Why Fugitive Umbrellas?

Why “Fugitive Umbrellas?”

In 2000, I lived in Jersey City during a phase of my life where I had a whole lot of things but the things I actually wanted. This was just a few months before the Twin Towers were destroyed, before twenty-year old me ended up on the last train into the World Trade Center from Jersey City on a day that probably has affected more than I realize now. But at the time, I was innocently miserable, but I didn’t actually really know that life could be different. I took my joys in the small things, like watching the surly Hudson River churn along during a rainstorm. 

Moving to the New York metro area was a dream come true for a kid from a small Rust Belt town who would have never caught a break otherwise. I was commuting to a job in an office at a publishing company, and I felt like a child in a grown up’s body, except not really, because even though I was 20/21, I still looked about 15/16 years old. I was in a stable but toxic relationship with someone who really wanted a maid and a mother rather than a lover, as if either of us were old enough to know what a lover really was, or a partner, or a commitment.


I had never experienced wind like you do when you’re close to the coast. It gets windy in New York/New Jersey, especially near the river. Windier than Chicago. And during these rainstorms, people would try — in vain — to open and keep open an umbrella, and keep it in their possession. I liked watching umbrellas struggle, flail, and squirm away from their masters and go flying to freedom into the river, like fugitives making a break for it.

Some of those umbrellas never got further than the railing along Exchange Place. Some sank. Some were tossed and carried by the water far away. But once in a while, one really got airborne and flew up like magic.

I sent with every free umbrella a wish for myself.

Some moments, I watched and waited and anticipated the moment that some middle class stiff lost grip of his umbrella and it was gone, wondering if I could compress and crystallize desire and make it move, as if there was such a thing as telekinesis, and that movement really is a function of the will and not circumstance.

It would take me quite a few years to realize that that’s kind of true.

I don’t know what happened to my fugitive umbrellas, but I do know that wishes I sent with them landed in places far away, burrowed in the ground like seeds that grew into blossoms of the most amazing colors.

And for all I know, those umbrellas are still gone, carrying some of those wishes for me now, still waiting to land in places far away.