Thursday, December 10, 2015

All is Not Lost

By Jen Hunt
Based on a true story

I shook
My napkin out
The driver’s window
To rid my lap of toast crumbs
On the way to work
Forgetting that cradled
Between my legs
Was a smooth, small heart made of olive wood
Bought in Bethlehem last year
To hold as proof tangible
I am remembered
And carried
And here

I flicked the cloth out so fast
Thought at first it was an apple core
Watched it skip the pavement in my rearview mirror
Heard the hard, dull knocks
As it flew
Saw the car half a field back swerve
Minced an oath

I could not think of anything else
On the way home
Just my heart
My heart on the center strip of the highway
So close
And yet so far—
Wondered how long it would take
To forget the heart and
The precise place it flew
Or if it would remain forever in my mind
Penance for my absent mind
And other short-comings

On the way home that evening
With the sun casting all the roadside’s divots and scraps in stark relief
It seemed impossible
I would not find my heart
Would I stop and search for it
Along the median’s edge
Along the median’s worn edge
Somewhere between the Mobil
And Pulaski

No one but the Lord
Would understand why I dialed the non-emergency police line
Three days later
To ask what could be done about a small wooden trinket
Pitched somewhere between mile markers 241 and 242
Going west—

Or why I was so sad that,
I, having left work two hours too late, once again,
Had pulled over twice,
But never left the van,
Despite changing into gym clothes,
Donning a reflective vest,
Putting on my hazards--
And the authority’s assurance I would neither be breaking any laws, should I choose to stop,
Nor fined for littering--
Never left
For fear this might end as a cautionary tale
Told someone else’s loved one
About the dangers of holding on too tightly
And trying too hard

The next morning
While frustrated commuters
Tried their best to avoid the aging woman in a Kia
Driving fifty in the passing lane
Holding herself upright with the steering wheel
And a license plate that read
My eyes fixed on the blurred fringe
Spotting each would-be, coal-like lump--
Utterly hypnotized, mad
And driven

I wanted--
To reach the end of the story fast
Find the flickering needle
At the tip of the haystack—
I know how all sorrows
Would end if I wrote the script—

I got--
Something I would never have dreampt
A rainbow
Hung at the precise spot my hunting began--
Not before or after--
If I ever get off work in time
I will look again,

I self-consoled,
Even while ordering a replacement
From a Palestinian storefront on Amazon
Promised to arrive
In three weeks’ time

Next Monday, leaving work early
Donning sunglasses for disguise,
I walked the same strip
Standing tall, shoulders back
Glad to stretch my legs
Glad I had not forced my family to join the snipe
Glad for the foresight of bringing sneakers and long socks
I walked
Trying not to look intoxicated
Or forgetful--

A kind woman going the opposite way--
I couldn’t hear her through the din of semi’s whipping by
Nor could she me--
Paused to ask, I think, if I was okay.
But I yelled back, smiling and Pooh-like, through the wind,
I was just looking for something I had lost.
Never you mind!
Tut, tut, All is well!

Then continued my traipse through brush
And pebbles smelling of roadkill
With each passing car’s woosh
More determined I would never drive so fast
By road crews again

Whether the chain gang or civic group assigned to that plot
Ever finds my spoil
And, if they do,
Whether they call it
A missive from God
Or a blight,
I do not yet know.
But I know the rainbow
Showed for me
When the wooden heart did not
And therefore
I am convinced
All is not lost