The Blue Island

by Arthur Chertowsky

When I was a young boy living in a series of dark, hot, brick apartment buildings in Brooklyn, New York, I looked forward to the occasional trip to the suburbs on Long Island, or to “the country,” as we called it then, to visit my father’s brother, his wife, who was my favorite aunt, and their two grown children, a son and daughter who were young adults living out of the house at that point but who returned for family gatherings. I didn’t spend much time in the comfortable, modest house with the grown-ups, but in the backyard, sitting with my thoughts beneath a willow tree, or on the stone steps leading up to the front of the house, where I could hear the whooshing sounds of traffic from a distant highway while I closely inspected and was transported by the beauty of my aunt’s multicolor hydrangeas: pink, purple, and my favorites, the blue. While the garden of hydrangeas was my favorite place to be on these visits, my second favorite place was my cousin Anna-Lynn’s old bedroom, preserved as it was when she was still living at home, with a glass showcase filled with dolls of all nations in their native dress, as colorful and beckoning as the hydrangeas. A number of tragedies struck my uncle’s family while I was still young, leaving him without his wife and daughter. Anna-Lynn’s brother bravely carved out a life for himself and had a happy family of his own, though he remained somewhat haunted by the untimely passings of his mother and sister. In my twenties, I dreamt I’d returned to their old house in the suburbs, everything in it covered in white sheets, everywhere the whisper of distant traffic, and on the front lawn a new addition, a swing, upon which sat Anna-Lynn, in a sea of blue hydrangeas.

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Arthur Chertowsky still lives, and sometimes writes, in a hot, brick building in Brooklyn, NY.