A short story

Over the past two weeks, I have allowed myself to fall into the habit of conversing at serious length with a new friend of mine, who happens to be a first year at my school, who ostensibly has no plans to move to New York. From this friend, I obtained this link to a short story from Jonathon Safran Foer.

The story's narrative voice is fairly similar to that of a myth, fable, or fairy tale. Characters are referenced by their most significant identifier, e.g. the jumper, the boy and the girl, etc. Their dialogue is earnest and without implicit guile. Everything described is just so.

The focus of this fable is a mythical "Sixth Borough" of Manhattan and how it came to disappear. Its disappearance is slow and only perceptible for the oddest and most debatable of reasons. In fact, one might say that it was a fluke that anything was noticed at all. However, once the disappearance is perceived, it becomes inevitable, despite all of the efforts of the people of Manhattan. Interestingly enough, the Sixth Borough is treated almost anthropomorphically; it is leaving because of some unknown motivation that is inscrutable to all involved. As it leaves, all that Manhattan retains of it is Central Park, which is placed in its heart, and the vaguest of circumstantial evidence that the Sixth Borough ever existed (which is of course, in Central Park).

The parallels between this story and a breakup are hard for me to avoid making. The inscrutability of the partner's reasons for leaving. The gradual dissolution of all evidence of the relation. The faintest memory residing only within the heart of the city. That the memory happens to be one of the few parts of the city that is alive seems to be a graceful way of describing how we grow from these experiences.

The linkage is made even more explicit by the one truly human part of the story, where a boy in the Sixth Borough and a girl in Manhattan, who are connected only by a pair of tin cans and a string that they must continually extend, are eventually forced to break off their relations because of the inevitability of the growing distance. Their one utterance of love is shut up in those tin cans, forever to be held on to, but never to be released.

I suppose it's only appropriate that this story come my way as I leave school, and I too have to face the inevitability of the distance that will come between me and all of the friends that I have made here. Hopefully someone else out there has a less melodramatic reading of it than I do, but that's what's on my mind these days. It was a very nice story. Thanks to my friend for pushing it my way.

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