Saturday, January 24, 2009

A fixture

My car broke down on the way to work, yesterday.  I left home, and pulled into the gas station on the way to work to fill up and get coffee and a muffin, and when I returned to the car, my starter was dead.  I called my mechanic, and about a half hour later he picked me up in a tow truck.  

"Say," he said to me, "Do you remember a little old lady who used to walk up and down the road in the village, here?"  My wife and I have been living in our little burgh for almost 5 years now, and it took a second but then the image of one of the locals whom you always saw in the background but didn't necessarily notice came to mine.  "She got hit by a car the other night, and was killed," he said.  I'd heard about a woman hit on the radio, a few days earlier.  He shook his head.  "What a shame.  She was a fixture, you know?" he said.

I nodded.  "Yeah, she was.  That's horrible."

"I've been here twenty four, going on twenty five years and I'd never known her whole story," he continued.  "Ends up she lived in a little house near the lake, next to the junk shop.  And she walked up and down this road every day for years..."

I'd never met the woman, and had even passed her by almost consciously on a number of occasions, but a sense of loss dawned on me.  She was part of the town where I chose to raise my family, and now she was gone.  She'd never uttered a word to me, even in the handful of instances that she and I had literally crossed paths while walking up the main drag, but it was as if part of my little burgh's collective cast of characters and heroes had passed.  

As my friend the mechanic drove me - and my dilapidated car - to his shop, he pointed out other elements of the town's folklore.  Tom Selleck had wanted to buy this horse ranch at one point.  That field is where the general commanding the British army had been held captive by Washington.  Over that hill was a house that had a driveway of nearly a mile, all paved with paving stones.  Another one of the town millionaires - few and far between, I assure you - commutes to Manhattan by helicopter a few times a week...  All of these anecdotes kind of helped fill out the image of my little village of just a few thousand people as being a much more vibrant, living community than I'd known it to be.  Strangely, with all of these newer elements to the town fabric, there was still something missing, knowing that the lady who had walked up and down the main drag for years had died.