08 November 2008

Bridges Of Sugar and Stone

A warmish fall day, maybe bordering on what used to be called ‘Indian summer’. I am looking out the window at a stream of people coming and going from the townhouse next store, boxes in arms as they load up cars in the parking lot. A moving truck sits in our parking space and is slowly filling up with furniture. Today is moving day for my neighbors, Kai and Rich and their son and daughter. I am happy for them, but I feel something falling away from under my feet.

Today another bridge is crumbling under the pressure of circumstance.

It isn’t that something has gone wrong. This is not a case of them moving under duress. Simply put, an opportunity presented itself for them to get a house with a yard and more room. Their new digs are not that far away; they will even be in the same school district, which is a bonus for the kids. I imagine that for them, it will be different enough but not too different. Not so for me.

They moved in about six years ago, and by incredible coincidence, we found out that we shared the same last name. This explained a letter that arrived earlier in my mailbox that I thought was addressed to me, and was from someone who had the same last name as one of my cousins. I should have taken that as a sign to investigate the coincidence further, to see if we were really related by some chance. To my regret, I never did.

Over the years, we shared some food and drink, conversation and laughs. There were neighborhood parties and Halloween antics and chats over the fence (literally over the fence in some cases). I got to see their kids growing up; they were there for my wife and me during some of the worst and best times of our lives. Rich drove us to the hospital the awful night my first daughter died in the NICU in 2003, they gave us comfort when our son died there not long after, and they were there to congratulate us when we brought my second daughter home in 2004.

Even so, I do regret that I cannot say that we are incredibly close, not like we were in each others’ living rooms every week. I don’t forge bonds easily, nor do I find it easy to maintain them. The fact that my neighbors had been there for so long, not an easy feat in our mobile culture, had given me quiet comfort: somebody I knew and could trust and whose company I could enjoy. So when they told me they were moving, I was a little stunned, but also happy for them.

Yet I haven’t been able to shake off a nagging sadness. Why was their imminent departure affecting me so deeply? Today the answer came clear. Their moving away is, on some level, another link lost in a life that has precious few to savor. It pains me that at this point in time, more people seem to be leaving my life than are coming into it. I have often thought of myself as an island with tenuous connections to the mainland, but island may not quite be the right word. ‘Neuron’ makes more sense to me now. If the Universe can be called a Mind, then I am a neuron of few connections, connections which I seem to be losing in some weird form of social dementia. In my mind’s eye, I am standing on a bridge made of sugar that is slowly dissolving beneath my feet.

We came back from dinner this evening to find the lights off in the townhouse next door. Their parking space is empty except for a shoal of leaves piling up against the curb. I sighed and told myself to not be so ridiculous. It isn’t as if Kai and Rich and the kids are moving to another country, or off-planet. I am sure we will see each other again. The distance to their new home would be easy to cover on a bicycle. Internet and e-mail make connectivity so much easier than it used to be, so we will be in touch. My rational mind knows this to be true.

Yet the leaves in the parking lot make me uneasy. The evening breeze stirs them around and the flashes of orangey-red tumble like pebbles in a torrent. The rustling chatter whispers in my ears that sugar is sweet, but it cannot hold. The time has come to start building my bridges out of stone.

1 comment:

  1. This was awesome. the circular flow is just awesome. and those last lines... so poetic


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...