Sunday, October 9, 2011

Where the Sidewalk Doesn't End

by Besty Harvey, MCRP '12

The road that ran past his house led into town. Running up that hill he would pass a white clapboard congregational church. He’d recall the Christmas services there – walking with his children on all those cold Christmas Eves – and as they would enter the church he would look up at the stars and thank God. He wasn’t sure that he believed in God, but on such a night – well, he felt blessed.

There was a small coffee shop on Main Street, too. He used to liked to sit next to the window that looked out on the street full of people and correct his students’ papers or develop the next week’s curriculum. And he would slowly pad along the sidewalk by the coffee shop, wondering what the students sitting by the window thought of an aging man jogging by.

His head would tilt toward the pavement, especially as he ran up hills. He’d watch his feet and count to the rhythm. “One . . . two . . . one . . . two.” They were the same words he’d forced himself to repeat in his head as he’d struggled along the lonely, forested road that wound through Acadia National Park. That had been his first marathon. When he ran his mind would sometimes be drawn back into the cavernous darkness when he’d thought the pain could not get worse.

But then he’d remember the finish – his children cheering for him even though he had finished in the back. And he’d pick up his pace just slightly.

He would pause at an intersection. A car would stop and wave him through. People are so nice here, he’d think. He would miss that.

Maine will be nice, he’d try to reason, but running will be difficult. The sidewalks would be fewer and drivers faster in the countryside.

He would run passed the university, its red brick colonial-style buildings graced with sweeping green lawns. Students would be out playing Frisbee or leaning against a tree, reading. He might see the red-tailed hawk that lived near the library. He would miss this beauty.  But he knew that homes changed. It had to happen. The house had to be sold.

But some things wouldn’t change. Roads would still be there, open to him. Beckoning to him to run off his pain, to embrace this life.

Just past the university the sidewalk ended. The speed limit increased to 35 as it passed the agriculture school. He would cross the road so that he would face traffic.

After what seemed like no time at all, he would approach the apple orchard. When the children were little he and his wife would take their children to ride in the horse-drawn hay wagons and pick McIntoshes and Cortlands and Honey Crisps. The kids would run about, investigating wormy apples and petting goats and sheep.

He would sometimes wished he didn’t remember all of these things. But they were good times, he’d remind himself, and he was lucky. Time went on, always.

The road continued onwards; it wound continuously so he couldn’t see what was around the bend. Though he’d run this way so many times before, he liked to imagine he was exploring the route for the first time. He stayed alert to the wind’s direction, the color of the maple leaves, the make of the cars that went by.

The sidewalk came back again as he entered town. He was tired – ready for the run to end – but his mind felt clearer. His life might change, but his run would not. The roads were his.

No comments:

Post a Comment