buy a house and start our family while she completed  her JD at Touro Law School.  She was eight months pregnant when she graduated.

All of that was to come.

But the time on Sackett Street remains prominent in our—I should say my—memory.  And in my memory, I recall how fondly Carol spoke of that neighborhood in my hometown of Brooklyn, how she felt comfortable, being looked after by the Italian grandmothers sitting out on their stoops, calling her a good girl and  keeping an eye on her as she went to school and came home from work, and how once in her hurry she left her key in the front door and it was still there when she came home.  And that memory also brings back to me my connection to the place I had left so many years ago, the whole experience serving as the basis for my poem , “A Street in Brooklyn,” celebrating how our backgrounds came together.

In Brooklyn.

On Sackett Street.

So long ago.

A tendril from the past that clutches me in its grip, causing pain at what has been lost but also sending a warm breeze of memory.

[“A Street in Brooklyn” is the published excerpt from the much longer and unpublished “The Gulls’ Sweetly Banked Flight.” Read MS version here.

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