Laura McCullough
What Held It Together

I don't know if he'd been the driver or a passenger or neither. Maybe he loved someone who'd been in the car that looked like trash on the side of the Garden State Parkway, a white car that probably had been compact before the accident and now was just crumpled. How could metal fold so, I thought as I drove by, but that's not really what I thought then and came to me as an echo a mile or so farther on. I didn't actually think anything at all. It was his face in profile and the line his body made, the dip of the neck as though a weight had been placed at its base. His hands were pocketed. He was surveying the wreck. We were all going slow, but were not stopped. It was just this car, this man, the crisis passed, the emergency vehicles gone, so I could only have looked at him a moment, and then I was accelerating; it would be behind me, my day opening back up; I'd be on time, and then I saw a funny thing: one sandal on the edge of the road a good twenty-five feet further ahead. It was large sized, a man's surely, and sturdy looking, not collapsed the way well worn leather gets, the color an even tawny shade as if it had never walked in mud or rain. It stood at an angle away from the traffic, the heel facing in the direction I was going as if someone had been walking backwards on the highway and had just stepped out of his shoe. My foot pressed down, but my mind slowed to a crawl, creeping over the face I'd seen in profile, the wrinkles, the thinness of bone, the angle of his arm and how heavy it looked as if the only thing that kept his hand from falling out of its pocket was the double stitching that held it together.