Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday Musings, 25 June 2011

Good morning,

Beside me lies a rubble of a structure no longer needed here, a wheelchair ramp which, though poorly built, served well and now will be consigned to a dumpster. The newspaper lies on a tile-topped table, silently bearing its notices of deaths, and storms, and a surging river from the fury of which our water treatment facility has been spared another day by the failure of a northern levy. Faint trills of locusts, or crickets, or cicadas, call my stalking cat, who paces on the cold concrete.

My internal alarm clock summoned me at six, having no regard for the weekend. My husband had left much earlier, to take our youngest family member to the airport for the commencement of his summer sojourn at Harvard in its program for high school soon-to-be-seniors. He will spend the next seven weeks studying Greek Mythology and Philosophy, on a full-tuition program scholarship that he earned the old fashioned way: hard work, persistence, dedication. We burst with pride at the thought.

The middle child of our three, my son by birth, played soft chords on his electric guitar as the evening waned last night. I have no musical instincts but I hear the improvement he has made over the last year and understand that his gift is developing, along with his complex sense of humor, his intellectual prowess as he stands on the Dean's list, and his philosophical curiosity. I fell asleep wondering where the next few years would take him, and what new layer of complexity I will see in his eyes each time he returns, briefly, to grudgingly submit to a maternal inspection.

Of our eldest, my newly acquired daughter, I can say we smile with satisfaction. The application for December graduation has been completed, and she is set to commence graduate school shortly thereafter. We see less and less of her, which every parent's heart will recognize as a sign that she has fully entered adulthood, seldom needing our assistance, leaning on her own ability, even making arrangements now and then for family gatherings in my stead. The bird has flown the nest, and the papa robin chatters with pride as she soars.

I am not sure how I got this old. It seems mere moments ago that I myself left Missouri to start a life in Boston. I feel the plane lift from the runway at Lambert, and once again my stomach falls as the jet pitches and rolls in the winter sky. I am 21, and skinny, and I have just cut off three feet of hair and painted blond streaks in the resultant back-combed waves.

At the other end, at Logan, I am met by a friend, David Sotkowitz, who throws my suitcase in the back of his car in the snowy drifts of the short-term parking lot. The snap of cold air bites my cheeks, and I shudder in a coat that would have been more than adequate for Missouri winter but does nothing in Boston's December. We chatter, exchanging accounts of events since we last saw one another in a St. Louis summer, as he completed graduate school and I got ready to enter my last semester of college.

An hour later, after midnight, I lie on a makeshift pallet in a spare corner of his apartment, watching a new, vigorous snowfall. The ground outside holds seventeen inches, and another eleven inches will fall in the night, a heavy, silent shroud. I stand at the window in the morning, holding a cup of tea, wondering if I should grab my suitcase and go back to the Midwest. I am not this brave, I tell myself.

A few days later, I venture to the Boston College student life office, and page through a notebook of roommate listings. I use their phone to make a few appointments, then take the trolley downtown to meet my new boss at the job arranged for me by my most recent St. Louis employer. As the trolley slips underground, and the dark surrounds me in that brief moment before the lights come up, I feel the warm flush of fear. What do I think I am doing, I ask myself. I cannot answer.

In time, I learned to navigate the green line with ease. I never lost the slight surge of panic when the car traversed from trolley to subway, or the anxiousness of waiting in an underground station after the sun had set. But I developed some moderate adeptness, a passable ability to cling to an overhead bar so that an old lady could have my seat. I could, after a few weeks, read in a standing position. Though not a native, I could pass.

One evening, tired from work, I leaned against a pillar awaiting the train for home. My eyes drifted closed, and I felt my body sag. The low murmur of evening riders surrounded me. The cavernous underground stations hummed with the thunder of distant cars rambling through tunnels, barreling through the gloom of the spider web of which the Massachusetts Transit system is comprised.

I felt a gentle pull on the strap of my handbag. My eyes flew open and I grabbed my purse, stepping swiftly away from the body at my shoulder. I moved backwards, clutching my belongings against my chest, scrambling away from the groping hand.

I met his eyes. Dark orbs in sunken hollows, over crusty grime, surrounded by greasy, uncut hair. Raw, red lips; reaching hands with ragged fingerless gloves. The mouth gaped and sounds emitted, croaks that I recognized as words but could not distinguish. We stood, the thief and I, our gazes caught in an unending grip.

And then the train pulled into the station, with squealing brakes, and the rush of automatic doors. I tore my eyes away from the pathetic sight of my attacker, and stepped backwards, into a waiting car. I stood in the gap as commuters shoved past me, falling into seats. I remained at the entry way, watching the man, until the doors closed, and the train lurched forward. Darkness embraced me. I moved towards a bench, and lowered myself to sit, as the weary passengers adjusted to accommodate my small frame.

A storm has gathered as I sat on my porch, here in the Midwest, in the cool of early summer. In Boston, it is still springtime. A few hours from now, my husband's boy will struggle towards a waiting taxi cab with two large duffel bags containing what he hopes will be enough of the right stuff. He will spare the driver the flash of his confident smile, and perhaps, remember a few tricks of travel that we have pressed on him, in the last hours before his departure.

My stomach tenses as I think about his journey. I have felt this apprehension before now, when I sent my son to Mexico for his own junior trip, with everything on the packing list and his passport in a case around his neck, just as we were instructed. He came home seven weeks later with short, curly hair; two inches taller; and light years closer to his future, independent self.

I hardly knew him.

Thunder rumbles in the distant air. I am hungry, and I have chores to do. Although I have not miles to go before I sleep, still, my day is full, and there will be little time for worrying about the safety of our most recently launched prodigal son.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.