Sunday, 5 March, 2017 – Ann Arbor, Michigan
“Go on, boy, it won’t bite you!”
On the first step down to the bus door, Chris stops and turns back to look at the driver. He was hesitating, looking out at the front of the bus stop, and the busy intersection of Huron and Ashley.
“First time in Tree Town?” the bus driver asks, lighting a cigarette now that all of his passengers are out. His face is finely wrinkled, and he has a few days’ growth of gray whiskers.
“Yes,” Chris answers slowly. “My first time.”
“Lookin for work?”
“Yes,” Chris nods quickly. “A job.”
“Yeah, I figured. A lot of people coming from the west side a the state lately, lookin for work. Seems like all the jobs are around here and Detroit all of a sudden. Well, don’t worry about it, you’ll do fine. Hey,” the man frowns, “sorry, I don’t recall if you had much luggage? You need any help getting it out?”
“No,” Chris answers, “no luggage.”
“No kiddin?” the older man laughs. “You just come to town with the clothes on your back and some money in your pocket?”
Chris is afraid to answer. It’s unusual to move to a new city without bringing any luggage. He does not want to stand out.
“Well, more power to you,” the man says, blowing out smoke. “You’ll get it, don’t worry. Go on!”
“Thank you,” Chris says, and turns back to the bus’s door. Taking the last two steps down, he exits onto the sidewalk and the new world explodes around him.
There is wind and sunlight, noise and movement. There are cars stopping and starting, their engines humming, tailpipes smoking, windows reflecting the lowering Sun. There are tall buildings of stone and steel, their windows reflecting the silent deepening-blue sky to the east. There are people in coats and people with hats, people carrying bags, people talking on their phones, people reading a news kiosk, and people sitting on a bench. He never understood that there would be so many people. And every one different.
That seems wrong. How could he not have known that there would be so many people? Ann Arbor is a city of more than one hundred thousand people. How could he not have known what that would mean? He doesn’t even have luggage! People would bring luggage when moving to a new city. This is another mistake. How many more are there?
Chris breathes hard, the stiff breeze from the west cold on his face. He feels sick to his stomach, like he has made a terrible mistake, an immense mistake in coming here. In leaving home. And now it’s too late, infinitely too late. He can never go back.
The traffic light changes and everyone around him starts to walk forward across Huron Street, so Chris does too. Halfway across the street he glances west and stops, transfixed. Huron Street falls away to the west, gradually sloping lower and then up again in the distance. Almost a mile of the road is visible, arrow-straight, until it forks in the invisible distance. From here it looks like it just goes on forever. And right now, with the Sun lowering in the sky and getting ready to set almost due west, the whole length of the road is lit up brilliantly glowing, pointing back to the reddening disc of the Sun. It is warm there, and bright, in the vaults and traceries and transepts of light.
“Hey buddy, you can’t stand here,” a voice says.
Chris looks and sees a man in a dark coat and a dark hat.
“The light’s gonna change,” the man says. “You know? You gotta keep moving.” The man glances down the long road of fire. “It is pretty, isn’t it? But you gotta keep moving.”
The man turns and continues on his way with the last of the pedestrians. Up ahead a sign on the south edge of the street stops showing a while silhouette of a walking man, and starts showing a red blinking hand.
Chris resumes crossing the street before the light changes.
You gotta keep moving.
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