Archive for November, 2010

November 26, 2010

Good Neighborhood

Photograph by David Villareal Fernandez

Now that I live on the Main Line, near the Old Money, I am often embarrassed by my car. It’s an old 90’s American four-door, built in the days when all American cars were embarrassments.

I cringe when smoke slips from under the hood after a long trip. I inevitably park next to a shiny German sedan, impeccably polished.

She hit me broadside, behind the rear door. I was only a minute or two from home. I spun out and went over the curb. The airbags blew when the front smashed into a lightpole. Glass shattered, the horn blared.   I bled from my hands, but not profusely. I could feel my legs; they weren’t pinned. The seatbelt released, the door creaked open, and I fell out. There was more smoke than usual. It smelled of oil and something sweet—antifreeze?

When I could stand, I made my way over to her car. Luxury Japanese model. Through the empty windshield frame I noticed leather seats. She was pounding both fists on the crumpled hood.

“Are you okay?” My voice was shaky with adrenaline.

She glared at me. “What’s wrong with you?”

“I…excuse me?”

“You hit me!”

“You ran into me.”

She snorted. “Right.” She went into her purse and retrieved her smartphone. She flipped the screen up to reveal a keyboard and asked me my name and phone number.

“I have my information in the car. The insurance stuff too.”

“I don’t want you giving me anything.”

“Why not?”

She pointed to my hands. They were still bleeding, pools of blood on the ground beneath them. She found a number on her phone, dialed it, and waited impatiently for the other party to answer. When they did, her voice became a machine gun.

“I was just hit by some guy. In my car. No, I didn’t call the police yet. Of course he hit me. Can I sue? Hold on.”

She turned to me. “What do you do for a living?”

Her voice sounded far away; as did mine when I answered that I was a teacher.

She returned to the phone. “He’s a teacher. He said teacher, not professor. Right. Right. Not worth it.”

After she put the phone back in her purse, she turned to me. “You are so lucky, pal.”

“Could you call an ambulance?”

“You don’t have a phone?”

I remember mumbling something about my hands.

I awoke on my way to the local hospital. The EMTs had gauzed my hands. They said I was going to the local hospital, but they could transfer me to someplace closer to home.

I told them, between winces, that this was my home.

Huh, they said. They didn’t think I was from around here, driving that kind of car.




November 11, 2010

The Ship, Pt. 3

It is nearly winter in  O——. Cynthia no longer walks barefoot to the water. Harold has looked up from the final molding work to see snowflakes tease the water.

They sit with space between them on a sofa curved by years of use. Harold’s extra lumber fuels the fireplace. On the table, on the mantel, on the piano, collected trinkets shimmer in the orange glow. All of this is Cynthia’s. Harold build the house, but perhaps just to build it.

That was years ago.

Cynthia puts down her book. “Is it nearly finished?”

Harold nods. “Just need to install the compass.”

Cynthia looks into the fire. “What did you name it?”

“Oh, right—it needs a name.”

“You haven’t yet?”

Harold reaches his hand across the gulf. “Couldn’t, without you.”

Cynthia places her hand atop his. “Tomorrow, then.”

“Tomorrow. Do you know our heading?”


* * *

Tomorrow, the water yields to the snow. All is gray but for pines, the deep chocolate of the ship’s hull, and the two standing at the dock. Cynthia holds a bottle of champagne. It has waiting in Harold’s shed since the first week of building.

“It really is a beautiful ship,” says Cynthia

“Why didn’t you come see it before?”

Cynthia looks to the planks beneath her. “This place—any place—is incidental to you. But I…my feet know this soil. You cannot uproot me, take me wherever, and expect me to thrive.”

“You could have said—”

“And rob you of this?” Cynthia smiles at her husband. “You finally built your ship.”

Harold finds it hard to speak, so he grabs his wife’s hand. He imagines he can feel warmth through her gloves.

By and by, he manages to choke out his words. “It still needs a name.”

Cynthia looks to the pine-covered ridge, to the glint of the cabin’s windows between branches. She looks through the snow to the slate sky. She looks to the ground.

The ground.

She removes her gloves boots and walks onto the sand, crouching down. She buries her hands and feet deep. It is frigid, but she wants it to be a shocking statement, a poignant farewell.

She rises, replaces her boots and gloves, rejoins Harold on the dock. “Let us call it O——, so when I set foot onboard, it will be as though my roots grow into the earth I know.”

Cynthia pops the champagne, pouring it over the O——’s dark hull. She takes a swig from the bottle before handing it to her husband.

“Do you know what you have to pack?” she says.

“You still haven’t picked a course.”

“Any ideas?”

“You have made me want to stay.”

“So let us sail a while—get lost and land where we will. And then, wherever we find ourselves, we will make for home.”

Harold raises the bottle to his wife, and drinks deep.


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