I passed around the block again today after dropping-off the little one at school, after I watched him walk over to where the morning line forms, place his backpack on the ground and then walk-wander out onto the playground obviously looking for someone to approach and greet for the day, offer something some comment or something and then begin his day with companionship or something…and there was nobody nearby so he ran further out into the playground with head and eyes up and still searching for a familiar face that would be welcoming of him and his morning presence…and he couldn’t find one…as he looked around and peered back at me across the way…looking for someone and finding none and looking at me or in my direction again…and there were no kids by me…and he walked about slowly, heading back to the line-up area and probably glad that the bell rang telling everyone to come in from the yard and get in their places on the concrete and line…and was it a relief? I don’t know. He’s alone inside himself and around others sometimes and a lot of times. It resonates with me, somehow. He was alone amidst dozens and more of kids, his peers, classmates, age-mates and then. I don’t know if he was lonely, though. I don’t know if he’ll be lonely for the three hours that he’s there today, as it’s early-release day…that thing that comes once a month and rescues him from the classroom and whatnot of being at school and around and among those that he doesn’t really relate to, somehow….he sees their faces but doesn’t entirely know what their expressions mean…he responds to their anecdotes by telling something of his own that may or may not have anything to do with what they were talking about…I have a helicopter. He’s in his gray-green hooded and furred parka with his Transformer’s backpack and his pocketed blue jeans and green and black Sketchers tennies that used to light-up when he walked or stamped his feet and his gray eyes search the bricks on the side of the school wall and I see his hooded self turn and talk to his teacher who is bending attentively to listen to him as she continues to look around, not like his teacher last year who would fix her eyes on and attend to only him or whomever when she was listening and talking to him or whomever, and I wondered what it meant this morning, did he start the exchange or did she? Is he telling her about “wouldn’t it be cool to find the sail-shaped spine bone thing from the back of a stegosaurus?” or something like that, or is it that today really is early-release so it’s ok that he doesn’t have a lunch today unlike last Thursday when I didn’t pack him one because the calendar from his teacher wrongly identified last Thursday as early-release and she had to call me on my cell as I was watching the time as I wandered through the book store so I could go get him and rescue him from the confines and duty of school when he really wanted to be home on his own computer or talking to his dog or asking for more taquitos and “Can I please watch Tom and Jerry and the Magic Ring because that’s what I always do when I’m eating taquitos.” He turned and looked for me again today as he was making that last round of a corner and into the school…and waved. He does that sometimes…not always…and I never know when he’s going to do it, so I always stay and watch until he’s inside and beyond my sight, or beyond where he can see me, just in case. It would be sad if he turned to wave goodbye and I wasn’t there. What would he think?
I like that hidden one-some who sneaks his face into the mirror and moves just a bit faster than my reflection should. Double-take. Then he moved slower than I. He is there, beyond the glass in recognition, just making that barely noticeable twitch, itch, move; awake and know. There. The frightened one stood imperceptible upon the edge.
Yellow flowers sway on the stems of bushes whose names I do not know in gardens of other flowers and shrubs of Rosemary and Mexican Fan-Palms and large chunks of purple, volcanic stone. The cement is gray like the January sky and the blue of the water is calm with no breeze ripples. The handle on the black and iron gate clinks with its signature sound as the rod slides back in the guide; the gate swings open and my oldest walks in. He stood without for several minutes calling my name, or Mommy’s name…. “Let me in!”
Peach, white, and yellow paint chips were sealed in the garage floor and the smell of gear oil and fiberglass and tools hung in the air. The large, black wheel with its pedals still…I don’t know what color the ‘Big-Wheel’ was. The not tiny, but small form of my second son lay floating in the corner of the pool – beautiful, blue water, not moving. I was wearing my brown corduroy overalls and I consciously ran to the other side of the pool instead of jumping into its February chill. Did I grab his arm or his body? I don’t know. I clutched him to my body and yelled “Oh my God! Oh Shit!” I saw the gray sky and the garage in the rear of the neighbor’s yard. “Oh my god!” This can’t be happening…what would I do with only two sons? I pounded on his back then lay him on the gray, cement patio…blew into his mouth…turned him over again…why isn’t he holding his head still? His forehead banged on the cement as I turned him over.
