The Intersection

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There have been so many life-altering events at this corner that some people are becoming afraid to get too close to it. Ten in six years. There’s such a thing as bad energy, they say, juju that might follow them back to their homes. I think that’s crap. Only strays–cats, dogs, some humans–follow you and, still, only so far. I think energy has to be invited to be taken with you. But who would believe that? I’m just fourteen and so skinny and quick they hardly see me in broad daylight. Well, that has started to change, but I am still mainly just a watcher. And I do know a few things.

I remember when it all started. It was spring; I can still hear robins making a racket. Clive had to try crossing Parman Street without his mother’s hand holding his. He didn’t want to use the real corner but go kitty corner, full speed ahead to Song’s Ice Cream. I was eight coming up to nine, and he was five. I was sitting on our little third floor balcony so could see how it was going to play out. His mother yanked on him, he yanked the other way and despite her anger and best intentions he slipped away, right into the path of the rickety BMW motorcycle driven by Hank the Hooligan (that’s mom’s description). Anyone could hear that machine coming from two blocks away so I don’t know why Clive didn’t. His mother did, and screamed at him to get back on the curb but by then Hank and Clive crashed. I sat with my jaw dangling then I yelled for my mom, who called 911.

Clive lived. He had a broken leg, squashed ribs, a bad concussion. He seemed foggy for a while and had a cast on for months. Hank had a busted ankle but was not at fault, as he reminded everyone for a month. Everyone was grateful I’d had mom call for help. It wasn’t anything. But it was nice to be thanked for paying attention for once.

In the fall Danny O., the delivery guy for Park and Pay Market, was getting home late. Parman and Reiser have four standard stop signs and there’s a big street lamp on the southwest side but still. The rain pummelled everything in its way. I know because I’d opened my bedroom window and put my fingers through the tear in the screen to feel it. It stung but I liked it, it was a break from the heat at last. I saw Danny peddling nice and leisurely, not his usual speed. I watched him with interest. He was almost skeletal, sort of like me but much older, with powerful, popping leg muscles. He got good tips for being fast. I imagined I could do that some day if I got a better bike. He began to decrease speed more and more, as if he had switched to slow motion, wobbled along barely peddling. I got a bad feeling and hollered at him through the screen but Danny didn’t hear because of the roaring rain.

He made a loopy stop, lost balance, then toppled. He didn’t get up. Mom was playing cards with Bernie, my step dad, so I threw on my hoodie. Sneaked through the hallway, slid into the hall, leapt down the stairs. By then I was nine. The corner was lit up so I thought, no harm checking him. He usually rode so hard; this didn’t fit at all.

He was lying there, half-on and half-off his bike. His eyes were barely open. He didn’t answer me when I jostled him a little and spoke his name. The rain was pelting us, felt like little spikes. His eyelids rolled down. I wondered if he was drunk–he looked a little like Uncle Louis when he’d had too much beer. It didn’t make sense. I felt panic swirl inside as if the air was too thick. Danny’s mouth was gaping. I saw his phone peeking out of his pocket, so grabbed it and called 911. They knew the corner and when they came they searched and found a necklace that said he was diabetic.

“Very sick man,” a burly guy said, “so good thing you called us right away.”

My mom had come downstairs looking for me. She clamped her hand on her mouth; her hair was flattened with streaming water. I thought she looked scared. We went inside, water dripping with each step.

“Wade, that’s twice you’ve seen a lot of goings on. Do you watch the street every spare minute? Well, it paid off for poor Danny O.”

She spoke quietly as she ushered me into my room, then made me change my clothes. It annoyed me, how she stood in the doorway. I ducked into my closet to strip and pull on dry sweatpants and t-shirt.

“He fancies himself a guardian or something,” Bernie called from the kitchen. He always had to get in a word edgewise. “He’s seen all those shows, these kids believe they’re super heroes!”

I jumped into bed. I felt cold. She studied me, then came over to give me a quick hug. At the door she turned around, waiting. She had the ability to wait a long time.

