I saw a sock on the sidewalk the other day ankle-length, white with a pink toe and heel. Lost, perhaps, during a return trip from the laundry mat, though that wasn’t the first thought I had on the subject. My first thought was of my days working at Ferris State University and an autumn morning in 2002, full of awkwardness and regret (none of it mine, thankfully). This is how the morning unfolds in my mind now.
I drove to campus one morning in October. The autumn colors had just popped, and I had a poem brewing in my mind (“cornucopia,” posted here).
As I approached campus, I saw a young woman walking along a street of older houses, college rentals, mostly. She walked barefoot on the cold concrete, in boxers and an oversized sweatshirt, her blonde-on-brown highlights pulled back to a hasty ponytail. She carried her jeans and assorted other articles of clothing. She shuffled quickly through the tumbling leaves.
I drove past and parked my car. The poem was about half formed, and I needed a walk to solidify it. The girl from the sidewalk was gone, so I headed up that particular street.
Half a block up, a young man now sat on the front steps one of the rentals. He wore last night’s jeans and a white t-shirt, a backwards ball cap. I think he was barefoot, too, and I recall a beer can and a bottle of water on the step. His head was in his hands, and as I approached, he mumbled: “Not doing THAT again.”
“Rough night?” I asked, and he raised his head and blinked. “Dude, you have no idea.”
I walked on, wondering if these two bedheads were connected. I turned left at the end of the block, and worked a couple lines of the poem in my head. Not great, but alright. I took another left and heard music drifting on the breezes.
Ahead and across the street, an upstairs window was open, and from it blared the voice of Alanis Morrisette, accompanied by an as-yet undiscovered co-ed: “It’s not fair to deny me/Of the cross I bear that you gave to me/You, you, you oughta know!”
Was it the sound of running water? Steam drifting from the window? The volume of the music in the window? To this day, I have the distinct impression of a girl singing angrily in the shower. The rage and sorrow in her voice seemed authentic, and the thought occurred to me: perhaps all three know each other now. And I thought I should write this down.
I walked on. The wind kicked up, and hundreds of orange leaves, swirled about my head shoulders. The poem took final form, and until I saw that sock last week, the rest of the morning slipped me.