I fall hard off the flat smooth path on a warm sunny day: scraped knee and arm through the untorn shirt and unscraped blue jeans, wounded not by injuries but by embarrassment. My knee hurts so bad that I don’t even look up to see who has seen me. Husband cups one hand to cup mine and picks me up off the cold gravel past the edge.
The new greenway in Memphis, built on the former tracks of a train, is close to eight miles long. It connects the tight city with the swarming suburbs, abandoned skyscrapers with flood plains, old houses with new houses, patch forests with immense parks. It connects with bicycles, strollers, skates, scooters, and the tennis shoes of people all sharing the same sacred eight-foot- wide space.
Surging past runners and young parents with strollers, bicyclists yell, “On the Left!” Some of the bicycles have riders who are not sure about the recent loss of their training wheels. Although I see no other accidents, I wince at every step after my ankle-twist wrist-first tumble, my knee, still bloody, swollen, and smarting as I keep going, walking off the pain.
We pass couples. Some have been together for a while. Some pretend they walk the green line all the time because it’s their first date. Some talk incessantly. Some argue. Some walk with no talking taking place. Some pick up the intermittent trash along the way. Some stop at the fire burning down an old man’s garage, his backyard backing up to the green line. We view him as through a frame, a stand of pine trees, while the firefighters drag in more hose and more water to thwart the insistent flames from leaping over his concrete patio to the unsuspecting roof of his house. He is too busy shaking his head and smoking a cigarette to notice all the inquisitive onlookers on the asphalt path.
Life metaphor: the accidents, the strangers, the independent rider, the silence, the spills, the journey, the stubborn Southern tenacity to keep walking down green paths.