Bruce died seventeen years ago today. It was in the middle of the night, about three-thirty or four o’clock, and his mom and dad, aunt and uncle and I traipsed up to Mt. Sinai one last time to bear witness. Naturally the hospital was quiet that early in the morning. I remember our shoes clicking on the polished floor as we walked down the silent, empty hallway. Like a team of secret agents. No one spoke.
We left the hospital and went across the street to a little coffee shop a couple blocks down on the southeast corner of Madison and Ninety-seventh. There, we squeezed into a booth in the back corner. Why? It couldn’t have been very busy. Everyone ordered coffee. I was hungry. Even in the moment I wondered if it would seem weird if I ate something right then. I’m astonished I had an appetite.
While the four adults made plans (that’s how it felt that morning; I was very much a kid sitting at the table while the grownups sorted things out) I ate a toasted plain bagel with cream cheese and tomato. The tomato was red but kind of mealy. The bagel, though, was warm and crunchy and a blob of cheese melted out of the sides when I took a bite. It was delicious.
I still find it odd that I can conjure up such a vivid image of that bagel when so many other details from that particular April 18 are lost. Funny, the things we remember.