I’ve taken the route between home and my office five days each week, times fifty-two weeks per year, times seven years , not counting weekends, or special events, or mad dashes home to see if I failed to turn off the burner under the coffee. Yesterday I swooped around a familiar curve and slowed, staring. I considered pulling to the curb, but decided that my intrusion would be unwelcome, so I continued north.
But the sight of a woman sitting at a bus stop on the little seat of her walker still haunts me. Her grey hair lay flat against her small head, brushed a hundred times. A pressed collar hugged a frail neck, tightly buttoned beneath a cardigan. I saw my mother. My sister. Myself.
A block further north, in the long stretch of parkway, two men sat on a bench. They looked like missing pieces of an urban landscape, one with withered pale skin, one with smooth skin black as night. I watched a hand lift, gesturing. Twin smiles beamed from their worn faces. I saw my father, my brother, my son.
By the bike stand on the Plaza, a pair of young girls darted in front of my car with tennis bags over their shoulders. The fresh blush of summer youth shone from their bodies. I shook my head. I judged their age at nineteen or twenty. I did not recognize the styles they wore. Nothing about their demeanor resonated with me. But one turned her head just as she reached the curb and dazzled me with a grin and the quick flick of a thankful hand.
The light turned; I started forward. A siren’s wail stopped my passage. Four cars slammed through the intersection, lights blazing, wheels swerving. My hand lifted in a long-remembered cross. A mumbled prayer escaped my lips right before the fifth car barreled passed. When my heart quit pounding, I followed the other cars through the intersection with only a small wince of fear pulsing through my veins.
My little car eased to the curb and I cut the silent motor, safe at work. I sat, just for a few minutes, watching the morning coffee hunters light and circle the doors of the Broadway Cafe. They came out clutching cups against their chest. I shook my head, then slid from the driver’s seat, grabbing my bag, settling my feet firm against the asphalt. Another day began.
It’s the third day of the forty-fourth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.