I love the long walk home through the short houses. The dirty muddled road chipped like an old ax handle, washed out and worn in low places, puddling and glinting in late daylight. It’s peaceful there. It’s straight, but you can’t feel it because of the hill, the hill that doesn’t appear like a hill. It’s long and curved, subtly, unnoticeably, like the surface of an eggplant or the contour of a smooth forearm. Unnoticeably, because there is so much else to notice. The trees – the entire street length – shade the road in scraggly patches pieced together like stacked webs of twig and bough, no pattern, plenty of empty places for air, light, sky, whatever tint that may be today. And past the last road sign, the forty-first street, the end of the state road, the asphalt simply gives way. Things grow there. Dirt, soil sprout fingerlings of green hints stalwart in their presence: life here, too, will persist. Walk on. You’ll see. Or not see.
The turnaround is always a gamble. To proceed to the end, to the unromantic, less-than-majestic, unheralded by shady oak hands point-of-no-further-stepping, or to wheel around before the bitterness sinks in, to tiptoe up to the end of the shadowy lines on the ground and not even for an instant ponder the bright beyond, unknown. Usually, I make the turn before then. Past the barrier, beyond the pavement and baby grass, but before the isolating mid-road stance that begs question and neighborly concern. I turn back before curiosity does. The road rambles on. Into one gulley, through the culvert, shot out into a ditch, somewhere near a Georgia chemical plant, abandoned railroad tracks, weedy bridge-crossings, coarse gravel. Rain pools in places where rust rims the dirt. Footprints hold back. Grasses grow tall. The sky there is like glass, waiting for someone to shout its name, to shatter it into a thousand vanishing pieces.