I arrive at my childhood home in Maryland for a two-week visit at the same time as a sinkhole starts stewing in the street outside the house, eking pools of yellow-green murk into the gutter. The sanitation department sends its team of night workers one weekday evening, and at 9pm, they upturn the earth with noisy trucks and tools, seeking the source of the leak so they can sew it back together again.
We’re forbidden from turning on our faucets while they toy with the pipes, so my dad drives to the store to buy plastic bottles of water. Dirty dinner dishes are left to languish in perilous piles in the sink.
Later, we assemble on the couch, attempting to relax: my younger sister here for the summer in between two years of grad school, my parents, and me, with our senile dog whining angstily around us. Our family tree is temporarily replanted, but with the surrounding ground rumbling and crumbling and caving in.
Every so often, we take turns traipsing barefoot into the front yard, asking questions. The construction men just keep saying, “Soon.” Still, we peek out the blinds at the trucks and bulldozers and deep holes in the gravel and grass. It reminds me of the way New Yorkers — myself included — tend to stand at the edges of subway platforms and crane impatient heads down the tunnels to look for the lights of an emerging train. Rationally, we know we’re going to have to wait several more minutes, like the boards say in their red digitized numerals, and we know our yearning can’t force time forward. But that doesn’t stop us from ferreting for some hint, however small, of progress.