Intersection

A couple stands at the intersection holding hands loosely, their fingers intertwined but relaxed, indicative of the stage of their relationship when passion is not their priority but a physical connection is. The girl, who can’t be older than 17, wears a knee-length pleated floral skirt above laced-up leather boots under which her feet are surely sweating in the dry July heat; the boy, who looks even younger with his apparent inability to grow facial hair, holds her hand calmly while fidgeting in his shorts pocket with the other, twisting the cloth back and forth below his fingers. His shirt has a silhouette of mountains on the front of it and a Colorado flag as a backdrop, indicating his tourist status to this mountain town — likely a souvenir from the t-shirt shop down the street. The couple stands at the front of the line watching the cars pass back and forth in front of them, waiting only for the little white neon man on the light pole fifty feet away to tell them it’s safe to walk. She taps her toes twice and draws a circle with the toe of her boot on the unresistant sidewalk; he looks at her and lets go of her hand. They both stand with their hands on their hips waiting to cross.

A bicyclist swerves up next to them, jutting his wheel out into the intersection mere inches from traffic turning right on the adjacent street. He wears a helmet and sunglasses and doesn’t look either direction; he stares only straight ahead, waiting also for the traffic light to become red so he can cross safely. The couple gives him a side-eyed glance as he leans on one foot and one pedal entirely too close to them for comfort. Music blares from his headphones, the cord attached to which hangs dangerously close to his handlebars; first only a faint drumbeat can be heard through the headphones from a few inches’ distance, but when the song picks up it can clearly be identified as “Livin’ On a Prayer.” The girl hears the beat and begins unconsciously nodding her head to it; her boyfriend looks over at her and smiles; she smiles back sheepishly. The music seems to propel the bicyclist, and he inches forward slightly into the intersection but the white neon man doesn’t change for the biker’s will. A row of cars farther down the next block impedes everyone’s views from the oncoming traffic, and the biker is impatient for the light to change. He, too, must wait.

Outside of the store behind everyone comes a mother and her two children, both slurping at ice cream cones that have already melted well beyond their impeccable conical shape. The children pay no mind and continue licking up the sticky mess that has oozed down the cone onto the side of their hands and down onto the sidewalk. An old lady next to them gives them a glance and looks straight ahead again. The boy turns his cone sideways and a chunk of ice cream falls off; his mother scoffs and pulls out a napkin from a stack she was carrying and hands it to her son. He blindly steps into the ice cream he’s spilled and only holds the napkin, doing nothing with it except gluing it to his hand from the sugary ice cream residue that is already there. The boy is not paying attention to where he is walking and almost walks straight into the bicyclist’s back tire before his mother pulls him back with a quick hand to her left side, the opposite of where his sister is still happily licking at her own ice cream cone, oblivious to her surroundings.

Cars and trucks cruise down the main thoroughfare in front of everyone’s view. Every street in town is busier today for the holiday weekend and the sidewalks are full of three or four people walking abreast, taking advantage of a long weekend for optimal tourism in town. This intersection soon lines up with cars at every angle, crossing in front of the pedestrians, lined up with their turn signals on across the street, impatiently inching forward on this side much like the bicyclist on the sidewalk. The kids start to get bored. Their ice cream is gone and they both look around at all the people near them. The girl whispers something to her mother, who leans down to hear her better. Whatever the question is, she shakes her head in response.

Finally, across the intersection, the traffic light changes to yellow and then to read, and the people on the sidewalk look askance in all directions, shuffling forward like heavy-breathing horses straining at the gates to be freed. The red light appears to the upper left. The white neon man flashes on in front of us. The bicyclist puts his left foot back on the pedal and pushes off, leaning precariously toward the young couple as he regains his bearings. The couple waits for him to pass by them, both eyeing him perhaps in fear that he will fall off his bike, but he does not, and takes off leaving them in his wake. They clasp hands again and walk slowly across. Behind them comes the mother and her children, who are pulling her along on both sides, waddling quickly into the street. The light indicates she can cross, but she looks both ways again twice to make sure it’s clear. They disappear across the street. Pedestrians from the other side of the street take their place on this corner, pausing only for a split second to decide which direction they intend to go before carrying on.

The orange hand becomes solid on the screen in the walkway across the street. The cars now inch forward in the road. Their light turns green. The traffic resumes.

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