His mom was hysterical…long, blonde hair, panic-stricken face, gray eyes, red face, screaming, hitting herself…starting her period as her soul clenched down upon itself inside…and the blank, gray eyes, wide open…I wondered what they saw. I wonder what they saw. What was his almost two-year-old mind thinking? What rush of terror-induced hormones were crashing through his body as he sank below the air into the beautiful, blue water? As he was floating when I found him, how much air was in his lungs? The water being so cold would have caused him to gasp-in the air as he fell into it. Maybe that’s what saved him. And how many minutes had passed?
And where was God? This is when I first began to doubt. All I wanted was to be closer to Him…and He ran away. He became less. Bad happens to the good and the bad alike. Then why pray…why pray if He isn’t going to listen anyway…?
It was a rich gray and thick that lay upon our morning with no sun in the east and slow and thoughtful drops that fell on the roof and slid in force and collusion and collision with each and every other drop as they ticked and ting-ed and splattered in a wet symphony into the puddles of their forbears and cousins and then. Rain for two days then none and again today and the ground and sand and dirt and clay are loose and saturated and floating in and among their separate selves and the plants are singing hosannas and praises as the dormant seeds are waking and cracking and spreading their softened shells and driving their single primary roots into the soaked and soggy substance of their surround.
Living in the desert as we do, and in the plains or valley of it at that, bodies of water and streams and creeks and rivers are usually sights that we must travel to in order to see and behold in marvel. It has rained off and on for most of two days, and then yesterday the sky was clear, with not a single wisp of cloudy vapor lingering anywhere in that vast horizon as I took my little one to school. After running a couple errands, I put some air in the tires of my faithful bike and headed-out for a journey through our neighborhood. I hadn’t planned on riding far, hadn’t planned on going where I did, but I ended-up on the bike and walking path that goes along either side of a natural waterway that someone years ago named ‘Skunk Creek.’ For probably ten months of the year, there is little to no water in this stream or creek bed. Only during the summer monsoons or winter storms and occasional gully-washer rains is there enough water to flow in any presentation as a stream or creek or river…as it did yesterday and continues to do today.
After riding the mile circuit through our neighborhood, I made another round of an adjacent neighborhood, then pedaled up and into the infamous ‘Dog-Town’ region of yet another nearby neighborhood, one that was named by a group of Hispanic hoodlums and gangster wannabes of yesterday’s lore, and found that it was very similar to neighborhoods populated by the same socioeconomic caste that we/you can find in the southern and western reaches of our larger city and metropole with the same sainted yard figurines and shrines, half-done or more ornamental iron fence-work, stucco and plywood patchwork on the houses, some with bougainvillea and rose-bush elegance amid the potted plants and cacti, and others with cars in the dirt or scantily-grassed yards, or with beautifully decked-out trucks that I could afford if I didn’t live in the house that I do, and Pitt-bull puppies and bitches with teats flopping as they ran down the chain-link barking and threatening my two-wheeled presence. I exited Dog-Town on Roosevelt Street and headed north on 83rd Avenue…three miles and beyond to the north side of the creek and alongside the backside of the sports complex and apartments and Arizona Broadway Theatre on the south side of Paradise Lane and around and back down the other side of the floodway on the sidewalk that skirts beautiful tile-roofed homes, an older stretch of farm plots with their own wet and wonderful smells of turned dirt and manure and workers covering or uncovering orderly rows of tender shoots of green and life and further along to the orchards of orange and grapefruit and tangelos and limes or other citrus with shorn grass between the rows and baby Mexican fan palms struggling and winning against nature and the landscapers where its germinal beginning was dropped in a dropping from a passing bird or carried on a summer storm gust from nearby or wherever relative trees.
