Along the Way

7 May 2018:

Six years ago, I lived alone in a garage apartment in Oklahoma City. A one-bedroom, a few hundred square feet, my apartment hid behind the big, green-shuttered house of my landlords—blocks away from Oklahoma City University. I walked a lot, read too much Edward Abbey, sat on the back patio with spiked Arnold Palmers and tried to understand my neighborhood.

There was a statue of an angel in someone’s yard down the street. All day, the angel stared from her front-lawn flower bed on 17th Street. She stared across rows of peeling sycamores, aisles of blooming redbuds. She stared down paths of cracked sidewalks.

I took walks toward the evening sun, past the park, past the church. A regular in my world then, the angel always seemed to be along the way—any way I went. When I got to her corner, I stopped. Some nights, the yard was full of starlings. Some nights, two or three were balanced in her hand.

For me, the angel on 17th was a gesture, a marker, a surprise in the evenings—with the green of spring growing at her feet. Her story—like the biographies of seashells in Florida—was unaccountable, unknowable, and unwritten. I told myself, some things have to gather their own lore. Some stories have to build, whole legends even, in the quiet corners of our grownup hearts.

That is how I understood it then.

And now, writing from Montana, after the wide-ranging years that closed out my twenties, I still believe I was right, and I still think of her from time to time.

How could that be? And why?

I tell myself: her meaning has accrued, is still accruing. Springtime reminds me of her. Summer too. I have built her into a cairn of sorts—a point of reference that keeps my memories of those days together. When any memory of that apartment comes singing back these days, she is around, she is along the way.

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