A row of waves—perhaps a foot trough to crest—glides toward the shore at India Point, and then the water of at the mouth of the Providence River is calm again. Under a clear sky at dusk the sea looks wine-dark, just as Homer said. Those immense, now-smokeless smokestacks at Fox Point are like the remaining teeth in a comb mostly broken. Where liners to New York, Baltimore, and ports south used to load and unload, now rotted stubs of a pier stick up out of the water.
Couples sit on benches facing the sunset. Couples stroll abreast, hand in hand. Couples pick their way over the rocks at the water’s edge. Two women sit on a blanket on the grass with a picnic and and two beers propped against a basket. A family—mom and dad with not-yet-teen children—walks by, and in the darkening air the voluminous scent of cologne trails them. Is that the man or the woman? I wonder. One pair, twenty-somethings, is tense, arguing. I hear the woman say to her bearded companion, “Honestly,…,” and her tone rises at the end of the word. Any sentence beginning that way can’t be good. A large African-American woman with a crutch on one arm and a leash to a little white dog on the other makes eye contact with me and grins. “Hi,” she says, and I exchange the greeting. We both smile at the dog, and I walk on.
A gangling collegian with a mop of curly hair lopes by, not fast. He wears a long-sleeved tee shirt, a pair of gym shorts, and sneakers, a low-cost outfit. I might have been him thirty-five years ago, or he might be me thirty-five years from now. He alone is alone among those I encounter. I too am alone, but in these surroundings I am comfortable enough with one-ness not to have even thought about it until the runner passed by.
Dusk continues to deepen, and I notice a manhole cover. Round like any other, the disk is textured like the inside of a chambered nautilus, ridges and valleys of iron in outward—or is it inward?—spirals. Lamps atop the park’s posts have not yet come on. Everything except the city lights across the river gets harder to see. The whorls of metal are like a turning wheel, and it reminds me of the bike wheels I have in the trunk of the car. Parked near the end of Hope Street, the car had just carried me and the tires to a service station to pump them up. Tomorrow, I said, I am going to use those wheels.
In a new town for a little over a month, I might have expected to feel isolated or lonely. But that sense stayed at bay. At the moment, I have a sense of peace and connection with my surroundings. Perhaps it’s because my wife will be coming into town in a couple of days, and my son as well will be here. It will be his first time to be in Providence and see the apartment and hang out with his parents in a completely new environment. For him the weirdness factor may be too much. I am excited they are coming, and this alone time in a waterfront park is a happy moment in part because of what I anticipate.