The cycle path had been upgraded from rocks and dirt at this point and was now a two-laned and striped thoroughfare from one side to the next, going beneath the overpass that spanned the waterway preserve of rocks and plants and life in miniature and climbing an upward grade to the city park and complex and another footbridge span that crossed the creek yet again and took me south to places I had never been. I’ve passed them times innumerable on the western freeway that travels nearby and have looked into and onto their expanse of bush and brush and things covered and undone in the rains and winds of our seasons, but never have I ridden so closely or walked among the grains of sand and leaves and washings of the mighty rains and streams as I did today. The fresh water scent and heavy air and wet vegetation of weeds and wildflowers and scattered pieces of tree and grass and crumbled and crumbling masses of horse droppings from the pathway and pieces of Cholla cacti that were brought here by some other force for there were none growing here or nearby…and out in the middle of the watered wash where the water had passed and lessened into another stream was a little baby palm tree struggling against the other stuff that wasn’t of his kith and kin…and laying nearby and amid the tumbled rocks and bushes and scrub were a handful of perfect and bright oranges, one here one there and some in the beyond of that purview…oranges glowing in their orange-ness and wonder in the waterway passed and past, having come from afar.
I took the sidewalk pathway to the middle of the plain and stood at water’s edge as it streamed and rumbled and washed into itself from rivulets and splashing and had a mini-roar to itself as it moved along its way…the sidewalk was there somewhere underneath the brown and frothy churning and I thought for a hazardous moment of running across and through that mess of water and wonder and had flashes from my childhood where I tried to cross a neighborhood stream on my bicycle with my brand-new shoes and got bogged-down in the middle of that oh-so-clear stream in the mud and whatever as I tried to balance myself with feet on the unmoving pedals and suck of mud as I fought against gravity and what I knew would be an ass-beating when I got home with one muddied brand-new shoe…so I said in my child’s mind the child’s equivalent of ‘fuck-it-I’m-getting-my-ass-beat-anyway’ and put both feet down and walked my bike through the mud and crystal water and stood there sweating with heart pounding at what I knew was coming with monster-fucking-butterflies in my stomach…and those memories are so far away and so near as the raindrops fall and stream off of my roof and the neighbor’s as I look out my living room window, right now, with the piano music on the stereo and the never-satisfied cat on the counter behind me…literally saying ‘meow,’ as cats do….
And I stood there yesterday and knelt-down to smell the water and touch the mud and look at the other footprints that stopped earlier where mine were now…hiking boot tread and slip and I turned around and looked into the beyond and spied the path again that pointed south and made my way in following its lead. I rode to where the water completely covered the southward path in its filling and flooding of the river-plain and had no choice but to stop and head back. Before doing so, though, I got off the bike and studied the traveling water and marveled at its passing and roiling and moving into and over and under and beyond whatever was in its way as it went…wondering at the mini-habitat and consuming essence of ‘nature’ is it was here presented. I smelled the earth again and weeds and cleanness as the zoom and noisy fright of the passing cars on that western freeway and those city streets went on their collective and singular ways, making a background of gray noise that fought against the tunes and mystery of the water and I wondered, too, at what life was beginning in the flood, what brine shrimp or other desiccated and dormant somethings were stirring in their watery rebirths and hatchings as ducks rode-by, paddling against their mini currents with occasional heads tucked into the wash sucking and finding something to eat as bugs or other somethings came their way. The sun was bright in my eyes and glanced and danced off the moving and tossing water like millions of diamonds in their sparkling…tiny blasts of light and shine in cascading explosions and reflections and then.
And it was time to go now, as I had places to be and things to do that waited upon and depended upon the ticking of the clock and appointed imaginings of moments and then…and my shaky and tired legs pumped the pedals back along that pathway and passed the greening mesquite and cat-claw and palo-verde trees and creosote bushes and wild baby sunflower-ed plants of something or other as the chilled wind teared my eyes and brushed my cheeks with an ambulance siren behind me and the sparkle of an airplane passing overhead…the water flowed into and beyond itself thick and thin and brown and roiling…moving on its way downstream to other flood-beds and plains, carrying life and the lived with it and then….
Do you ever feel like running away? You take a look at your life and the things that occupy your time and concerns and want to say ‘Fuck-it-I’m-out-a-here?’ After taking that long and hard look at your daily doings, thoughts, worries, checkbook, mortgage, bills, work, etc, have you ever wanted to pack the wife/husband/spouse/partner/mate/whatever and kids and pets and all the rest of your shit in the car and get the hell out of Dodge and never come back?
