the way the sidewalk ends

November 10, 2017
By , South Riding, VA

You never look at the sidewalk below your feet. Instead, you keep your eyes forward, or buried in whatever is in your hands, or up to the clear blue sky where the abyss watches you. After all, you have walked this path your entire life, so there is little value in carefully cataloging every insignificant  kink and dip you gloss over. 

It makes sense, then, that when someone asks you: what does your sidewalk look like, you answer: huh. i don’t really know.

But here is what you do know:

One. Out of the corner of your eye, it appears white. It is more gray and tan and dirty than white, but if you were to call it one color, it would be white.

Two. You walk along the sidewalk and sometimes you trip over bumps and step on cracks. The soles of your shoes scrape across scattered leaves and twisted roots.

Three. When you step off the sidewalk and onto the road (not white, not cracked, not bumpy), you do not look back.

 

 

It is a good thing you do not look back.

 

 

what does your sidewalk look like?

what does YOUR sidewalk look like?

        obviously, then, YOUR sidewalk is different from MY sidewalk and they’re SUPPOSED to be different sidewalks -

 

 

Curious, you scuff the heel of your shoe against the sidewalk. From below your feet comes a harsh, grinding noise, a bit like nails scraping down a chalkboard. When you lift your foot off the ground, the noise stops. Then, you carefully tap the tip of your toe against the ground again, listening to the way the pebbles skip over the uneven pavement.

With an uncharacteristic burst of vigor, you kick your foot against the ground, a long, smooth arc from toe to heel. At once, the twisted, grating snarl starts up again, sputtering like a dying engine, the tremors ricocheting through your foot and ankle and leg until you feel like there’s a deep, dark something pounding at your heart.

Heart pounding in your throat, you drag a hand down your face, wiping away at the sweat pooling at your hairline. Quickly, quietly, you step off the sidewalk and onto the strip of grass next to it. No longer does the earth thrum through the soles of your shoes. This is, you decide, is the way it should be.

 

 

But the way it should be is not the way it is and the way it is is not the way it will be -

 

 

On a warm, spring day, you build up the confidence to look at the sidewalk underneath your feet. But you hesitate before you tilt your head down, because you suddenly you remember the way the earth shuddered against your feet the last time you tried to approach the sidewalk in an unusual way.

Eventually, your curiosity overwhelms you. Your eyes travel from the bottoms of white clouds to the tips of green, leafy trees to the mismatched layers of the houses around you.

 

 

come a little closer, a little closer, a little -

 

 

With your first downward glance, nothing seems out of the ordinary. The sidewalk is more gray and tan and dirty than white, but you expected this already, so you shift your weight around, as if the motion of your feet against the ground would create something spectacular, extraordinary.

As a matter of fact, it does not. You stare at the sidewalk and there is nothing but dirty cement and dried leaves underfoot and tree roots and weeds poking out of the cracks. The cement is speckled with tiny stones embedded into the surface, yarn-thin fissures forming spiderwebs across . You cross your arms and frown and in a fit of whimsical irritation, kick at one of the gnarled roots sticking out of the sidewalk.

Then, instead of the rough, scratched ground, you see the clear blue sky reflected under your feet. There is a distinct sensation of falling, the pit of your stomach churning as the breath is sucked out of your lungs and out of your throat and into the sudden emptiness pressing on your shoulders.

You stare into the abyss, and it stares back at you.






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