“I just see things. Feel ’em,” I said, and pulled the blanket up to my neck, then turned on the lamp above the bed and pulled my book from under the pillow. Bernie would be surprised it was The Hardy Boys I’d found in dad’s box of stuff mom had hidden. She saw it but made no comment.

Bernie stood in the doorway behind her. “He sees things but we just don’t know what things, luckily!”

He haw-hawed like the foolish guy he was, half the time. The other half he could be okay. Mom shot him a look.

After they left I thought rather than read. I did notice things that were about to happen with a capital “H” in our neighborhood. Like when Gin almost got chased by the Keller twins–I saw them, then her, so whistled a warning. She came upstairs awhile. Or take the time Maya and Tim were headed for a break up: I saw how she backed away from him the last two weeks whenever he reached for her. Not a big deal. Then, two months later, I saw Tim whistling and thought, He has a ring for her, and he did, a really good one that she liked.

People told me stories without even knowing it. I just looked and listened.

But the corner was another thing. I started to wonder about it before anyone else. It seemed a place that surprised people or caused them trouble. That intersection showed me more things.

In the next six years there would be so many incidents–that’s what a cop called them–that it was hard to avoid adding it all up. The area wasn’t remarkable. There are lots of  maples that are old. We don’t have the worst block, and it certainly doesn’t blind us with its beauty. There are four big apartment (or condo, depending on what you can pay) buildings taking up most of two streets. So it’s true there are more people jammed together than some spots but this is a city. They’re brick, kept up fine. Our home is good, three bedrooms, space for a decent party. No one is afraid to go out, not even in the evening. Well, they used to feel okay about it but now…now it had a different vibe, they said.

After Danny, who recovered, there was Jeanne with her early delivery of a baby girl just after being tucked into the cab (that made me look away); half-blind Terrance whose glasses were dropped and lost three times (stepped on twice) at those corners before he sprang for contacts; Yasif’s beat up Toyota truck and its rapid connection with a visiting SUV–fourteen stitches to his chin and forehead, not a scratch on the other driver. Yasif got a new truck out of it, though.

And there was Megan last year. She’d been a good student, chummy with many kids and great to look at, I thought. Then she hurt her back and knee, cheerleading. We all knew she had pain pills prescribed because she told everybody she had them to cope with the injuries. But after a couple of months went by she was still limping around and helping herself to more Oxys. I thought she was in trouble, but everyone said no, I was being weird about it, a doc gave them to her.

One afternoon when the rain had stopped and sunshine started blaring I sat on the balcony with a piece of cherry pie, a glass of iced coffee and my math book. She was leaning against her current boyfriend as moved along. He chortled with his pasty, shaved head thrown back, as if the funniest thing in the world had been said. He lit a cigarette while Megan began to crumple, rain coat rippling as if a breeze had grabbed it, her feet fumbling and arms all wavey. I wanted to say something but my mouth was full of pie. The guy caught her just in time but went right down with her. On that corner, my side of the street. Two kids stopped, curious, then walked off. But that guy shook her, repeated her name frantically. Megan’s left foot was bare, a black flat having fallen off, and her toenail polish was blood red. I felt as if someone pressed an ice cube on my spine and slipped it up my neck. I ran through the living room where Bernie was snoring and down the stairs.

I didn’t use that junk, not even weed but I’d seen plenty who did. I knew how she used to look, bright eyes and smile but she hadn’t looked that good for a long time. Everyone knew about Oxys, they were  like nothing so they thought. But I’d felt her going down and when I got to her, she was worse than loaded. She didn’t hear us. I put my hands on her chest and pushed hard. I should know CPR, I thought but I didn’t. She stirred but the boyfriend told me to back off. I put my hands on her shoulders and squeezed them a little and then, I don’t know why, whispered up close: “Let us keep you alive.” The guy grabbed, pushed me away, and finally called for help.

I kneeled by her and watched her. It seemed the best thing to do. A small crowd was knotting about us. She was barely breathing, more like long pauses of nothing, then little sips of air.

I put my mouth to her ear. “Stay alive, Megan. I’ll help.”

