and another thing

I was taking the 26 north when I first ran into her. And I do mean 'ran into her.' The bus started moving and I wasn't holding on. I smiled and said I was sorry, and held on to the rail; but it wasn't enough. She started yelling at me. At first she was calling me careless, but she wasn't sure why she was angry--did she think I was just trying to cop a feel, or did she think I was merely clumsy and inconsiderate? But after a few sentences, her ire was no longer directed at me. Weeks, if not months or years, of pent-up frustration were being vented at me. She couldn't hold it in anymore.

I kept smiling at her, even as she started to lose inertia, and the anger faded into a sort of mad desperation. I don't think she was even looking at me. By the time we'd turned onto Latona she'd stopped. It was her stop, apparently. She glared at me one last time, her eyes on the verge of tears. I handed her a slip of paper with my number. "Let me buy you a drink some time."


something wrong

She was hurting and I could tell, but I didn't ask. It's not that I didn't care, but that I never ask 'is something wrong?' I never insist that people tell me their secrets. Anyway, I could tell. Some things you don't need to ask about. So instead, I smiled, I tried to make her laugh. But I couldn't ask, I couldn't find out. Maybe she knew or guessed I wanted her to feel better. I'll never know.



At first the road that led here was poorly maintained, overgrown with weeds, trees encroaching on the side, infested with rocks. You wanted a clear path, so I cleared it out. I cleaned up the rocks, I smoothed out the rough parts of the trail, killed the weeds, cut down encroaching branches. And I lovingly maintained it, making sure that the road stayed in a beautiful condition. But you were never satisfied with the dirt road. You asked for gravel.

So I bought enough gravel to cover our road, and laid it out. Still I would go out to maintain the road when I could, smoothing out the washboards, clearing out large rocks. And there was always more gravel to apply, when the rest had been too packed down, or simply scattered through use. It cost me, but I was glad to keep the road up for you. For a while our gravel road made you happy, but in time you seemed dissatisfied.

I paved it for you. You didn't ask me to, but I knew you would be happiest if our gravel became asphalt. Come winter I would shovel the road, hoping to stave off potholes, to keep the roads from becoming slick. It always did, eventually. And the potholes always came in the spring. It was no matter--I maintained them as I could, filling them with more pavement--there was no problem that couldn't be solved with more time, more resources.

The years went by and the road started to crumble. My back went stiff, my joints wouldn't move. The work got harder and the condition got worse. It was fine for now, but I could see the cracks, the holes, building up, and what could I do about it but hope it wouldn't atrophy? And then you asked me if I remembered our little dirt road.

Yes, I said, I remember it. It was a good little road.