I’m on a cousin’s porch this morning. A puppy is in my lap. I am watching traffic roll by.
And this morning’s traffic—if you can call it that—is sparse. I don’t often get to count cars anymore, but when I do, I wave at people who drive them.
I like to count how many people wave back.
People don’t wave like they used to. It’s a dying art, waving. Not long ago, you’d wave at folks and get waves in return. Things have changed.
A red truck rides past. A man wearing a cowboy hat is driving. I wave. The old man waves.
You can trust old men in cowboy hats.
The first cowboy hat I ever had was not a true cattleman’s hat. It was a construction hard hat in the shape of a ten-gallon one. It was my father’s.
My father wore a hardhat every day of his professional life. And like most ironworkers of his day, his everyday hard hat was covered in stickers. I remember those stickers.
There are some things you don’t forget.
My dog Thelma Lou is snoring while I count cars. This dog is pure adrenaline. I have only had her for six days, and I haven’t slept but a few minutes all week.
She wakes at odd hours with hellish insanity in her eyes. She chews anything within a nose’s-reach—including her own body. I love her.
I took Thel for a walk at 4:34 A.M. I haven’t been able to go back to sleep since.
Another car passes. It’s an old Chevelle, a ‘69 or ‘70. Kelly Green. Pretty. It’s full of high-schoolers. I wave at them. Nobody waves back.
My uncle John used to drive a ‘73 Chevelle—Periwinkle blue, with Redneck Rust on the hood. I learned to drive stick in that thing.
A man is walking his Labrador on the sidewalk. “Morning,” he says.
“Morning,” my cousin answers.
The Lab’s name is Bruno. Bruno pauses, sniffs the grass, walks in circles, then blesses the earth.
Immediately, the man uses a plastic bag to pick up Bruno’s warm regards.
My father would roll in his grave at this plastic baggy business.
A minivan passes. A young woman is driving. She’s looking at a cellphone while steering. There are kids in the backseat. Each child stares at a glowing screen of their own.
I wave. No wave-backs.
Maybe I have something in my teeth.
I don’t hate smartphones—I really don’t. But I don’t love them, either. They’ve changed the world.
Long ago, when you wanted to, for instance, call a girl, you had to use a KITCHEN phone while your whole family watched and giggled.
You’d hold a receiver against your face, turn your back toward your sister, and twirl a fifty-foot phone cord.
The girl’s father would answer in a voice like a Massey Ferguson log splitter and say: “Who’s calling, please?”
And it was in this exact moment that you were no longer a boy.
A van passes. The thing is loaded with boys in sports uniforms. I wave. All boys wave back. There is hope for humanity.
A nice SUV passes. A woman at the wheel with a young man in her passenger seat.
I wave. She waves. He waves. My cousin waves. Thel even raises her head.
My cousin says, “That guy beside her ain’t her husband.”
Maybe not, but at least he waved.
And now my puppy is awake. She’s making noxious fumes that can be smelled from outer space. I take her into the grass. She sniffs. She finds a spot. She makes a blessing.
My cousin hands me a plastic bag.
And this little dog treats me like I am the most important person in the world. And to her, I think maybe I am. I like feeling important to another creature. In fact, I like it so much that I wish I could give this feeling to as many people as possible.
You might wonder what you just read here.
This is me waving to you.