When I was eight or nine years-old, I ran from the house in a fury and found myself out beyond the housing area on the perimeter road of the airbase where we lived in South Carolina. Maybe it was a fight with one of my sisters or after an ass-beating by my father for some real or imagined infraction, I don’t remember, but I can still feel the churning in my soul as I pounded my black converses into the rutted dirt road as I went as fast and far as I could on my little legs and with whatever child’s stamina I had at the time, just wanting to get the fuck away from where I lived and the people who populated my existence. I had run to the concrete pipe that the playground architects had planted in our backyard common area and thrown myself to the ground, hiding and trying to sneak like G.I. Joe, peeking around the pipe, and then launching myself out onto the road without caring who might have seen me at that point. I was heading away…running away. The road went for probably half a mile or more before it reached a point where it curved and went in a perpendicular direction down another side of the housing area. Where the road existed right behind my house, there was a strip of trees between the road and the perimeter fence that kept the rest of the world out of the base. That strip of trees and growth of brush was about 20 yards wide or more, or not, in my memory, and was constant until reaching that bend or curve in the road where the road turned in that perpendicular direction, wherever it was. The stand or ribbon of trees and brush became forest as the road turned and remained thick woods all along the road running in that other direction. I remember oak trees and bushes and other wonderful things that changed colors in the fall and winter. This is where we found the cottonmouth snake that some of my friends and other unknown kids beat with the sissy-bar from a bike until it was approaching death. I went further down the road and found another place to hide, safely out of sight of whoever might come out from our house and look for me. I guess I was closer to the spot where there was a stream or little body of water where we found the snapping turtle on one of our other excursions into the wilderness…. Anyway, as I was sitting there, I realized that I had nowhere to go really, no means of buying food, no way of securing a place to live, and I understood that I would have to return home. The thought sucked, but even at eight or nine, I knew I had to…and did…and life went on.
A couple months ago, my wife and little one and I made the trek back up to Utah to look at the things that had become familiar to us and them as my wife, little one, and other kids lived there for a year as my wife finished her internship. My wife also had to meet with one of her former colleagues to receive training on one of her testing tools…so we took another trip…another nine or so hours north into the forested and mountainous beyond, that further region that sparks flames of recollection and comfort in my heart and stirs my physical being with a yearning to live again in parts so adorned with that particular brand or sort of nature’s splendor…massive white rocks and boulders and pine trees and oaks and other deciduous trees with their many and changing colors of bright and vibrant reds and purples and yellows and golden fading greens, spread and dappled in and among the coniferous evergreens and icy cold streams of clear and trickling, bubbling, and rumbling waters coming from their mountainous and craggy origins up beyond the thinning air, in and among the wispy and transient gray and white and comforting, threatening clouds that danced in and among themselves to cast eerie shadows and darkening corners into the fore and peripheries of our consuming and piercing eyes, mine and my bride’s and my little one’s as we drove the mountain highways and roads in and among that paradise…in and among…. And those thoughts of running away came again in and among our family gatherings with those adult children who lived there with my wife and little one and their grown siblings who were themselves on the threshold of changing life and lives, and I was absent when the conversation started and was there after solid and tentative and wishful dreaming decisions were made to pack and flee fast and far to that known region where nature’s god kisses and nurtures its inhabitants with a clean respect and calmness and ease of simpler life amid the beauty that consoles an aching heart. We talked and talked and searched our minds and rational places that considered jobs and money and insurance and opportunities and a weak housing market and upside-down mortgages and possibilities and a safer environment and better schools and a stream in the backyard with deer eating from the crab-apple trees and a ten minute drive into the wooded beyond where the quiet is touched by the burbling water and the whisking bicycle riders all strapped and decorated so we can see them and their striped bike-shorts and helmets and a work week was a steady thing and normal and quiet evenings of no rush and rest and all but one of the kids agreed…and there were tear-laden emails of broken hearts and he’s grown so old and independent and remains attached in a distant way and we considered family and what matters and peace and togetherness and looked again in our mind’s eye at that northern sky and thought it wouldn’t be as sweet if one couldn’t come with us…and he wouldn’t for all those reasons so detailed and clear and fuck-it we’re not going and other people’s milestones and deaths and comforts shared in their cases of what if and how, and a peace came at and with that decision and it’s ok now…really…I think.
