The counting

sidewalk

I grew up literally next door to my grandparents. When school ended I went there at least as often as I did my own home. The school bus dropped me off at the end of the block and I’d run home, the sidewalk’s crests, valleys and slants as immutable as the big blue water tank towering over the town. As I ran, I made sure each foot crossed an equal number of cracks; if one foot got too far ahead, I’d make my gait as awkward and contorted as I had to to make sure the number evened out by the time I reached the front door. On especially unbalanced days I’d cheat to achieve equality. Crossing from the sidewalk into a driveway or past the edge of the lawn counted as a crack. Each step up the front porch could, too. By any means necessary.

We moved upstate to a neighborhood that didn’t have sidewalks. I’d never even known that was possible. Our new home was in a suburban tract where if you wanted to walk, you were out in the street. There was a sunken sliver of space between the streets and the lawns for water to flow down into the grates. In junior high and high school I’d get off the bus blasting Metallica, Public Enemy or Vladimir Horowitz in my walkman at volumes I knew then were dangerous and am now, at 41, beginning to pay the price for. As immersed in the music as I was, no matter how far from the non-sidewalk I was, I always accounted for the cracks. I always made sure by the time I got home that each foot had passed an equal number.

A girlfriend discovered a variation on this fixation when I was in college. Continue reading