I’ve been trying to break up the pavement for days

on

I guess I should be excited at my first attempt at breaking up an asphalt
surface. It will take me until dawn of the next sun cycle to finish the
pavement. Then it will be my job to sweep up the debris. My hands will know
how to build a wall around the rubble, how to lay down a cement foundation,
and which pieces of asphalt that are worth saving.

After my first attempt at breaking up the pavement, it turns out I’m not a
great pickaxman, at least, not in my own personal opinion of myself. My
fingers can’t make a perfect indent. That’s something I did while trying
to pick up my hammer. That’s the kind of thing I’ll have to learn to do at
my next attempt. I can’t use the pickaxe to make a perfect indentation of
the whole surface. I’ll have to be gentle. That’s what my dad taught me
about using the hammer and the maul. He said, “Just make a quick mark, and
you’ll be fine.”

My mom has been waiting for me at the top of the hill, staring down at my
failure from the safety of the trees. She said, “You know, I feel for you.
You’ve been trying to cut the asphalt for days, and you couldn’t do it.”

“I’ve been learning,” I said, not wanting to lie to her. When I couldn’t
do something, I would tell her everything was a total failure. I could not
believe in myself any longer. My mom, like my dad, was a workaholic. She
couldn’t stand the idea of having an idle day.

She was right. I should never have thought I could start my own business.
I was a failure at everything I did. My business failed. She took a
second mortgage on the house to pay me back for the money I lost on my car.
I had a lot of debt because of it. I also had a lot of other bills, which I
never knew I had. I just knew that the bills would come. When times were
good, I could make enough money to pay them. Now I couldn’t make it, and I
couldn’t pay them.

My mom called me, the night of my second attempt to save the pavement. She
wanted me to come home early tomorrow. She was going to help me make money
again. She said, “It will be good for me to work again. I could use the
money.”

I didn’t want to go home yet. Not when I was still working on my business
plan. The idea of spending more time with my mom, who took care of me when I
was sick as a child, made me anxious to take the night off. She would have
to wait a long time before I could make money again. I tried not to think of
the future. If I was to make money, I should be able to at least get by.

And so I found myself on the dirt road in the back yard. It was almost dark
inside, and it was too cold to sleep. I sat and stared at the asphalt.
Eventually, I could see the pieces. I imagined them moving, like the pieces
of a jigsaw puzzle that have been put together by someone who doesn’t know
how. I imagined that when the asphalt was moved and rinsed, the patterns on
the surface would repeat themselves, and the color of the cracks would
disappear. I imagined moving the asphalt and making the paving look like a
new piece is going to fit into the hole as the old one is pulled out. I was
not only imagining the pieces of asphalt moving, I was imagining myself
becoming a part of it. I could feel the asphalt moving. I imagined myself
driving my car over the pothole. I pictured myself cutting through the
pavement as the asphalt was pulled into the hole. I imagined myself
standing on the side of the pothole, with the asphalt beneath my feet. I
heard my mom calling me. The phone was ringing and ringing. Eventually, I
heard her talking to the person on the other end. She didn’t know that a
day had passed since she tried to talk to me. The conversation went on for a
long time, then she hung up.

I didn’t know what to think. I wondered if I could break up the asphalt
that way. What if I could make it look like a piece was going to fit into
the hole, making the entire surface look nice again? Would I have to save
the entire surface, or would I only have to save one?

I heard a car pull up at my house as I was finishing my thought. My mom was
home alone. My dad had gone to work. She was waiting on the front porch for
me. When she saw what I was doing and where I was sitting, she said, “I
thought I was never going to see you again. You have no idea how tired I am.
You can’t understand how tired I am.”

“I just wanted to see what it would look like,” I said, trying not to sound
angry. “This is how it would look. See how it comes to a stop?”

She went back into the house. She closed the door, but she couldn’t lock it.
It was too cold to do it in the house, but I think she did.

Finally, I heard her get up the steps. She saw me sitting on the porch and
started to cry. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do. I just
knew you couldn’t make an actual indentation. I thought you would never
make a business.”

“I should have tried harder,” I said, feeling sad for her. I stood up and
walked slowly down to the front yard. I went to my car and started it up. I
had to work in the morning. Maybe I could get to the shop after a little
while.

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