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Steering Wheel

I've been walking home--my bike is in the shop forever and the weather is nice. I listen to episodes of the Jack Benny program on my phone, waiting for Mary Livingstone to laugh. I'm up through 1946.

The traffic where I live is so bad that sometimes I am stuck in my minivan for forty minutes before I get to work. So I use the steering wheel as a kind of prayer wheel. Each notch reminds me of a prayer. I go from notch to notch saying prayers for my husband, for each of my children, my parents, my friends, and the students in my class.

I read something like that 19 years ago in Guideposts. I was sitting in my grandparents' living room on their black sofa. I think of it whenever my computer gives me the pinwheel, or when I am on the phone at work helping an old lady onto the website, explaining that email doesn't need stamps. At the top right of the screen, I asked, do you see a little box? And to the left of the box is the word “Username?” You put a special name into that box. We have to make that special name.

“I'm old,” she said.

Down through Soho. People walk into traffic while text-messaging. I also have on headphones. It's warm, crowded, and progress is slow. I see a girl in canary leggings and short bangs, backlit by a storefront. She is laughing at a joke made by a boy in a vest. No wonder people want to live here. Right then Mary Livingstone laughs in 1946. A man with his tongue out is trying to shake hands with everyone. On Bowery I pass the New Museum, which has a sign reading “HELL YES!” in great rainbow letters. Faces lit from below or on the side by cell-phone screens and media players. I am moving slow but light is absolutely everywhere.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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