Friday, November 14, 2008

Stuck Between Stations

I clocked out, walked downstairs to the locker rooms and changed from slacks to jeans, uniform jacket to black concert shirt, working man to resting man. Alone, I sat down on the floor with my back against my closed locker and listened to a few tracks from The Hold Steady's Boys And Girls In America. There's a magic in that album that I think will always resonate in my tired but hopeful heart, no matter my age or place in this life. It sets a mood for me that both relaxes and pumps. Its songs' rich narratives make me that much more attentive to my immediate surroundings, as if I can feel around me the songs and stories in every little thing.

Settled and soothed, I made my way out the back doors to the parking lot. My sometimes operable I-think-I-can vehicle, old and all by itself, awaited my hands, feet and butt. It has no radio, looks its age and should have been traded years ago, but when it runs it sure beats walking. I lowered the window, opened the sun roof and drove home feeling the night air wisp softly against my face.

It's a different feeling now to make this drive. After so many months of either riding home with friends or walking the six miles alone, it's both empowering and lonely. I think of my friend who died so recently and suddenly. I was honored to be his passenger all of those nights, to receive the kind generosity of his friendship. He had a long drive home each night, but was always happy to add a few minutes to his commute to help me out. We'd listen to late night AM radio and talk about topics ranging from UFOs to Obama. Some nights we'd talk about work and other nights we'd hardly say a word to each other. Anyway, I miss him. Obviously.

Tonight, more tuned in than usual to the details of my surroundings, I saw so many people walking down Elm Hill Pike. I've walked it, too. While I make the best of it and think of how healthy a good two hour walk can be, the truth is that it sucks to be a pedestrian on a pedestrian unfriendly road so late at night. Between the inattentive or angry drivers and the unsure footing, it's just not safe. Between McGavock Pike and Bell Road, I saw four different walkers tonight. All with their own story. All who could probably relate with those strugglers and yearners in any song by The Hold Steady or Bruce Springsteen.

The scariest though was the last one that I just barely saw. As I made my way eastbound crossing the bridge over I-40, I was shocked to make sight of someone walking westbound in the other lane. This person seemed to be walking dangerously on the white line. A westbound driver would have to really be paying attention to avoid tragedy. That quick glimpse reminded me of just how quickly everything can go wrong in just one second. Sure enough, here came a car, heading westward. I checked my mirror as the driver passed. I couldn't see much, but I didn't notice brake lights or swerving. All was well, I trust.

As I crossed the dam a few minutes later, a car was pulled over by police right on a curve. Neither car was completely to the right and I had to pass very slowly and cautiously. The trip home actually started with me stuck behind one car and then another, both of which were driving very slowly (like 20 m.p.h. in a 35 m.p.h. zone) before turning off to other roads. It just made for a curiously strange night I suppose, as if my pace was not mine to control.

Elm Hill Pike. It's not quite Suess's Mulberry Street, but it's mine. Some nights I drive it, some nights I walk it. I don't think I'll ever get up the courage to bike it. Anyway, I'm home now and wishing everyone safety and warmth. Thanks for reading.


monstermash said...

Enjoyed your share...
Hope your car continues to bring you home safely.

chez bez said...

Thanks. So far so good.

Stacie said...

That's a long walk, I'm glad you made it home safely all those nights you had to make it. What a great reminder to be more careful at night, you don't usually expect people to be walking so late on the busier roads like that and it can be scary to come upon them suddenly like that.

I'm so sorry about your friend.

Holly said...

You're kicking my tail with your writing lately, in the most heart-rendingly beautiful kind of way.

peach said...

I hope your car keeps plugging along. And I'm with you, don't have the stomach for biking Elm Hill. Don't have that much of a death wish. :)