When I see Bob I always think of Dave, now dead four years.
As I would scull north on the Connecticut, just as the view of Hartford closed from the bend in the river, I would turn my head, look upstream, and see the glimmer of Bob’s wooden shell making its way downstream. Dave would always be following a length behind.
The way the blades of the oars arc over the river toward the bow of a scull, it’s like a great bird in flight, just skimming the surface of the water.
Sometimes I would cross over the river toward the west bank of the river, just below Bob and Dave, row to them at a diagonal, and race. I could never catch Bob, but I could often match Dave stroke for stroke for at least a mile, but then I would fade. I looked over my shoulder and watched them disappear downstream.
Five years ago Dave started to slow down. I mentioned this to him on the dock after I had beaten him there.
“He has lung cancer,” Bob whispered in my ear.
A few weeks later the sculling season ended and Dave never returned to the river.
This morning I watched Bob pass me alone downstream as I sculled north. I did not cross over. An hour later when I reached the dock, Bob was long gone, his scull already carried up to the boathouse and stored away.
I stood on the dock and watched two Great Blue Herons gliding south just above the surface of the river. They both turned right in tandem, headed to me, turned again, and continued north, disappearing from my view.