Took a walk yesterday, from Sekhnet’s to the house where I grew up and back. Less than two miles. It was a crisp early evening, nice for a stroll. On Union Turnpike, half a block from where I’d turn to walk up the small hill past what used to be the family home, two young guys stopped to ask me where they could find a deli. As I thought, I pointed at the corner store, now a Dunkin’ Donuts, and unhelpfully informed them that it used to be a deli. I asked what they were actually looking for, turned out they were trying to break a fifty. I gave them a few ideas and turned to walk toward the corner where I’d hang my left and BANG!!!
A metal knife blade, rooted in the cement and poised at shin height, tried its best to cut my leg off. I fell backwards away from the impact, on to my back, my feet actually shot up into the air as I hit the sidewalk. Two other young men saw this and asked if I was all right. I stood up immediately, nothing broken, and glared at the sleek aluminum bench that tapered to edges like butter knives. If it had been in my power I would have destroyed the ugly futuristic menace on the spot. I grimaced and asked the two men where the hell the bench had come from.
Seeing that I was fine, they seemed to relax. “It’s always been there,” one said with a little smile, thinking, perhaps, what kind of clueless idiot walks into a bench so hard it slams him on to his back with his feet up in the air?
“I grew up on this block, and I’ve never seen it,” I told them, pointing around the corner toward what once was my block.
“Oh it’s been there a long time,” said the other.
“It’s been there about three months,” said the first.
I don’t remember saying anything, I may have said “first time I’ve seen it…”, but I was surprised at the absence of pain as I walked past my old house. It was about a mile back to Sekhnet’s, and I had no problem at all, until I reached down to the spot where the metal had kicked my shin and felt, through the pant leg, a knot the size of a fist and what seemed to be liquid. I imagined blood running down into my sock and decided not to investigate then and there. I didn’t understand why there was no pain, but I didn’t mind.
It was only when I got back, elevated the leg and iced the bump that the aching started in my back, my arms, every joint that had been pounded when I fell on the concrete. Every place, ironically, but the barking shin that had been assaulted by the treacherous metal bench. The upper back is chiming in now, loudly, reminding me where I landed hard on it yesterday, reminding us all how slender the string we are all hanging by in this life actually is, and also, how resilient, most of the time.
Time to call my dying friend, whose once resilient string is poised to snap forever.