I have a few options for getting home. I can drive over the Natick bridge, the one that was closed after the big flood in 2010. Once you’ve crossed the bridge, though, you’re forced to look at the big empty house, boarded up, gaping holes where windows once were, pieces of glass clinging to the frames. The house is ugly and should be razed. Everyone has moved out. But the house still stands, decrepit, faded, and gray.
Or I can go home the back way and drive up the hill from the fire station, past the golf course that straddles the road, mindful of golfers crossing the street to get to the next hole, careful to keep my speed down because there’s usually a police car hidden behind the trees near the elementary school. Yesterday there was a bad accident on the road, farther down. People drive too fast.
And now that part of Natick Road, washed out after the flood, has been repaired, I can get home that way, past the farm, the horses, the houses up in the hills, hidden behind so much green now, until I reach the little bridge. It took a long time to repair. There’s just not much money anymore. Hope told me she likes to walk there because it’s quiet, but the road is narrow and people drive too fast. I know she’s careful, especially now, but still I worry about her. Her time is precious, and she won’t give up her walks.
These days I usually find a reason to take that winding back road. Maybe I’ll see Hope. It’s a good thing to see her out walking. She never accepts a ride home. “I’m fine!” she says, waving her hand and smiling under a wide-brimmed straw hat. I wave too, and drive over the bridge, where small tributaries of the Pawtuxet River flow under the road, downhill, to the source. And in my rear-view mirror I see Hope, walking.