Two At An Intersection
I first noticed him when school started in September. He stands on the corner where my street intersects a larger thoroughfare. More man than boy, he’s probably 15, about the size of my grandson. Every weekday morning he’s there, no matter if it’s 7:30 or as late as 7:50. I’m on my way to a gym’s stretch-and-balance class, my equivalent of a cup of coffee. At the corner, I stop to wait for a break in traffic. In those seconds, waiting to gun-it onto the main street, I began waving to the boy. Why not? He’s the first human I see every day. And I felt sorry for him, all alone in our coastal early-morning chill. He never seemed to notice me.
His blue jacket’s hood all but hid his face. Then one warm morning, the hood lay across his back and I saw his eyes, dark, maybe even a little haunted. Shoulders hunched, too. He shifted from foot to foot a lot, like a toddler desperate to find a bathroom. My curiosity and imagination, dangerous twins, ran rampant.
Three weeks after I’d begun waving, an October morning arrived steeped in fog. The boy’s hands were in his pockets and his shoulders were rounded more than usual against the dampness. When I waved, the boy dropped his focus to the sidewalk, pulled a hand from his pocket and waved back. He didn’t shift from one foot to another, the way he used to.
The next morning, we made eye contact and waved again. As my car swung onto the main street, I checked the rearview mirror. His arms were flinging out from his sides and he’d resumed rocking back and forth. Had I scared him? Pleased him? A couple of mornings, I saw a half-size school bus stop for him to board. Are those short buses for kids with special needs? More likely, other students in our neighborhood are driven to work by a parent.
On the third morning, I approached the corner and didn’t see him. Then I pulled ahead further. His head was craned, as if he were looking for me. He waved and smiled ear to ear.
You’d think I’d won a year’s supply of homemade fudge — I was so excited.
I wondered about his aloneness, that a momentary wave of my hand could light up his face.
* * *
Every morning I’m waiting for the friggin’ bus to get me. There’s this lady, old like my Grandma, that drives past the corner where I wait for the bus. She waves at me, every morning, like she knows me. But she doesn’t know me.
Monday she saw me looking at her so I figured what the hell and waved back. You shoulda seen her face. It was like that lit-up Christmas tree downtown — me and my mother go there every year. Mom says we can’t buy our own tree ‘cuz Dad doesn’t send her money anymore. But, yeah, that old lady lit up real big.
So yesterday and today, I smiled at her and waved, slow, casual, cool. Her face did the Christmas-tree thing again. God, she must be really lonely if waving at me makes her so happy.
* * *
Author’s note: Weeks later; we still wave.
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