Monday, December 3, 2012

A Familiar Journey

The morning was damp, hazy. I rode my bicycle to work for the first time in weeks, took the familiar journey.  It went (it goes) like this:

My bike plunks off the curb.  I adjust to the concrete, to the wobble of my handlebars. I ride the wrong way, for just a brief moment, in that I know the way but traffic along this one small street runs opposite, so I tuck myself at the edge, aware that I'm where I shouldn't be.

The stoplight is never long but I watch the corner market.  I remember when it burned, the notes that were left on the windows, we miss you.  Now it's bright and open and I know the owner's smile because it sits beneath an unshaven gray shadow and it's kinder than most.

Clinton Street is wet and crowded but the crossing guard, our favorite, stands at the park, the one where we sat with Tyler's cousins and a little girl, lost in play, wandered towards us because she thought she was ours until she realized she wasn't and toddled away.  The crossing guard is little but sturdy and her glasses are fogged or maybe they're smudged and she doesn't mind it.  She shouts things we've come to expect, Come on bikers!  Hey baby doll!  Watch out for these maniacs!  She points at cars and shakes her head.  In the summer we miss her, and those weeks, this fall, when the road was closed, we wondered where she went.  Because her voice is my morning.  Her voice is the moment you think you are sitting alone and someone sits beside you.

I take the road up and around towards the Manhattan bridge.  I know the ground beneath me, the way it curls first, then slopes just enough for my tires to slow.  Soon, I mark the East river, it's middle.  This is where the road flattens, then slips away from itself, a downhill sled. This is where the air changes. The faint smell of fish.  Cooking oil climbs like a chimney swell from unknown stoves.  No one glances from the rushing carts and they take chances, like a gazelle's very first leap, across the painted lines of street.

I always want to stop here, on the path, where the old women in their winter bundle coats stand in Tai Chi formation across the damp grass.  I always think I will stop, someday, to take their photograph, to capture something I've otherwise been unable to keep.  Sometimes they are still and I think I'm caught in the hush of their whisper.

Sometimes they are dancing.


  1. And once again I am jealous of all the awesome sights and smells you pass on a daily basis! I love my little town, but very little ever changes. Although the other day when I was walking I did discover a small art gallery tucked away on Main Street

  2. Amen to what Jennifer said. I love that you let us experience your day with you. You write so beautifully and really pull me in every time. Now I'm wanting to go ride a bike through NY! :)

  3. Oh - how lovely, Melissa. Your words. Your words!

  4. Your word paintings are as lovely as your photographs!

  5. Can't wait till I can get to New York. Sounds awesome.

  6. This is SO vivid, Melissa. So much so that this line made me tear up, for reasons unknown even to me: "Her voice is the moment you think you are sitting alone and someone sits beside you."

  7. LOVE this!! You paint stunning pictures with your words. I was a crossing guard for awhile and enjoyed it so much. I grew familiar with the sweet faces each morning and looked forward to it even in the coldest of cold.
    Catherine Denton