When all is crumbling

New York State Route 231 by dougtone via Flickr
New York State Route 231 by dougtone via Flickr
Autumn, 1977

There’s a parade coming down the main drag that connects the hamlet where I live to the village by the bay. Down here in the village, the main drag has long since dwindled to one lane in each direction. This morning, it’s brisk with traffic, each vehicle racing to avoid getting caught behind the barricade that’s going up at any moment.

We need to be on the other side. My practiced eye looks briefly in either direction, assessing the traffic for relative distance and speed. This is going to be cake. Taking off at a sprint, I easily cover the two lanes well before the oncoming traffic arrives. I look around. I see my two friends still huddled where I’d left them on the curb at the other side, faces drawn taught with thinly-disguised anxiety. Finally, they feel it’s safe, and they hurry across.

If you aren’t bold, then you’re destined to stand a good, long time waiting to cross at that uncontrolled intersection. Waiting, wating… who has time for that?

“OMG, I thought you’d be killed!” one of them exclaims.

“What?” comes my bewildered response. “There was plenty of time. Don’t you people know how to cross a street?”

I’d grown up in the city, where you take your crossing opportunities as they come, even on wide boulevards of four and six lanes of heavy, New York driver traffic. If you aren’t bold, then you’re destined to stand a good, long time waiting to cross at that uncontrolled intersection. Waiting, wating… who has time for that?

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NYC Street by T. Ruette via Flickr
NYC Street by T. Ruette via Flickr

It’s a few years later, and I am on my way to see a friend perform in concert with his quartet. I am traveling from Long Island with the only other person I’m aware of who also has a ticket, but I don’t know him terribly well. He’s funny and nice company for the mass transit journey into the city. His eyes are fringed with those impossibly long guy-lashes that make every woman sigh and wonder, “Why can’t *I* have lashes like that?”

(A few years into the future, I would focus on those lashes while standing under the chupah, having random thoughts about anything and everything, just to keep myself from thinking about the reason we were standing there…)

Sweet by Maureen Lunn via Flickr
Sweet by Maureen Lunn via Flickr

He pulls the cord overhead to signal the driver. We de-bus near Lincoln Center and prepare to cross Broadway. My practiced eye looks briefly in either direction… my muscles are tensing in preparation for the sprint. Although we are not physically touching, I feel him hesitate beside me, drawn taught… Before he has a chance to balk, I grab his hand and give it an encouraging tug. We have ignition, we have liftoff, running hand in hand until we reach the opposite curb. His hand immediately releases mine, but for a while after, I can still feel the shape and the weight of it in mine. How odd…

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Otters holding hands by mindluge via Flickr
Otters holding hands by mindluge via Flickr

This had happened to me only one other time, the very first time I’d ever held hands with a boy. He was funny and his eyes were an impossible shade of blue; not even a color found in nature, I don’t think, and certainly not one I’d ever seen before or since. The first time our hands touched (accidentally-on-purpose), I’d gone directly for the interlaced fingers position, but he was having none of that and quickly shifted us instead to the palm-to-palm position. I was satisfied, pleased that he hadn’t rejected the idea of hand-holding altogether, but at random times for days after, I would suddenly experience the pleasantly terrifying sensation of his fingers filling the spaces between mine.

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A moment of many by sarahpetherbridge via Flickr
A moment of many by sarahpetherbridge via Flickr

I wanted to be pleasantly terrified. I wanted to be gifted with the experience of someone filling in all the places where I am blank. I’m not sure how, but somewhere along the way “pleasantly” and “terrified” became uncoupled; unchecked, terror fills the blank spaces with something that’s drawn taught, something that drives me to flinch from the sprint, to wait at the corner until the signal changes.

Oh, for my days of the practiced eye, the ability to assess, the exhilarated sprint, fully confident that I would reach the curb unscathed. Oh, for the days!

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Now playing – The Fray: Never Say Never

2 thoughts on “When all is crumbling”

  1. Oh yes! No matter how old you are – “When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together” – one of the sayings from: All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.

    You made me go back and read that, you know. But I also get what you’re saying about holding hands – whether it’s a first gesture of romantic love or even a symbol of mother love holding the hand of a pre-schooler – it’s something that is caring, gently loving.

    I love the pic of the otters holding hands, floating together. And it always makes me smile too when I see an elderly couple in the last decade of their life walking down the street, holding hands.

    In this day where casual huggings have now replaced a hand shake, isn’t it nice to know that we’ve reserved that other type of hand-to-hand connection – hand-holding – only for those we feel sweet love for.

  2. Yes, there is something very intimate about holding someone’s hand. I don’t know why it would be more so than hugging, but I think hand-holding definitely surpasses hugging in the acts of intimacy category. You have to really like someone to wanna hold their hand.

    Erin

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