Roads and walkways.
They capture and set off my imagination like the spinning of a top. Texture and fragments and weather and shade. I’m often finding myself with eyes down when maybe they should be up.
But, this, this is my favorite patch,
and my eyes always go down to notice the goings-ons as we cross.
Are my reasons obvious? Do I need to explain why this terrain is a favorite?
It’s a cacophony. Different voices rising together, so grateful and dumbfounded in their luck to have been chosen and put together like this. Decades of merriment and cozy-ing up to one another. Brought together for a purpose. And all with a splendid view.
Perhaps you can’t tell from the picture, but this corner is rounded, not sharp. It bubbles out around a walled garden belonging to a private mansion, and the roundness gives you the option to follow it left or cross and continue straight down the main road, past more walled gardens with their fuchsias spilling over the tops.
It’s an out-of-place collection amidst the uniformity of planned roads and the expectedness of concrete.
At first you may think it’s only three different pieces glued together by some cement filling up a hole. But that fourth piece is unique from the rest of the sidewalk. It’s weathered differently. Perhaps it was poured longer ago.
In any case, it belongs to the family now. One of four distinct personalities –
– in one cobbled together unit. Is it just that they were the only available materials for patching up a corner?
Or did one once live in the grassy fields and ashy rock of faraway?
While this other knew a garden and the pernicious weeds that tried to exist there too?
I wonder, if I step on each one individually, will it take me back to that road, to that walkway, to that scene where they were first laid down? And how would the equation differ if the edges were fitted together in another way? How would the patches know each other differently?
It’s in my nature to personify and animate grouped things, like numbers, letters, and days of the week. It’s the hallmark of my particular synesthesia. Every paragraph results in a hundred little relationships: Y not enjoying having to lead the sentence, but somebody’s got to do it, and so she rises to the task; v feeling smug for being at the front of her word and t wondering how not to feel ignoble by holding up its rear; all the while s heading up the next word over, looking coyly over her shoulder at him. Normally she’s such a sensible girl, but she’s showing off now, and she’s got a long way to go to be taken as seriously as S. And then there’s r, not caring about any of it, only looking ahead from where he’s finished the sentence, the wind in his face like from standing at the bow of a ship.
There’s no knowing what a new arrangement of letters will bring. Every document presents little universes and each of its pages is filled with new family dramas. The world can be so noisy. That’s what is was for me as a little girl, even before learning to read. Everything had feelings to consider, relationships to others, dreams and hopes to think about. Eventually, I just learned to tune it out.
I see it as survival, but still, there’s something a little sad about having to tie down one of your arms or patch up an eye just so you can navigate the day-to-day like everybody else.
And so, I wonder if that’s what leads me to see everything now as layers upon layers of minute and complex relationships, existing spatially, graphically, and peripherally. A giant knot to be untangled and acknowledged.
Unprompted, four different surfaces set in one lone corner become the potential for a whole constellation of personalities, coexisting with their own histories and story-lines, set inside a much larger and headache-inducing starry sky.
Whatever their genesis, and whatever their histories, they’re knitted together now by dirty foot prints and slow grown lichen, opportunistic grasses, and little sand castles stacked up between the cracks by tiny, persistent pincers.
Every time we round this corner and my feet try not to follow an obligatory dance of touching each slab of intact rock, I know it’s a real place and others have seen and walked across it too. My mind wanders to the builders and the problem solvers in our time as much as it wanders towards those solving roadway puzzles in the past. I wonder in 500 years, when this is an unearthed settlement set to the beat of archaeological tinkering and the quick footsteps of children’s shoes on a holiday excursion, what will they think of the builders of now? And, will they see the four chunks of sidewalk and wonder, who were the people who used to cross these fragments themselves?
Four different pieces make this stray corner complete, fitted or poured inside a larger walkway, placed parallel and perpendicular to a long, unending piece of asphalt: puzzle pieces to the un-obvious solution to that one odd bend in the road.