A woman steps out of Positive Pie on Main Street with a stack of pizza boxes and nearly bumps into me. Late afternoon, and a rainy twilight has gradually thickened all day. I’m walking home from a reading at the town Memorial building by an author who’s published a historical novel about Hardwick. Decades ago, when this town shifted from broke-back subsistence farming to the granite boom, the town fiercely debated the railroad construction (why let in the outside world?) and the economics of electricity and streetlights. Now, not so many years later, the tracks are torn up, the roads paved, the granite empire crumbled.
This afternoon, the streetlights are on early, the colored lights glowing at this junction of routes 14 and 15.
The woman with the pizzas asks me to open to her car door. I step off the sidewalk curb, breathing in the scent of garlic and bacon. Before she gets in the driver’s seat, she stands for a moment overlooking the colored lights and river. “December,” she remarks — that’s all — and then gets in and drives away.
In the brick courtyard, the kitchen staff is getting high, wearing t-shirts in the strangely balmy air. December: this descent into the amorphous darkness with no clear edges. Long after the stranger has disappeared, I stand beneath the building’s overhang while rain falls and light ripples across the wet world.