There was a man walking the shoulder of the highway. I don’t remember where exactly, one of those not quite rural roads, still flanked by cornfields but the farmhouses all severed and sold to people from the city just a few miles farther on. He wasn’t hitching, just walking, his back to me, the dust of the road climbing almost to his knees, powdering his black pants in gradations of whiteness, and I couldn’t leave him behind, was constrained by something, his tattered straw hat perhaps, or the way his shoulders rounded beneath his suspenders, constrained to stop, roll down the window, ask if he needed a ride, but he turned to a voice not my own, one I could not hear, and his eyes passed through me like a ghost.
These roads are nostalgia, lined with grandfatherly trees and slack electrical wire, awaiting the amnesia of cookie-cutter subdivision mansions, their carefully formulated tiers of upgrades — stainless steel fixtures, granite countertops, travertine floors — to cover over the remembrances of the raspberry canes and chokecherry bushes that crowd these gravel shoulders.
So Small A Place
The road changes if you kill the engine, or better yet, if you drive until the gas runs out, and you abandon the car, its door left open as a metaphor of some unspecified emancipation, changes if you are brought to the pace of your feet, the gravel grinding beneath the heels of shoes that are too fashionable and delicate for comfort, the sun clinging to the roof of the sky, and the summer insects climbing the colt’s foot and the burdock, changes the whole of the world, settling into the line of asphalt between your feet and the next landmark — the distant height of a tree, a grey-boarded barn falling into the crest of a hill — the new limits of the universe, a few miles of cornfield and woodlot, the grassy slip along the road left to go wild in chokecherry and milkweed.