(2002) In Rome, month upon month, I struggled with how to structure the book about my father (He already had the water, he just had to discover jars). At one point I laid each chapter out on the terrazzo floor, eighty-three in all, arranged them like the map of an imaginary city. Some of the piles of paper, I imagined, were freestanding buildings, some were clustered into neighborhoods, and some were open space. On the outskirts, of course, were the tenements--abandoned, ramshackled. The spaces between the piles were the roads, the alleyways, the footpaths, the rivers. The bridges to other neighborhoods, the bridges out...In this way I could get a sense if one could find their way through the book, if the map I was creating made sense, if it was a place one would want to spend some time in. If one could wander there, if one could get lost.
I told her I loved the howling sound of her harmonica. That seemed to be the limit of my courage that night, and even those spoken words had to struggle their way out of my mouth. It's all very well for words to build bridges, but sometimes I think it's a matter of knowing when to do it. Knowing when the time's right.
So he bought tickets to the Greyhound and they climbed, painfully, inch by inch and with the knowledge that, once they reached the top, there would be one breath-taking moment when the car would tip precariously into space, over an incline six stories steep and then plunge, like a plunging plane. She buried her head against him, fearing to look at the park spread below. He forced himself to look: thousands of little people and hundreds of bright little stands, and over it all the coal-smoke pall of the river factories and railroad yards. He saw in that moment the whole dim-lit city on the last night of summer; the troubled streets that led to the abandoned beaches, the for-rent signs above overnight hotels and furnished basement rooms, moving trolleys and rising bridges: the cagework city, beneath a coalsmoke sky.