Author : Benjamin A. Friedman

Roland and Martine enjoyed their Diamond Anniversary gondola ride down 5th Avenue towards the Old Village, sitting together in comfortable quiet as their oarsman, a Latin-American boy named Robert, strained again the azure sea.

The water level was low this summer – the lowest level on record, and entrance platforms were for the first time hovering in front of building facades long-weathered by flood waters, reinforced by ugly titanium-reinforced girders rising up from the depths below — meant on most days to be unseen — forgotten.

It was a calm day over all, just a few sky-cars swimming lazily through the airways above, a slow stream of pedestrian traffic darkening the umbilical tube passages between skyscrapers. The Freedom Tower ahead looked like a porcupine for all its wild extensions outward towards other buildings. A contemplative porcupine.

Roland and Martine were old enough to remember it all — the city without its fibrous forest of sky-ways, the city street hard and firm underfoot, the vagrant and the rich man, walking side by side in a chaotic bustle unimaginable in this day and age. Of course, no one lived in want anymore. None of America’s 47 million citizens wanted for anything — health-care, food, education — unless they chose to self-deprive…or refused to work, depending on their status.

“Look, Martine–” said Roland, suddenly, with great excitement, “it’s the café where we had our first date!”

Martine knit her brow in consternation. It had been such a pleasant day to this point; no troubling moments on this front, whatsoever. Roland’s Alzheimer’s was in remission again, and the doctors had assured her they could keep it that way this time for good. A 75th anniversary gift if there ever was one.

So what could he possibly be talking about?

“I’m serious, my love…right down there, look!” he said.

Roland pointed and Martine stared into the waters beside the gondola.

She remembered well how silty and awful those waters were in the years after the third Levee system gave out. Like a pool of blood and bile, pooled at the feet of the once great city she grew up in.

But now, shockingly, there was calm, and the sun was shining in a cross-beam through the forest of skyscrapers and spider web of connecting beams — and there, forty feet below them, she saw it. And she looked at Roland and whispered–

“Happy anniversary my love.”

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