When my son was still in elementary school, the Army Corps of Engineers convinced the powers that be in Kansas City that major changes should be made in the path of Main Street as it crossed the Plaza. The purpose of this work somehow related to the storm sewer called Brush Creek. It might have also impacted the flow of traffic south of the Plaza in the neighborhood of one of the City’s more influential Catholic parishes. The reasoning no longer matters.
What matters now is what resulted. Instead of Main Street stretching from the river to Waldo and beyond, it empties into another road, Brookside Blvd., with its sweeping curbs and lovely homes. Main Street itself resumes on the other side of Brush Creek as a pitiful, small, ill-kept version of itself before the block where Visitation Church sits. Beyond that, new islands have been constructed which cause the little remaining traffic to slow to an aggravating crawl.
Like most everyone in the city, I use Brookside Blvd. to travel to and from everywhere in Mid-town. It no longer surprises; it has become commonplace. I drive without much thought, making the curves, arriving home with little recollection of what I have passed.
But recently something has caught my eye.
On a stone bench at about 53rd, on the west side of the Blvd., a couple sits each evening. I started seeing them several weeks ago but really noticed them last Friday. The woman wears the traditional headscarf of a devout Muslim, though not a full burka. I’ve researched the seven types of Muslim head-dress, and I’ve concluded that it is a hijab.
The rest of her attire consists of long-sleeved tops and ankle-length skirts, or so it appears at 35 miles per hour, late in the day, when my eyes no longer focus quite clearly. The man appears to be wearing nondescript Western attire, shirts and slacks. Neither wear much color; they both seem dark, somewhat drab, and unmemorable.
Except for this: Every time I see them, the woman is talking on a cell phone, and the man is gazing listlessly in the distance.
They wait at a Metro-bus stop. A handbag sits on the concrete slab on which their bench is situated. The two sit close, touching, the man’s arms folded on his knees, her idle arm lying quietly in her own lap. Neither smiles. From my car, in the brief seconds that it takes me to drive by them, they appear Middle-Eastern but they could just as easily be any ethnicity, really; the glimpses I have had of them do not clearly tell me either way.
Today as I drove down Brookside Blvd, they sat in the same place. The man had a grocery bag; the woman, her customary pocket-book. She held her cell-phone to the side of her head, over her veil. She closed her eyes, briefly, and rolled her neck the way one does after a long, boring day at one’s desk, in front of a computer screen.
I felt a sudden sense of luxury, traveling south in my inherited 2007 Prius, with the dashboard indicator telling me that I’m getting 44.8 miles to the gallon, and four empty spots, where others might ride, surrounding me. I turned off the radio and traveled the rest of the way home in silence.