So I was wandering down Bulldog Blvd today--and I already have two things to say about that statement. First of all, who in tarnation decided that "blvd" was a sensible abbrev for "boulevard"? I traipsed through life for many a moon under the false conception that "blvd" stood for "beloved," and I thought, "How sweet and how strange, that certain streets are labeled so affectionately!" But I was wrong. And I don't think I should be wrong. I move that "beloved" is a much more agreeable and desirable title than "boulevard," even if it does not exactly serve the same purpose.
And now for my second bone to pick with that sentence. I most certainly was not wandering at this point down that beloved street. I was pacing rather feverishly. For, not only was I running late to get home in time to let Ben use the car to get to work, I realized that, while I went job scavenging up and down the road, I'd left the car parked in a "Wendy's customer ONLY; violators will be booted and towed and flayed and tortured within an inch of their life" kind of parking place. And, if you know me, you know that when I am left alone to think, I tend to worry and my imagination runs rampant.
At the point that I was envisioning the tearful phone call and the stress and anxiety of getting the car back from the towing place and the annoyance of having to scrape me off the asphalt of the parking lot following my punishment, I crossed the intersection of Bulldog and University going south with a young lady. We both paused at the next place, turning east, waiting for the light to change (which rarely happens with University, I've noticed). She stood near the curb and waited patiently while I bounced on the balls of my feet a couple paces behind her. The little white walking man blinked into existence and I bolted ahead at a brisk walk. But the girl, short as she was, had a long stride, and I realized that we were walking exactly next to each other. I didn't think much of it; she'd probably just take a different course when we reached the opposite shore. But she did not. We alighted on the sidewalk and both kept walking east.
A world of possibilities ran through my mind, which was relieved to no longer be wondering whether bamboo splints up my fingernails was legal punishment in the United States, and if not, was Wendy's parking regulation services above the law? But now this girl walking exactly next to me at the same pace as I occupied my mind. It was quite uncomfortable how we were so obviously aware of each other's presence, yet the fact had gone so completely unacknowledged. I thought of perhaps smiling politely at her as one would while passing someone else whom they did not know, but I could not see the sidelong glance and grin going very well. I thought of slowing down to allow her to have her own space on the sidewalk, but no! My tardiness and fear would not allow me. And what was this girl's business that she had to walk so fast? Was she in danger of capital punishment, too?
What kind of social barrier separated this girl and me? What manner of unspoken rule bound my tongue and riveted my eyes on the sidewalk ahead of me? This girl could prove to be the best, closest friend I ever had. Perhaps, if I were to talk to her, I'd look back on the day when I'm old and be grateful for my bold action since it led to my marriage to her older brother. Maybe she could at least offer me a job in her umbrella designing business. Or was she a regulator of Wendy's parking on her way to survey her domain and seal my doom?
I suddenly found myself angry with the injustice of the world. How bound we are, how limited our individual existences with social expectations! I wanted to acknowledge this girl, dang it! I felt so stiff and awkward just walking on next to her. But I didn't have anything to say. The balmy weather wouldn't even allow me a simple "It looks like rain." I felt in those moments perhaps more trapped and furious with my conformity to the machine than ever before.
(That's an exaggeration. But what's good writing without a bit of hyperbole?)
An old, run-down van rattled by, and one of the occupants tossed out a wolf whistle in passing; whether to me or my mute companion, it was impossible to tell. And what of things like that? If that guy had been walking past us or been in the same situation as either of us, would he still feel justified in his unspoken comment? What gave him the right to assert such an opinion if he would only do it under the assurance of a concealed identity?
At this point I about exploded. But, lo and behold, I rounded into the Wendy's parking lot. I'd never been so happy to see that little freckled red-headed girl. I frantically clicked my unlocking beeper on my keys to know whether my car was even there. It responded with a gleeful chirp. I relaxed. I'd eluded the law today.
I only now realized that I'd left my companion completely. How could I do that without so much as a backwards thought? A novel of thoughts and inspirations and determination had stemmed from walking next to her, then I abandoned her without any kind of regret.
Climbing behind the wheel of my bootless car, it occurred to me that perhaps I'm no better than the rest of them.