A long time ago, I heard a poet (Jim Hazard, of Milwaukee) say that he was walking down the street one day and he saw three yellow pillows sitting in a window. It struck him as beautiful, as things sometimes do, and at that moment he envied painters, because if he were a painter he could just(!) paint a picture of it and it would speak for itself. He wouldn’t have to explain it.
I was walking down an alley in my town the other day, an alley I often walk down, and a girl I often see playing outside her house was looking out of one the windows. She was wearing a green mask. I don’t know why. I don’t need to. Sometimes you see something that doesn’t need any help from words to be a picture.
At the last minute, his mother needed a ride into town. The back seats had been folded down to load up the car with all of Frank’s stuff, but the stuff had been loaded loosely, so he was able to push out a space for himself and let his mother ride up front. It was only a twenty minute ride. They would drop her off and then he would move back to the seat in front and he and his dad would continue on, four hours farther, for his freshman year in college.
Wedged in among his possessions, he watched his hometown recede into the distance and disappear. This seemed significant. And it seemed significant that he was facing backwards. Was it ironic? No, that wasn’t it. Was it a metaphor?
He mentioned it and his mother (guess who) said, “Symbolic, maybe?”
What is it when the literal and the figurative are the same? Maybe it’s just “life.” You feed yourself, you feed yourself. What does it mean? Most of the time, it means you were hungry. And now you’re not.
But maybe the backwards ride was an unofficial ceremony. Goodbye, childhood.
We reached town. Frank and I climbed out of the car and hugged, the official “I am still your mom and I always will be/I love you and-but here I go, off to college” ceremony. Duly observed by two guys across the parking lot as well as the dad inside the car.
The car pulls away. The mom stands there waving as she is supposed to, as she wants to. The car turns a corner and is gone. The boy goes off to college. The mom buys a ceremonial latte and walks down the street.