While driving through Alabama or Mississippi, (I don’t remember which as they sort of blend together a bit) I looked up at a bridge that I was passing under, a small one, nothing fancy, just your typical ol’ overpass. And there, on the side, in blazing, blue letters was:
MITCH AND MANDA
I immediately began to wonder about these two. Was it possible that they were the Romeo and Juliet of their bit of the world?
Was it a mean joke that some guys pulled on their buddy, Mitch, linking him with the local, hirsute laundromat owner?
A hopeful youngster pining for the town prom queen?
Or maybe it was her? Maybe Manda herself walked down the aisles of the local Wal-Mart and picked out the just-right perfect shade of blue.
I thought about these names a lot over the weekend.
First off there’s the glaringly obvious point (at least to me) of why?
Why, and how.
I remember when I was little wanting very much for people to know that I existed. I would write messages and send them off in helium balloons, my own proverbial messages in the bottle, not even hoping for an answer really, just putting myself out there.
I did get a response once from a lady in South Carolina.
Your poem was very nice. Thank you for sharing. The bit about the clouds was sweet. Your Mother must be very proud.
You should know however, that it’s not a good idea to let balloons go into the air. When they pop, birds and animals sometimes try to eat the pieces and then they slowly choke on them and die.
Mrs. Something or another”
So, I didn’t do that anymore.
I think I do understand what would compel someone to, for instance, write their name in the sidewalk or to declare their love on an overpass. It’s being able to go back to a specific place and say,
“Look. I was here. I did something. It was stupid and badly done, but I made a mark. People will see my name for a long time.”
How silly we are. I am very guilty of this. I know that those I love see me, and know me, and think that I’m great, and yet I want to see a tangible something that I have contributed in one way or another.
I don’t think I’m doing a very good job trying to make my point. If I ever had one.
Can’t you just see it, though? Mitch with his paint can, slightly drunk, perhaps Manda is with him, and they’re staggering out of the car and across the road to the other side and he’s yelling,
“I’m gonna show ev’ry one that we’s goin’ out!”
She’s giggling and saying,
“Miiiitch, you’re sooo crazy…”
Or maybe Mitch and Manda have been married five years already now and on the morning of their five year anniversary Mitch awakes and thinks,
“I know just what I’m going do to surprise her…”
Every times Manda drives to town for milk she sees her name linked with Mitch and gets just plumb tickled at how “romantic that man is and all…”
Was it hard, I wonder? Was it tricky? Do you need a lookout to tell you when cars are coming? What if a police car came by?
“Oh, hello there sir…oh, the spray paint? This? Um…I was just out walking on this random overpass in Alabamippi or Mississama in the middle of the night and…tripped over the can sitting here and it got all over me.”
When I think about it, it becomes sort of romantic, sort of goofy, the cement version of the heart carved into the tree trunk. How nice.