Making Age for Grace

I was on time for a bus, yesterday, which was 9 minutes early. From the second story level of the parking garage between the liquor store and the bank, I watched my best hope of getting to the distant shopping center I was headed to, for Valentine’s Day and birthday gifts, drive off.

There was another stop, five blocks away by foot, slightly uphill. The bus had maybe 15 or 20 blocks to go before it would arrive there. I turned heel and began to run, then hesitated, checked my phone to make sure I was, indeed, on time, and then, reaffirmed of my punctuality but realizing that reality is a force greater than time and schedules, began running for the other stop.

I began running the other night, while drunk and out of cigarettes. I ran half a block to get a new pack, two actually, and then ran back to the bar. It felt good. So then I ran home that night, 2:30am, when I should have been stumbling. I twisted my ankle. But, all that aside, I’m running these days.

Nevertheless, I got to the final stretch where the hill begins making its greater ascent, past the numerous stoplights, passing pedestrians, and four police/two fire truck accident, only to arrive at my destination with no bus in sight.

“Am I early? It would be a slim miracle if I was this early.” Looking down 5th Avenue, there was no bus approaching. My phone, with one last bar of battery power, read 12:52. Only three minutes from when the bus was supposed to arrive at my original stop.

Then one appeared, in the distance, and a sigh of relief and also a thicker inhale of the cigarette I’d lit caused everything about my lungs to remember my last run and remind me that, were I to continue this running lifestyle, I would most likely need to quit smoking. My brain laughed and the rest of my body joined in (perhaps out of fear.)

The bus came closer, the wind of an arctic Sunday mid-Winter bit on my face, tearing my eyes and blurring my vision. The 500. Damn. Not the bus I was waiting for. Time rolled on and I smoked another cigarette. Then another bus. The 71D. It was now much too late and the particular bus I was looking for, the 64A, would only make its rounds once an hour.

I waited it out, though. Frigid fingers barely able to flex. Nicotine in succession and just the right combination of scarf-over-my-face and iPod tunes to make me dance a little on the curb of the sidewalk. No one would know, I’m probably just trying to get warmed up. The fact that the Strokes were the rhythm behind my knocking knees was impossible to determine from behind their heated dashboards.

My surroundings, an old spring of some type, helped me to appreciate the forced toleration of the immediacy of my position. The springs were no longer running, but not quite delapidated either. They were a sort of modern city ruins, slightly crumbling, no sharp corners where the stones met, but smooth, slightly fungal joints. The spickets where the springs would have flown from were now gone, perhaps once made of brass or copper or something valuable enough for someone to steal. They would have drained out into bowls, there were three, each shaped like a woman’s head, triplet goddesses trapped in stone to eternally suck the springs dry. Apparently eternity had run out. The entire thing was covered in stone, full columns to hold up a giant granite roof and stone tile for a floor. To either side of the main chamber, which wore Howe Springs chiseled into the top of its doorway, was a smaller area with a short bench, uncovered. I stood in each side area, only for a moment, just for the experience. Back in the main room I imagined people coming to convene here, and by people/convene I mean teenagers hanging out. Maybe 50 or 60 years ago, I could see them shouting from out their bedroom windows “Hey! Where you going?” “Up Howe, up the Springs!”

They’d all meet there, never really needing to plan on it, always just knowing who would be there, when. Fights would break out, joints would get smoked, the occasional new love would spark under the granite. Maybe a picnic bench used to be in here, and the kids would assess how cool they seemed to eachother and watch as they grew older and younger ones began filling in their spots. They’d notice their ranks dwindling to the perils of distant colleges and newborn babies and fulltime jobs, and soon the only thing holding the few remaining ones together would be unemployment, alcohol and drug addiction.

But still, the entire thing had me spinning happily for the glory of youth and my ability to live in it, hopefully, forever.

The bus would eventually come. Later, I would watch Children of Men with my girlfriend and it would be the best movie I’d have seen in a long time. Perhaps since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The bus to take us home would come on time and the night would turn into sleep and so on.

Up Next: The Life and Times of Nathan Swartz: Living with Greatness: An Epic Saga, Part 4: Coming of Age in an Age Come and Gone