One Cold Morning



Scene Title One Cold Morning
Synopsis One single phone call is all it takes to discern the sum of all fears.
Date December 3, 2010

Hunter's Point Ruins

A foghorn sounds out across dimly lit shores of the Hudson river, a lonesome call echoing between buildings.

Just a few weeks ago, Hunter's Point was a thriving community. There were people living here, more so than the smoldering ruins of fire-ravaged tenement buildings and abandoned streets would attest to. The papers are calling it "little Midtown" not for the desolation or the abandonment, but for the sheer fact that it could possibly take years to rebuild Hunter's Point back to what it once was.

Standing in the shadow of the iconic Coca-Cola bottling plant sign that faces west to Manhattan, Amid Halebi shakily withdraws a cigarette from his mouth, staring off into the foggy waters of the Hudson under slate gray skies only just beginning to lighten with the coming of day. The leather jacket he wears does little to stave off the damp morning chill in the air, and smoke mixes with steam rising from his breath.

The vacant lot which once featured the Coca-Cola bottling factory is now further desolate by the lack of construction equipment once situated here. While the fires and riots could do not damage to this vacant lot, walling off Hunter's Point behind chain-link fencing meant that this abandoned stretch of coastal land would see no further development, not right now at any rate.

From the shore, Amid can see the broken and crumbling scar of Midtown, a jagged and blackened spot on the skyline where skeletal remainders of fire-gutted skyscrapers stretch up like grave markers into the sky. It makes his stomach turn. In that moment of disgust, Amid pinches his fingers around the filter of his cigarette, throwing it down to the frozen dirt beneath his feet, glittering with frost. No booted foot comes down to stamp the cigarette out, there's nothing left in Hunter's Point to worry about burning down.

Making his way to the shore, it is the telltale sound of a motorboat that catches Amid's attention, dark eyes darting through the fog until he can make out the silhouette of a small single-engine boat puttering its way through the chill waters. As the boat draws nearer through the fog, a brief flash of light shines out onto the shore, three quick applications of a flashlight as signal. Stepping over the metal guard rail at the edge of the lot, Amid begins his descent down the rocky, trash-laden shoreline towards the water, meeting up with where the boat now idles on the coast.

"Sabah al-khair," the boatman calls out as Amid draws closer, causing the darkly-dressed man to slowly stop just a few feet from the water, grunting disapprovingly.

"There's nothing good about it," Amid responds in English, less a code-phrase and more of a frustrated lament. He takes a few more shimmying steps towards the water's edge, then offers out a gloved hand towards the boatman who reaches out to meet Amid's hand half-way. With a hop forward and a tug from the man in the boat, Amid crosses the gap of frigid water, landing inside the tiny boat with a clunk of his boots and a slosh of the water outside as the vessel rocks from side to side.

"They do not usually call me," Amid admits with a glance over his shoulder to the scruffy man in the boat, watchman's cap pulled down low on his brow, coarse black beard thick across his face. "What do they want? Where are we going?" The boatman just laughs, shaking his head as he sits down at the back of the boat to man the motor again.

"They do not tell me these things," he admits reluctantly as the engine revs and the boat begins to pull away from the shore. Amid wobbles in standing, quickly dipping down to sit lest it pitch himself right out of the vessel. There a distrustful look shot briefly to the boatman, for all that the other man does not even care.

Hunching his shoulders forward, Amid squints against the fog, straining to see much of anything in front of where they're headed with no lights on to warn other ships of their coming and going. Wrapping his arms around himself and feeling the cold sea spray stinging his face, Amid Halebi turns to watch the faded red metal framework of the Coca-Cola sign begin to disappear into the fog, then soon the entire Queens shoreline.

"Ana aasif…" is something not said for anyone in the boat, but when the words slip past Amid's lips he knows to whom they belong. Closing his eyes, the engineer leans forward towards his knees and tries to stay as warm as possible against the freezing wind. He hopes that it will carry his apology, and perhaps by the time he is dead and gone, it will reach her ears.

Maybe by the time she grows old and joins him, she will have found it in her heart to forgive him for what he is going to do.

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