At the Intersection of Columbia Road and Crab Soup

Cosme Padua, Tony Padua, Jose Padua
It’s one of the intersections of my growing up,
the corner of Columbia and Ontario in DC
where the Safeway and Giant grocery stores
stood side by side across from the sub shop
and Steve Zweig’s photography studio; these
were the roads I passed by every day in my youth,
going to school and back even though
it wasn’t always the quickest way
even back in third grade, before the traffic
got bad or I was old enough to ride
the DC Transit bus. One time when I was
maybe ten I was in the car with my Dad
waiting for the light to change and a tall skinny
man on the sidewalk next to us pulled out
his gun, all cool and focused like a lens
looking for someone to shoot in the bright
afternoon light. I didn’t tell my Dad
“Hey, look” or “look out” I just watched
even though I didn’t know what the gun guy
was looking for, just that he wasn’t looking
for us, and my Dad and I were almost home
after he’d picked me up from school,
and as usual I was hungry, and that was
probably the end of an era for me, that phase
of my youth when I believed that
as long as my Dad was there I was safe.
And I was hungry in all those senses
of the word, for food, for friends, for a future
where I could do whatever whenever, depending
on my whim and perchance my sense of style
or to be more precise my lack of it. That was
when I was young and couldn’t drive,
and decades later when I’d left home
for New York and I came back for a visit
my Dad picked me up from the train station,
and somehow we ended up there again, outside
the Safeway. And my Dad asked me if I could
run in, while he waited in the car, and get
a few cans of crab soup, because he loved crab
in all its forms, and whatever time of year
it was that day, canned soup was probably
the easiest way to get it, so I went inside, walked
down the aisle to find crab soup, thinking
how such a simple thing, even more than
leaving the house where I grew up and
leaving town made me feel old,
and made me wonder if somehow
I was doing the same thing for my Dad
that he did for me all those years, before
I hit ten, and when we got back to the house
I walked up the stairs and kissed my Mom
on the cheek, as my Dad stood close by,
then shut the door behind us because
we were home and ready to eat.

-Jose Padua

The photograph of Cosme Padua (center), Jose Padua (left), and Tony Padua (right) was taken around 1960-61.

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