When I leave in the morning just a little bit too late, I drive past middle and high schoolers from my subdivision who are walking to their bus stop.
In the dark.
I always notice that most of them do not have on a warm enough coat, or proper shoes, or that their backpack looks old, new, too big, too small.
I am careful to drive slowly enough not to side-swipe one of the draggy-footed kids who pulls themselves out of their warm house and into the cold darkness each morning.
Trudge, trudge, trudge go their feet…
And every time I watch the trudge, trudge, trudge of their feet, suddenly they become my little feet…
Our driveway was long and gravel. The bus stop was down the road on the corner. We had at least a quarter mile between our house and the bus stop. at least.
I walk down the driveway in the dark morning. The cold has sunk into my being and become part of me–unlike the shock to my exposed cheeks and nose when I first left the garage door.
The gravel crunches under my feet. It seems louder in the cold. Like someone chewing ice.
I can see my breath. I pretend that it is from the invincible cigarette that I am not really smoking. I try to blow my foggy breath out of the corner of my mouth the way my mom blows her smoke, trying to get it to go out the car window instead of into the back seat by us kids.
I trudge along and try to pretend that the darker woods on either side of me isn’t scary. I have lived here my whole life and no ax or boogie men have jumped out at me. Why would they start on a cold Tuesday morning?
As I finally get to the road, I take precautions to stick as close to the ditch and not to the road as possible. There aren’t any street lights out in the country–even if this particular road is paved. In fact, because it is paved? Cars go even faster. So it’s not safe to walk on the pavement.
So I crunch through the frost-hard grass, breaking off blades here and there like a gigantic monster of a third grader. And then that is what I am for about five seconds. At least until I get past our property.
I always marveled at the house next door. It also had a long driveway, but theirs was paved. I figured they must be rich because my dad always said we couldn’t pave ours because it was so expensive.
Their house wasn’t any bigger than ours, but I was always distracted by it’s smooth, black paved driveway. From the garage to the road. I bet it would be easy to learn to ride a bike on that.
The next house was older and gray. I never met the people that lived there. I never even saw them. It always looked like no one was home, but someone must have been home sometimes because eventually a ramp was built going up to the front door. I usually walked quickly past this house.
I passed the last forgettabley newish house and made it to the corner where I turned and found my place in the first driveway on the left. This is where all the kids I didn’t know in our spread out country “neighborhood” (for lack of a better word) gathered each morning.
No one talked to each other.
We stood apart in our own little cold worlds. Waiting.
Waiting to sit on a bus with more people we won’t talk to.
Hoping to get a window seat and watch our neighborhood disappear until the brightness of the afternoon brings us back here.
Waiting to do it all over again the next day.