I sat on my porch with the light out. A daddy long leg was frozen on the rail – or maybe dead. Lots of people leave the coffee shop across the street and walk down the road from the halo of one street lamp to the next one, searching for their car.
This night, I had a delayed flight and got in after midnight and I decided to stoop for a while. It’s nice to stoop. I’ve thought lots about sitting on the porch and what that does for a community. To the right is a young couple with a baby boy and a dog. One night we had a party and they figured out they could put him to bed and that his baby monitor signal would reach over to our house. So they snuck out and, with an ear to their son’s room, drank our wine and listened to our stories. We promised each other lots of things like neighbors do when they drink together and forget that they already have something to do next week. Or maybe it’s just too hard to make the connection again. To our left is a jazz musician and his girlfriend. She has beautiful red hair and sits on the steps by herself some nights. I used to think she was ignoring me but she always says she’s in her own world.
And from their steps, facing the same way as mine, the apartment across the road has a sliding gate that opens when its tenants get close and click a button. I think there’s a halfway house on the corner – I always see different people coming and going who don’t stay very long. When you walk by, you can see the rooms are sparse – just a bed, a desk and cinderblock walls. Most people read late into the night and sometimes I wish I had a room there so that’s all I’d do as well.
Sometimes people notice me out on the porch and sometimes they keep walking. And maybe they notice me but they pretend they don’t – because I know I feel some ownership over this street and I know they must feel some right to park on it. So we’re cautious in our knowing and unknowing of the other people who pass along down the road.
And I think everyone watches the road, but maybe they want something differently from it. Most folks just need a place to park their car. Others need to get somewhere. We have bikers and joggers and wanderers. A woman went through our recycling on the curb today for our bottles. We’ve started to wave at one another. Some people wave when they drive by, some flick cigarettes, some come up to the porch and say hello. The owner of the coffee shop used to live across the way – he had a beard that looked like a nest. I miss him. We’d shout at one another whenever we got the chance. He told me he moved out somewhere east of town where he could have land with a creek on it.
This one particular night I was finishing some leftover barbecue and an ambulance came up and parked right in front of the house. Its driver got out for a late night cup of coffee, I thought, but he soon came back with a girl on his arm. I sat there in the dark, too far committed to my observance to move and reveal that I was watching them. My only choice was to wait it out. She told him she missed him. He told her not to say that and then she asked what was wrong with missing him. She pushed him up against the ambulance and kissed him hard.
We’ve all got someplace we’re going I suppose and there’s got to be a way to get there. For many of us, it’s the same road and we get down it different ways. All I mean is that it’s not as different as we all might think. We all push ourselves forward with odd weight on two legs to go somewhere and we pass through the places where people have had moments they remember and moments they forget. I guess that makes every place – every road – special and absolutely regular in its own way.
When you think about a place and what’s happened there before you and what’s happened after maybe you think about it differently. Or maybe you just keep on walking, hear a few dogs bark and slide between a couple of parked cars to buy a cup of coffee.