Every morning, during my walk to work across the East River, a man would be standing on the bridge conjuring bubbles. I never saw such fantastic bubbles. He produced them by dipping a loop of string at the end of a long wand into a bucket of his own secret concoction. Then he’d lift his wand up to the breeze and watch the bubbles fill and grow exactly like living things.
Then, woosh–there each would go! Lifting into the sky, undulating like crazy. Bending the morning sunlight into spherical rainbows.
Out across the sparkling river the bubbles flew. The bubble man and I got to know each other after awhile and we’d make preposterous bets.
“I bet it makes it to the next bridge. That’s got to be at least a quarter mile,” I offered with a smile.
“Farther ‘n that. I had one go all the way to those roofs, over by that silver building.”
“You could actually see it that far away?”
“It was a big one. I saw it pop.”
Most of the time the man just silently conjured bubbles, and we two would stand on the bridge watching them birth and take flight. Some burst too soon. The duration of their flight seemed completely unpredictable.
The ever-shining river welcomed bubbles along its endless path. Our backs were to the rushing cars.
I’d slip a few dollars into the man’s hat when he wasn’t looking. I always meant to ask him if there was anything he needed.
“Check this one out!” Holding his wand above the river, he suddenly became enthusiastic. An impossibly gigantic bubble filled with the wind’s breath, taking form. Somehow, without bursting, the quivering globe launched from his upraised wand.
It must have been a world record. It was at least six feet in diameter. The conditions must have been exactly right. The living bubble rose into the sky and floated on the unseen wind out over the river. Its changing colors were fantastically vivid.
The once-in-a-lifetime bubble rose and rose and rose, became smaller and smaller as it vanished down the river. We stood very quietly and watched.
One morning I passed over the bridge and the man was gone. I never did ask his name.