Not A Thru Way

I can hear much activity that I can’t access, at the end of my dead-end street. The street is mine, the activity is yours. I walked as far as possible today, like many other days, to the paved limit, and stopped to listen. There, it’s you.

Through a thick coating of trees, and an impassible ravine, I could just barely see flashes of cars, people going places, not having to tap their brakes for a long while. No one taps brakes because they want to. Oh, but to be on a road where one can drive for quite a while! Without thinking of slowing. Without having to stop. I want to tap my brakes!

This ravine. That fence. Heavy thicket. Sharp spines. Private property. Barking dog. My hesitation, the one real barrier.

How many years have I stood at this edge and strained to hear you? There’s a party going on, with laughter, and some music, too. Treble is absorbed. Low frequencies have soundwaves that don’t fully form until they’re quite a distance from your speakers, and they reach me differently. I don’t want to hear the music this way. I don’t want this muffling. I bet it would sound so much better if I were there.

You’re having a cookout, the aromas betray you. I’m sure the chicken and pork will be a hit. Grilling rolls maybe? Garlic butter rolls?

I see a red frisbee, just a glimpse through the trees, for a second’s bit of flight. I can’t see who’s thrown it, or where it’s landed. No hands, no fast motion of your pal running to make a spectacular catch. There’s what sounds like an excited chuckle or exclamation, but sound is nearly as limited as sight. I can only guess. I have learned to imagine it so.

A butterfly caught my eye. It flew past me, to a bit into the thicket, and sputtered around for a moment. Butterflies are clueless. Then on a breeze, it came towards me. It said: “Why do you stand and look at them? When so much is going on behind you.”

Excuse me? Did she mean this crappy street? This football’s throw of a mapmaker’s broken-pencil smudge? A road so-called planned and laid out on the B-Team’s coffee break? Approved by a planning board that couldn’t see what they were overlooking?

“Yes. Your street. Your home. Your neighbors.”

Well, I didn’t know them. I didn’t want to know them. They didn’t want to know me.

“Have you said hello? Recently? With any sincerity, or a linger? A pause?”

I had not. And, no one’s approached me either.

“Well then you deserve to stare at others having fun. Others going places. Friends socializing. Smoking their cigars. Enjoying some company. Their neighbors.”

The butterfly didn’t get it. That was the real world out there. Over there. A bigger sampling, an actual flow of life. Just over this clump of bushes was activity. Better than anything going on here.

“You’ve got it wrong. Behind you is the real world. Too. Beside you. And if this so disgusts you, if this little road is so offensive, there’s a way out. Have you not lived enough years to have learned that? Or have you lived too long and have forgotten it.”

I couldn’t smell the cookout anymore. I couldn’t hear racing cars. My eyes were blind to not just the frisbee, but the forest, too. I turned around. To new sensations, finally given their opportunity to reach me.

About Ara Hagopian's The LITERATE Show

For over thirty years, I have enjoyed drawing beautiful shapes and writing complementary stories. The imagery tends to focus on our place in the world—whomever or whatever we may be. I am influenced by Twentieth Century history—I read vintage magazines, books and letters. Inspiration comes from visualizing human achievement and personal interaction—derived from people, places and things which may be obscure, but never insignificant. My pen-and-ink THE MAGNIFICENT RECOVERY was selected by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for their 2008 summer art auction.
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