The Indicator x The Student: “A Cross Walk in a Labyrinth”

In this piece, originally published in The Indicator's Fall 2022 issue, Senior Managing Editor Dustin Copeland ’25 tries to remember a bridge from his childhood.

The Indicator x The Student: “A Cross Walk in a Labyrinth”
Though not even near to the piece of geography the author writes about, this photo illustrates the relationship between roads and lan in the author's recollection of New Jersey. Photo Courtesy of Alexander Hope.

My mother said that the pedestrian bridge over arrow-straight Route 1 was finally finished and that we were going to stop to talk a walk over it and my brother said what, why, and my mother ignored his deadpan because she had already pulled into some parking lot (how did she know where to park?) and we were already getting out to have a nice little walk.     /

I was bemused mostly because I was like at maximum 10 years old, but also by my mother’s insistence that we stop our routine journey home in order to cross and then re-cross a pedestrian bridge. An overpass for people with a parking lot at each end.     /

I remembered recently that 70 percent of the planet is parking lot, and also that parking lots are infinite, or at least spherical, and that it is therefore impossible to travel between them. If I cross from one parking lot to another, I have bridged worlds. I no longer need a car, because I broke parking lots.     /

The pedestrian bridge over arrow-straight Route 1 was finally finished, and we were going to stop to walk over it —

— What? Why? I wondered.

— What. Why. My brother said.

(I feel as if I am building this, not writing (is all writing building? Have I been doing this wrong? I can’t seem to start this story) but assembling it from parts that I want desperately to become music

— An overpass for people with a parking lot at each end, but our car is only at one. Ten-year-old me is pretty bemused by the inexplicability of my mother’s will, but it is my mother’s will.

It can’t have been for family bonding that she pulled us over; don’t you need someplace beautiful for that? That part of Route 1 was the least beautiful stretch of road I had ever seen up to that point. Maybe it still is. It could have been for     /

I remembered recently

the roar of the outside is a black-soot river’s version of power noise, a twisted and boring Merzbow. A real river is closer to zen, closer to his music, an arrangement of sounds and colors and birds. Jumbled and confusing but overpoweringly centered. Embodied by the mind turning clear, experiencing as a body the music; what if I made you hear this as music?

But here, steel churns and expels farts into a pancaking sky, and even as I am awed by the parking lot I feel it as a confining layer, a no-flow boundary, denying recharge from rain or streams to the sediment below my feet. The water there is pumped, maybe, and the parking lot sinks because the ocean can’t give back the water it took but she tries and it is up to our knees. Open the hood. Keep the engine running to quicken evaporation. I am a voyeur who reads other people’s lives and feels unseasonably warm.     /

My mother, on a drive home on Route 1, once pulled her car and two children to the nearest parking lot in order to have us cross a pedestrian overpass that had just been completed passing over the least beautiful road in America.

What, why, my brother said, but pull the car over she did, and we three exited into the roar of traffic on this arrow-straight highway.     /

I-70 through Kansas is about as straight as Route 1 between New Brunswick and Trenton, but it’s Kansas: the interstate there feels utopian in the modernist sense, evoking the sublime with its logic that transcends people. The blood of the nation, of the world, flows fast on that super-mega-highway laid above the farmers’ soil, supplanting the horizon-line, casting shadow on the farms and oil wells trying desperately to extract enough to match the 18-wheeler thunder, to fill the nation’s veins.

Route 1, on the other hand, flows like it’s varicose, stopping and starting with overpass-bound exits sandwiched by four-way intersections and red lights — except for when there isn’t an intersection at all, just a turn into a parking lot. There are no merging lanes, there is no real speed limit, and there is no room for driver error. Just dealerships on one side and chain-linked food houses on the other.     /

here, and there is no room for driver error because there is no speed limit.

world may pass the farms by on the super-mega-highway, a vein

is raised above the height of the corn and sunflowers and feels like a modernist irrigation channel, supplying product, money, oil for the joints.   /

“I tried hard to imagine my poems or any poems as machines that could make things happen… but I could not imagine this, could not even imagine imagining it.”     /

There’s this pedestrian overpass on Route 1 (or is it 18?) that my mother once stopped the family car to traverse as a detour on my, my brother’s, and her journey home; we made the pointless trek halfway across that bridge between Malouf Ford and the Buffalo Wild Wings (which, on reflection, makes way less sense as a place for such an overpass than the alternative     /

There’s this pedestrian overpass on Route 1 (or is it 18? Reflecting on this memory, which will turn out to be about a walk my brother, mother, and I took halfway across the subject overpass, makes it seem like 18 might be more likely. In favor of the memory taking place on Route 1: constant traffic, complete lack of pedestrian infrastructure. In favor of 18: a precedent of regular foot traffic given the high school’s position across the highway from the nearest neighborhoods. It feels more logical, further,

that the parentheses can’t seem to close     /

We didn’t make it all the way over the bridge, obviously, because we already knew intimately whatever piece of Piscataway geography was on the other side (and anyway our car was only in one of the parking lots. I only remembered that recently; thought it was a great metaphor for the destruction of the planet and the American society’s progression to just the first of those three A’s: many of us are aware that we are plunging into a sea who will have no problem swallowing all of our yesterdays whole and will spit nothing back, we are aware that we are crossing a literal bridge into a new era of constant and world-wide devastation (for most people), and yet the mind-bridge on the other side of which lies the route to accountability for our power-hungry politic scientist robots in suits who are us who protect themselves from death by giving it to them will never be crossed, because our car is only in one of the parking lots)     /

Is it possible for me to move from one parking lot to another? Can

a poem carry me?