New York City, July 4, 2017
★★★★ Figures bustled on balconies in muted light. Then the day clarified and the sky became thin blue, empty over empty sidewalks. The plan had been to take the subway to the bookstore, but in the space of the first few steps toward the station, the children agreed to an about-face and a fifteen-block stroll instead. People stood separate and individual in their compact midday shadows, never cohering into a crowd. With a bag full of books, the walk back lost its appeal; a downtown train arrived at once, and the air conditioning on it was working tolerably well. Up on the street a tall, lean man and a short, broad-shouldered one drifted closer together as they reached a corner, their shadows clasping hands a moment before they themselves did. Clouds came back to break up the afternoon sun. The five-year-old blasted a tennis ball, bright and springy from a newly opened can, wide right and all the way over the top of the 15-foot playground fence. It rolled across the driveway there and into the shrubbery, a dozen yards or three sides of a block away. After the trek across the playground, up the street, down the avenue, and into the apartment complex, it took some searching to find it glimmering in the darkness of the plantings. A moment of wind and gray came on, a half-made threat of rain quickly abandoned. New blurry clouds caught the western sun on their soft edges, then were replaced by a denser sheet, but one with daggers of sun poking through it and more sun glowing past its far edge, the daylight irrepressible. Routinely spectacular colors spread—a gold glow going over to lilac, a stroke of red in the middle of darkening purple-gray. A huge patch of brightness appeared near the top of the mirrored tower across the avenue. It was the color of the moon, but it seemed too big and too powerfully lit. Then it faded for a moment, exactly as the moon fades when a cloud crosses it. A quick trip down the elevator and out to Broadway revealed the moon directly, gibbous and high up. The clouds around were now the color of ivory, now the color of smoke, against a sky still uncertain between day and night.