Sidewalks

We lived in a post-war crackerbox on the edge of poor, right next to the coal yard. The sidewalks were torn up and sometimes stopped mid-stride, turning into hardscrabble and weeds. You could see faint chalk marks of tic-tac-toe and hopscotch boards, scuffed away each night by pantcuffs and work boots. Jump rope and kick-the-can was easier to play on the road than the sidewalks, easier on the knees, but you had to watch for cars. There was a tavern two blocks over, Pete’s, and the coal men spent a chunk of their paychecks there every Friday after work. Some walked home for dinner, some drove, and when they drove, they weren’t careful about who was kicking a can past the curb.

Poor? I don’t know what that means. We had full bellies at night, and a radio, and a warm bed. How do you quantify something if that’s all you know? Sad? Ask a man who lives with sadness and he’ll tell you the same thing. Did I wish for more? More what? More comic books, PB&J’s, a better radio, a bigger bed? What for? Ignorance is the best remedy for want. If you have what you need, then what? Some people understand it. Then they get older. They see the things they don’t have, and then want them.

If someone told you they could fly higher, higher than you, would you curse them, or be grateful you could fly at all? Icarus. Do you want to be like him, or a regular guy, gliding, gliding above the coal chutes and the pale sidewalks, above all the grubbiness and want?

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