There were horses once in Weequahic Park. I cannot fathom their rippling chassis charging around the now-paved half-mile oval, but this is true for many things Grandma Ruth recounted about old Newark. My deficient imagination. Or my mind trained to see the city as I found it—one riot worse for wear.
She always spoke of that grandstand. Just east of it, the lake she watched me walk onto one winter as it was iced and snowed over. Falling in was my first physics lesson. Her arms pulling me out, my first salvation—the first of many things we’d learn to keep between ourselves.
The lake displaces the race track in my memory’s map legend. Tap that spot: that’s where I almost slipped under.
Directly north from that point of recall, rising over the tree line, the brown-brick building where she lived. I can run there, I told her. Then begged her. Despite the specter of me watching from under the lake’s surface, she lets me trot the mile and half out the park and down Elizabeth Avenue—another thing between she and I. Her Thunderbird curbing every few blocks to ask you okay? A decade later, I’d be a cross country athlete, but she hadn’t seen the future. What she saw was my will—the same that almost got me drowned in the lake—and she’d let it run.