My mom was coming home from her office job and stood stick-still when she saw the crowd. She said later she knew I was at the center of it. “You can’t stay away from things, you’re like a magnet that draws emergencies to you! Or the other way around. Maybe you’re supposed to be in the medical field.”

But that wasn’t it. All around Megan’s head was a soft heat that gave off a faint shimmer, fading fast. Her eyes moved a little beneath pale lids. She wanted to go and wanted to stay. I imagined her at eighteen ready for college or off to Italy for the summer.

“Why not stay?” I said.

She could do anything if she hung on. I then saw her get up and walk away, smiling. I wanted to catch up, wave. But she really was lying there, breathless. The ambulance arrived, EMTs performed CPR and put something in her veins. Megan’s body spasmed and her eyes flew open. I felt like crying. The walk up the stairway was crowded with people who kept asking me questions. I covered my ears, went in the apartment. Locked the door.

Megan went to rehab. Afterwards she came by to thank me but I couldn’t make myself come out and talk, no matter mom begging me. Yet that time was a kind of beginning for me, too. I stayed on my perch when nothing else was going on because mom was right: things happened that others often didn’t or couldn’t see. But I could, so I looked, same as usual.

I tried to tell mom after Megan. It was dark out and the air was sweet. Bernie was at work. She and I were sitting together on the balcony at the little green table. She enjoyed a glass of wine as I searched a deepening blackness for constellations.

“Mom.”

“Hmm?”

“You know about Megan?”

“Yes, thank God she was saved.”

I cleared my throat because it felt like it was going to close. She glanced over.

“I knew she was dying. I saw light around her head fade. Felt a little bit of heat and then saw her get up and walk away. I felt she should stay longer, not leave yet.”

Mom took the glass from her lips and they parted, her breath escaped and a word started to form, then stopped.

“I know it seems nuts but Bernie is right. I sort of see things. Feel them.”

“Just like your grandmother, Wade.”

“Really?”

Mom said smiled at me but she looked a little sad.”Yes, she had that going on all her life. She lived partway in the spiritual world and some here. Spoke of angels as if they were her buddies. I guess they were, too. She was good. You are, too.” She sighed. It was so quiet I could hear the stars get into their places. “Well, let me know if you need help. That corner is way too busy. But maybe that’s why.”

“Huh?”

She moved her chair close to mine and put her arm around my shoulders. “Because you’re here, paying attention. Watching over people.”

I didn’t say anything. We found the Dippers and saw city lights nip into the darkness. Then she got up and went inside.

Things kept on happening. You’d be surprised by some of it, all the troubles and solutions and rescues. I was around, sure, but I was also trying to grow up.

One night after I’d met up with a girl from English class I was on my way home. Three guys were blowing off steam, tossing a bottle of something back and forth as they approached the intersection. I knew them from school and instinctively stepped under the market’s awning.

“What about this place? They say it’s marked. Bad luck.”

The second guy leaned back against the apartment building. “Not what I heard. It’s got some sort of power, lives been saved even. See those ribbons on the lamp-post? A girl recently left an totaled car unhurt. No one has died here even though there’s been tons of bad stuff.”

“Not true!” A third guy stood with feet splayed and pointed at the corner. “Right. Here. Megan Barnes. Overdosed, and that kid brought her back to life. I mean, he talked her right out of dying. Now she’s in Italy, studying something.”

“What? You mean Wade-o Weirdo?”

“Seriously, that’s what they say.”

The first guy took off his cap and repositioned it just so. “Man, it’s a kind of resurrection road. That’s it–Resurrection Road. Just saying. Deep, man. That Wade’s gotta know something. Respect earned, you gotta say it.”

I hung back as they shuffled off, turned around and headed toward a coffee shop. In truth, I was looking forward to getting out of here one day, blending in somewhere. Sure, I’ll do my part, watch over whatever is needed. But I have other pieces to put together, just for myself. Still, I like the new name for the intersection. Much better than “Crash Corner”, “Four-way Bad Luck”, “Dark Reiser”, “Punked at Parman”. Yes, Resurrection Road could be the name it deserves, or needs.

Photo by Herzog
Photo by Herzog

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