Gaps

Gaps

Been awhile.  Been busy.  And though they say journaling is helpful in such situations, there’s this corporation paying lawyers to read what I write so they can package some sentence fragments to their advantage in front of a jury.  Kind of an awful way to make a living, but they seem happy with it. 

Twenty below wind chill today, stationed at North and Main, on crossing guard duty.  “Stay in school kids” went the twitter joke last week; imagining what parents said to their children as they drove past the poor schmuck in the cold.  Can’t find anyone to apply for the job and there’s COVID leave in the workplace for the backup guard so I volunteered to be out here the coldest weeks of the year.  If you won’t do the most unpleasant job in the organization, you got no moral authority to lead it. 

Whence last I Sifted, twas remembering being underequipped and overcommitted on a mountain.  Longing for home as I watched myself from a distance nearing the edge of a pine grove, and as that Dawes song goes, a demographic.  Currently renting a transitional house after the family home was sold, so can’t say I’m home just yet in the domicile sense.  But there’s Culvers, and Portillo’s, and a real autumn.  And there’s furniture I made decades ago and albums I left behind and memories on the streets, highways and ball diamonds of that life, that life, that life every now and then I recall.  And there’s lunches with a son who’s grown so much and dinners, desserts and breakfasts with the one who rescued me before I even got that job with that other village, and started down this path.  The guy on the loading dock too dumb to know he needed rescuing, a thesis shy of his family’s first Masters.

The guy now on North and Main on temporary hiatus from the family’s fifth Masters.  Bundled against the cold in high-vis mountain gear and thinking through the day, the week, the lifes as he sings a little Jason Isbell to himself.  This is how you make yourself vanish into nothing ...  Waiting for any kid who needs to cross.  Waiving back to the parents passing by in their SUVs, with their futures safely buckled and warm.  Appreciative that little ‘ol Poynette took a chance.

A small blue coat on the horizon.  Walking slowly.  Walking very slowly and meandering a bit.  Face tucked into his jacket.  Hands pulled up into his jacket sleeves.  Holding something.  The safe, warm and buckled ones drive by.  He arrives and says “thank you”, softly, as he crosses.  He starts the long walk up the grade to the school and meanders some more. 

I abandon my post.  Nothing to cover his face.  Mismatched lightweight knit gloves.  Holding a banana.  Who sent their child out like this?  It’s twenty something below. 

“Hey, buddy, let me help you.”  Take the banana and put it in my pocket.  “Here, put these on.”  Take off my 8,000 meter mittens and put them over his hands.  Grab his backpack and throw it over my shoulder.  “What’s your name, partner?”  “Peter” (not his real name).   “I’m gonna walk with you the rest of the way, ok?”  “Ok”.  “Tell you what, put those mittens up over your face, ok?”  “Ok.”  “Want me to carry you?”  “No, thank you”.  “You sure?  it’ll be fun!”  “I’m sure.”  “Ok, we’ll walk together.”  “Ok”.  “How old are you, son?”  “Nine.” 

Nine. 

I try not to get mad.  But, nine.  We walk the last three quarters, maybe a mile together and I keep him chatty and moving to stay warm.  Nobody deserves to face twenty below alone at nine.  What sort of society is ok with parents who both have to work so their nine year-old child is alone on their trip to school when it is twenty below?  The sort of society where corporations have more power than people and more lawyers than ethics. 

We make it into the building and he heads off to class.  I have a talk with a school staff member and tell her to be sure Peter leaves with mittens and a face covering.  She says she’ll have the guidance counselor talk with him and I revert instantly back to being poor and nine and say “NO”.  He doesn’t need guidance.  He doesn’t need embarrassment.  He needs mittens and a face covering. 

Walk back to temporary quarters three and get semi-presentable for office duty.  Marcia finds some mittens and a fleece gaiter/hat and I hand them off to Chief Rogge for delivery to the school. 

Been a while.  Tomorrow, it’ll be thirty below.  I’ll be at North and Main before the Village Hall workday begins, not just noticing, but feeling every changing wind.  And Peter will have mittens, and his face covered.

Package that.