Ode to Nook Road, Misty Downtown Escape

A fine road for arguing.

To you, Nook Road is just a quarter-mile cut through to the library; to me it's midwalk oasis. Turn off the sun-scorched main road and inhale Nook Road's lush green shade. The temperature drops by 10, and so does the mind's electric charge. Nary a house for the first several hundred yards; the blackened roadside stream where trout were once farmed has given way to crabgrass, fleabane, lambsquarters, and iridescent muck, but the mist remains to cool the monkey mind to memory.

Once the last leg of my walk to high school, Nook Road is where I just couldn't keep my cool anymore in the morning arguments with Joy. How do you know that Europe is actually better? I demanded. We now suspect she was right, and could I have read the future, I might have saved my rolling eyes behind her back while we climbed the dirt cutthrough to the football field. One night I snuck up and down the same path in the dark with my honors friends, intent on spraypainting Eagles Rule! or SENIORS 1987 on the bleachers, only to find that the paint cans I stole from Dad were empty anyway. Instead of blasting our adorable little rebellion onto the school, the black paint merely dribbled onto my index finger and stuck there. There was no lying to the cop who stopped us as we splashed homeward in the 10 o'clock rain. We had no beer cans; he let us go with a shake of his head and an eye roll of his own. Failed insurrection.

On Fourth of July, neighborhood kids met at the Little League Field for races sponsored by the Rec. Department. On "Go!" we rushed across the crusty grass to the ad-plastered outfield fence, sprinting, tied together, or hopping in sacks. I won the age 7-9 sprint, but it didn't feel right. I seemed bigger than everyone else. Maybe I had only just turned 10; I can't remember. All that remains are scraps of a conflicted victory; the blue ribbon is long gone.

Now Nook Road takes you to the new-for-townies library, a superfab modern high school, and a sunny Center for Active Living. To the Center, over the last two years, I have brought my ailing father and failing older siblings on many occasions, desperate for support and pro-bono guidance. Early in her Alzheimer's, my sister took the bus there herself once a week to the community exercise classes. Someone blamed her for stealing money from the honor-system donation pile when she got confused about making change. She, who had more means than probably everyone in that room put together. Her Alzheimer's was not advanced enough to miss the insult over $5. We never went back.  

Nook Road suggests that maybe it's not just Europe that's better; in times like these, you wonder if maybe everywhere is better. Still, we walk, we think, and we look. We can still enjoy her isolated quarter mile of overgrowth and find a little peace among her poison ivy, pennywort, and pokeweed, a momentary escape from an otherwise smoldering summer reality.