There are new pedestrian crossings, traffic signals, turn arrows,
granite curbs, sidewalks. The weird little island in the road is gone.
The corner restaurant has another name, a new sign, as does
the coffee house next door, both closed overnight this past winter.
On one corner, a new spruce has been put in place across the street
from the older, stressed tree, and I wonder if both will be lit later this year.
It is hard to think ahead to more holidays. The laundromat is not as busy
anymore, though the liquor store is probably busier. This little village center,
with its bridge across the Pootatuck River, is busy landscaping the new normal.
Painful memories still cloud these streets. Some say they cannot, will not return,
and so they stay away. But some of us live here. To go just about anywhere,
we must pass by the firehouse, the school driveway, often many times a day.
This year, like many years passed, we sat at long tables in the station there,
eating fundraiser lobster with neighbors, without intrusion, and we could
almost forget. This little corner of town has never felt as much like home.
I’ve watched the snow melt, the trees leaf out, the flowers bloom,
just like they have every other year. I hope the new signals do their job,
hasten the flow of traffic at this intersection, site of overwhelming attention
just a season or so ago. We still harbor a scabbed-over hostility
to those pointing their lens noses too close, or well-meaning pilgrims
who just have to see for themselves. We brand our cars with green and white
magnetic stickers, tailgate the tourists when they slow down in front of . . .
to gawk, to leave flowersheartsangels, to take their pictures.
We still politely accept the condolences of customer service representatives
on the line when doing business over the phone. The kumbaya moment
is over, and we are back to squabbling amongst ourselves, voting down
the budget, and complaining in letters to the editor about things petty and not.
Outside the laundromat, I sit scribbling in a repurposed composition book
while my wash tumbles, and watch a great blue heron glide in through the trees
over the river. My body still reacts to the sound of an approaching helicopter. Muscles
tense, heart rate quickens. Across the parking lot, the lush green of late Spring
softens the edges. When the road work is finally done, I will walk the mile
from my house to this crossroads, push the button to cross, get a cup of coffee,
and sit by the river, watch the water, as I have so many times before.
Author’s note: “We live a half mile from the school and were home that morning. Our three grown children all went to that school, and it was part of our neighborhood. As I said, this is the first time sharing any of my writing about it publicly.”
Robin E. Sampson writes poetry, fiction, essays, etc. Her poetry's been published in The New Verse News, FeatherLIt, Bent Pin Quarterly, Connecticut River Review, Bitter Oleander. She lives in Sandy Hook, CT.