If the west bank of the Hudson were in high school, it wouldn’t be sitting in the front row raising its hand and calling out the answers. Or wearing an argyle sweater. It’d be lurking in the back of the room if it showed up at all, but it’d be just as likely to be smoking a cigarette at the Log. The west bank’s dad worked in the school and if you talked back to the west bank’s dad, the west bank would follow you home and kick your ass. The west bank learned to drive at 14. You know what? The east bank wouldn’t even be in the public school, it’d go to the Witherspoon Academy or someplace, and it would get chased home from the bus stop on the chauffer’s day off. Guidance counselors would think that the west bank was acting out because it was frightened of the pressure to hold back the water of the river and didn’t want to look weak – that it had built, in effect, a gigantic wall of basalt against weakness – but the west bank wouldn’t care less about the water and would look the guidance counselor defiantly in the eye and say something sarcastic in response to anything the guidance counselor said. And go back to playing Sabbath covers in its friend’s garage.
After graduation, though, the west bank of the Hudson would go into the landscaping business and would get to know all the cops by first name and would be able to build a solid deck, not to mention the house it attached to. It would enlist in the Army, maybe even get lucky and get a few recommendations together and go into officer’s training, or it might try a couple years of community college and open a no-nonsense bar, or apprentice to an electrician, or become a lawyer. It would marry the east bank of the Delaware and they’d have a canal together. And it would eventually run for office, something local, respectable, and win. One day, the west bank of the Hudson would look around and realize it was 18,000 years old, and maybe it had actually grown up some.
But when they got together to talk about the zoning laws over a good local beer and an ice-cold Riesling, the west bank of the Hudson would slap the loafered east bank of the Hudson on the back companionably, and the east bank would flinch, chuckle nervously, and make sure its glasses were still straight.