Later in the night’s starry hours, chill now with the breath of fall and damp with Atlantic wind, I stood on the beach alone. It was silent here, and save for the blazing stars, enfoldingly dark; bizarre spires and minarets. Gothic roofs, baroque towers loomed in spindly silhouette against the city’s afterglow. The tallest of those towers, a spiderlike gantry with cables flowing from its peak, was the parachute jump, and it was from the highest parapet of that dizzying contraption that I had heard Sophie’s peals of laughter as she sank earthward with Nathan- falling in joy at the summer’s beginning, which now seemed eons ago.
It was then that the tears finally spilled forth- not maudlin drunken tears, but tears which, beginning on the train ride from Washington, I had tried manfully to resist and could resist no longer, having kept them so bottled up that now, almost alarmingly, they drained out in warm rivulets between my fingers. It was, of course, the memory of Sophie and Nathan’s long-ago plunge that set loose this flood, but it was also a letting go of rage and sorrow for the many others who during these past months had battered at my mind and now demanded my mourning: Sophie and Nathan, yes, but also Jan and Eva- Eva with her one eyed mis- and Eddie Farrell, and Bobby Weed, and my young black savior Artiste, and Maria Hunt, and Nat Turner, and Wanda Muck-Horch van Kretschmann, who were but a few of the beaten and butchered and betrayed and martyred children of the earth. I did not weep for the six million Jews or the two million Poles or the one million Serbs or the five million Russians- I was unprepared to weep for all humanity- but I did weep for these others who in one way or another had become dear to me, and my sobs made an unashamed racket across the abandoned beach; then I had no more tears to shed, and I lowered myself to the sand on legs that suddenly seemed strangely frail and rickety for a man of twenty-two.
And slept. I had abominable dreams- which seemed to be a compendium of all the tales of Edgar Allan Poe: myself being split in twain by monstrous mechanisms, drowned in a whirling vortex of mud, being immured in stone and, most fearsomely, buried alive. All night long I had the sensation of helplessness, speechlessness, an inability to move or cry out against the inexorable weight of earth as it was flung in thud-thud-thuding rhythm against my rigidly paralyzed, supine body, a living cadaver being prepared for burial in sands of Egypt. The desert was bitterly cold.
When I awoke it was early morning. I lay looking straight up at the blue-green sky with its translucent shawl of mist; like a tiny orb of crystal, solitary and serene, Venus shone through the haze above the quiet ocean. I heard children chattering nearby. I stirred, “Izzy, he’s awake!” “G’wan, yah mutha’s mustache!” “Fuuu-ck you!” Blessing my resurrection, I realized that the children had covered me with sand, protectively, and that I lay as safe as a mummy beneath this fine, enveloping overcoat.
‘Neath cold sand I dreamed of death
but woke at dawn to see
in glory, the bright, the morning star.
This was not judgment day- only morning. Morning: excellent and fair.