I don’t know how long I’ve been walking. I couldn’t tell you when I started, or why, or where I am going; but I do know that I am headed somewhere. Every corner I turn, every street I cross, every shortcut through a park or courtyard is part of a journey I was always intended to make. It seems almost familiar, this expedition, as if I have come this route before. Perhaps many times.
No one takes any notice of me. Their eyes never rise to meet mine. They take no care to avoid me, but they yield to my path as if unconsciously stepping around a puddle. I am starting to believe these people don’t see me at all. That’s for the best, I suppose. I have nothing to say.
I know these streets. I grew up around here. So much has changed, though. Over there, across the way, stood a corner drug store where my friends and I would stop after school and drink cherry colas. Real cherry colas – the soda jerk added in the syrup right there behind the counter. They must have torn down the entire block, it’s nothing but trees and overgrown weeds now.
And over there, that was where my buddy Timmy McMurtry lived. I remember when he was riding his new three speed bike down this hill, and the front tire uncoupled, went flying off and slammed into a parked car. Timmy landed hard on his chin and bit a good half-inch of his tongue right off. Lost a couple teeth, too.
I guess they went and tore down that block, as well. Nothing but cornfields where Timmy’s house used to stand.
Now that’s progress. Usually they turn cornfields and forests and parks into developments, not the other way around. I always did like this town. Great place to grow up. I haven’t been here in, what – thirty, maybe thirty-five years? How time just melts away.
It’s starting to rain. Or maybe it’s been raining. It makes no difference, I’m almost there. At least I think I am.
I can’t believe some of these cars. In the few minutes it took to cross Jackson’s bridge I saw a Packard, a Saratoga, and I might be wrong about this, but I could swear that was a Delahaye 135 convertible. The old timers around here have done one helluva job upkeeping their classics.
Up on the crest of this hill is St. Lukes. I was born in that hospital. Got my tonsils out there, too. And of course there was the time I fell out of my grandma’s elm tree and broke my collarbone. I remember my mother was bawling her eyes out on account of how bad it looked, and I was trying to keep her calm. Must have been about ten or eleven years old then.
The hospital smells absolutely terrible. I can’t believe they are letting people smoke in here. Even some of the doctors and nurses are puffing away, for Pete’s sake.
At the end of a long hallway I find the maternity ward. I never could stand the sound of a baby crying. It shatters my nerves. I remember when we first brought Sally home; I swear that girl did not stop screaming for a week. I don’t believe I ever went so long without sleep.
Room 713. This is it. This is as far as I go.
I thought the young man I had seen sitting in the waiting room looked familiar, but my father died shortly after I was born and I’d only ever seen him in pictures. That is my mother on the table, her legs bent and locked into stirrups. She is covered in sweat, a dazed expression on her pale face. Does she see me?
And that bloody crown peeking out. That tiny hairless head. That must be…
I don’t know how long I’ve been walking. I couldn’t tell you when I started, or why, or where I am going; but I do know that I am headed somewhere.