Rochester’s Ghosts

I almost drown once.  Fifteen years ago in Canandaigua Lake.  Dead-blue night, the moon hiding behind pale cloudstreams.  I slipped through cold waves, letting my hair flow from me like sunlight onto the shifting surface.  I pulsed with the waves, my heart beating outside of my chest.  Then something tugged at my lungs.  Inhale.  Water biting my face and neck.  Exhale.  Limbs hardening to stone.  Inhale.  My lungs filled with tar, and I fell through the waves.  Once below, instant calm, middle-of-the-universe-between-dark-and-dark calm.  Underneath the strange ceiling, I remember seeing the moon, a single eye in Summer sky, winking me to my death.  But I didn’t die.

This peaceful undying, this is what it felt like leaving Rochester.

Driving over 490’s scarred pavement, glancing Rochester’s skyline blur in my rearview, I felt something crack inside.  For thirty-five years I lived and breathed that peculiar air, and then I found myself slipping away from it.  Drowning underneath a different sky.

I’m not sure precisely when they started, maybe as I passed the Manitou Rd. exit, where I grew up.  I began to hear them, the voices of long-dead days.  Autumn winds winding through cornfields at dusk.  Harleys burning down East Ave. after midnight.  The still quiet of overly-sweetened earl grey in winter.  The clatter of students after class.  Inches of ice melting slowly off dead branches.  Memories of my Rochester.

So why choose to slip underneath the surface and leave?  I guess the growing echoes in the vacuum of my heart began to scare me.  I’ve been so used to opening my center to the tides of the world, I almost didn’t hear those chambers fill with nothingness.  I need to find a mirror, see what’s really inside, and open the passages again to light.


7 Responses to “Rochester’s Ghosts”

  1. Laurie Perry Says:


    This is so sad, and yet at the same time beautiful. your words have always touched my soul. However I hope I read to much into this, have you left Rochester for good?

  2. Paul H. Strassner Says:

    Hey Teach, I hope all is going well for you in Salukiland. I’ll be checking out your blog; very cool so far. I do want to tip you off about a song you may like that I am sure you have never heard of. It has to do with something you mentiioned in class one day about having to spend some time in a closet (not to bring up bad memories). The song is called “Peephole” by Sammy Hagar. It is on his Cosmic Universal Fashion CD which came out a few years ago. It was his last solo CD before Chickenfoot. Anyways, I was playing the CD the other day and I remebered what you said in class. Take Care

  3. You have accomplished what so few people have in this world. You escaped from the life in which people expected from you and chose to create your own world…the checkerboard…it always leads back to the checkerboard.

  4. Tony, so sad but beautiful! I recall the the lake story very vividly as I read it….I hope you find what your in search of. Your family and Rochester will always be here. Your new found experiences and with it growth in life are something you can always take with your no matter where you are. I look forward in following you in your new endeavours in life . LOVE YOU LISA

  5. Wancarlos P.S. Says:

    man oh man…

    I wish i could tell you to come back. but i cant, because if you came back too early, you’d feel empty teaching me, so im glad you left, because it means that the most “human”-human that i’ve ever met will come back, or at least live through me while i strive to be a real person.

    by the way..I choose Tyler Durden over Neo or even darth vader in a brawl

  6. i envy you. I don’t know what i would be saying goodbye to if i left. I have never had a place of my own to call home. Home to me is whatever four walls are holding me in at any given moment. I hope with time i will find my true place in life, even thou it seems to change with every sunset. Places are just hallow holes to fill temporarily, never met to hold to much at once. So i think a person needs to keep moving, it’s the ones that don’t that get caught up in a falsehood of contentment with their life’s, so stay focused. One can never go wrong when being true to themselves.
    – Wancarlos, by the way my 7year old son would strongly disagree with you about your “brawl”, but he does think master star killer is stronger.

  7. Hi Tony,

    Thank you for your first entry; still catching up with the rest, a brief glance tells me I will be back . Dying, shedding, and “Peaceful undying” , that is a life long process. I admire your courage and hope that the opening continues! Peace, Sumati

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