Crime of the Heart
A violent episode witnessed in childhood evokes powerful mysteries about the nature of love and death.
Desire is a question to which there is no answer, yet much of the time it's the only question that matters. "Love . . . makes one little room, an everywhere," wrote John Donne. Death, in its not-so-different way, does the same. The place of one's final heartbeat is immense, or so it seemed to me at age eight when I inadvertently became sole witness to a murder.
I was throwing a rubber ball against a cracked beach wall on my dead-end street in Rockaway, an improbable spit of coastland on the eastern edge of New York City. It was November 1961, and Rockaway was still in a state of ruin two months after a drenching hurricane. A couple drove up in a nail-polish-red Impala hardtop. They parked facing the ocean, about twenty feet from me, and at first seemed like any number of couples who made the short trip across the
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