It’s 8:42 a.m. and you’re closer to where you want to be – at home in bed – than where you should be – at work. You hit the snooze alarm too many times this morning and are late: far from the desk where you should be responding to the e-mails and messages that accumulated overnight like the dead leaves and garbage the wind blew to your front stoop. Sweeping those to the curb further delayed your daily stomp to the train station on this sunlit morning. You huff toward the main boulevard, and that’s where you notice the holiday wreaths.
The wreaths were attached to the tops of the lamp posts shortly after Halloween. It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, so the wreaths haven’t been green or festive for a few months now. They’re missing chunks, ripped by the winds that cut along the boulevard. The small white lights woven within the wreaths’ remaining sprigs are on this morning: they were illuminated at Thanksgiving, but there’s never a lighting ceremony. Just one day on your commute along the boulevard, you noticed the wreaths were lit, like on this March morning. You wonder if the person in charge of the light switch is running late, too. Or maybe forgot. Or doesn’t care.
The wreaths slip from your mind, too, as you remember to be vigilant along the busy boulevard. Cocooned by your bulky coat and don’t-mess-with-me scowl, you’re mindful of the traffic scramble: city buses, lunch trucks, dollar jitneys, random bold cyclists, sagging livery cabs, annoyed motorists. Pedestrians jaywalk, drivers honk and swerve – or not until the very last minute, so motorists and walkers lock in games of chicken.
You are rushed along by the stream of people: groups of young Indian men, water bottles in the side pouches of their backpacks and work IDs clipped on their jackets. Parents and children hurry to reach school or day care before the official starting bell, the pairs looking like opposing ends in a short tug of war, each adult leaning forward as they tow a short sleepwalker.
You get to the corner where the boulevard bus always sails right past the stop sign, powered by the passengers’ impatience and the driver’s foul mood. The crossing guard assigned to the corner never notices: every day his back is to the street as he talks to the paper vendor who leans against the wall of the convenience store. You can’t blame the vendor for not peddling the dailies among the traffic: the screaming safety vest would do as little to guard him as his corner buddy.
So you pay attention as you step into the intersection, since neither the crossing guard nor the bus driver are, and join the stream, moving as predictably as animated figures in a window-display street scene. You forgot about the wreaths two blocks ago, when they disappeared like props irrelevant to the moment’s drama.
That’s how every day passes. You don’t notice how you’re swept along – until there’s a surprise, like Christmas wreaths still hanging on in March: brown, brittle, and sparse on a bright morning. And still lit.