Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Place Where My Thoughts Escape

I drive a lot.  The overwhelming majority of the time I spend in the car is for work - either commuting to and from the office or back and forth between the office and whatever the day's destination or destinations may be.  You spend enough time in the car and you get to see a lot of things. 

Late in the day on Friday I had to make a trip to the Essex County Courthouse in Newark to file some papers on a case.  As I usually do when I have to go to the courthouse, I took Exit 14 off of Route 280 East and drove through the neighborhood where NJIT, Rutgers-Newark, Essex County College and St. Michael's Hospial are located.  I have driven this same probably at least one thousand times in the past twenty years and it dawns on me as I write this that I have not the faintest idea of the street's name.  It occurs to me that I have never known it and that lack of knowledge has never hampered me in my efforts to get in and out of Newark.  Note to you:  I may not be the fellow you want to ask for directions.  Just sayin'.

As I was driving towards my destination, I stopped for a red traffic light.  And there, half-walking and half-hopping down the sidewalk in the direction of my car was a little boy.  I am notoriously bad at guesstimating the age of children but to my untrained eye he appeared to be somewhere in the neighborhood of nine or ten.  He was bundled up against the weather (save for the fact that as children everywhere do he did not have the heavy coat he was wearing zipped up), with what appeared to be a fairly heavy-looking backpack over both shoulders and a hat that would have made Dr. Zhivago proud atop his head. 

What struck me more than his cold-weather garb was the look on his face.  He was motoring along with a half-smile, half-whimsical gaze and he appeared to be either talking or singing to himself.  His mood was infectious.  I felt a smile form on my own face as I sat stopped at the light - not because of anything I had done but because of what I was watching him do.  

The light turned green.  As I pulled away from the intersection and continued on my way, passing by the area where he was walking, he was still smiling and be-bopping.  He continued to do so as he faded from sight in my rear-view mirror.  The thought occurred to me as I watched him go that I hoped wherever it was he was headed Friday afternoon was a good place.  A safe place.  A place where a child of nine or ten can feel warmth on a cold December day.  I found myself hoping that he was not simply walking towards his house. 

I hope that he was headed for home. 


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