But the yearning is still there and strong to break away from the daily requirements of life and adulthood and responsibility and making ends meet and thoughts of the future and mine and hers and the little one’s and the other kids whom we love and adore and cannot imagine living without…until they choose to go away and be away and decide some aren’t welcome, so stay away, both you and me, he said…and that long northern highway beckons still and says ‘follow me,’ and it’s not a yellow-bricked road. So peace and paradise is and are sought in words and imaginings and pursuits that entertain and appease and settle and comfort in their sudden and sundry ways, in unexpected presentation in our lives and hidings and places tucked-away…as our minds and souls so desire to run, run, run-away…sometimes…still.
It seems that way, sometimes, like there’s nothing worth saying, and in those times, I usually don’t say anything. I’ve been accused or esteemed as not being involved or wishing I was somewhere else when everyone else around me was talking and chatting up a storm…but sometimes there’s simply nothing that needs to be said, or nothing that needs to be said by me…or anybody else, really. So it’s been a few days since I posted and I’ve felt kind of guilty about that, guilty because it seems that I should be here. I’ve hoped to have something of a regular readership and have hoped that I could maintain some type of stream of worthwhile material…and today it’s kind of dry…not much happening in the old noggin. When I’ve tried to measure my postings against those of my fellow bloggers, the ones that I read regularly, I see that they have several days or a week or more between some of their posts…and some show-up once a month…and they have no comments, nothing shared by their readers…maybe because the readers kept coming back to find nothing there more often than they did find something…and some folks start their blogs with a firestorm of wonderful stuff and then fizzle out and leave us hanging, hungering for what might have been…and there’s nothing there for some reason…and others started out wonderfully and poetically and covered their observations of the minutia of life and the beautiful happenstance or collision of events and thoughts and right-brained or youthful creativeness that was breath-taking and they have become daily rants on their discomfort in life with parents and school and their unhappiness and one even with combinations of words that would make a sailor or miner blush…no offense Noble Sailor…and from a youngster with all of their wonderful and exciting life ahead of them, living in a foreign country with ample opportunities…and my one blog-friend who started posting about a month or so before I did and filled her pages with absolutely wonderful, beautiful, ambiguously personal thoughts and sharings and then one day disappeared and went away…and we/I start to miss them when they’re gone and I check every other day to see if she’s brought it back again…and…anyway…so I didn’t have anything to say for a few days…my last post was about my grandson and what I imagined the thoughts that his dad, my son, had during the rather stressful process…and I’ve read that post so many times over the last few days that anything else almost seems like drivel, insubstantial empty hogwash that isn’t worth the time to type into this journal…so I’ve been dry…uncreative…and wondering.
So I thought about contrasts and perspectives and the things we compare our lives to when we look around at those who inhabit our lives…I wondered about having and not having, the fickleness of fate or the gods who do and don’t do the things we want them to do in our lives…sitting and watching the divisional playoffs for the football season and noting quietly the commercials about donating $10 to the relief efforts in that island nation that was so devastated by the earthquake the other day…let’s give $10, all of us…as we sit in the comfort of our homes and sports bars watching millionaire gladiators or ‘warriors’ run up and down the field catching a ball or slamming themselves and others into each other trying to prevent the other from crossing a certain line…as they show pictures of the homes and neighborhoods that were/are crushed and fallen…and ruined…and I wondered about the woman who called today to complain that her two year-old daughter was pepper-sprayed by our police officers as she carried her while marching in a demonstration against how the local sheriff treats his immigrant prisoners…a demonstration where four people were arrested for assaulting police officers who were trying to physically control the unruly crowd with two police helicopters and dozens and dozens of cops and sheriff’s deputies trying to maintain order…and her baby got pepper-sprayed by a woman cop on a horse…of all the places I would take my two year-old child, I cannot imagine taking him or her to a demonstration march…but then maybe my life isn’t deprived enough where I feel I need to do that…or my family members aren’t in that sheriff’s jail…or something like that…couldn’t she have found someone else to watch her for a few hours? It must have been really important for her to be there, I’m hoping…it must have been really personal, must have really meant something to participate in that protest march…and good for her…good for her and the other thousands of people who were pissed-off enough about something that they spent their Saturday afternoon en masse showing that they were so moved…I’ve never participated in a protest march. What would it take for me to do that? I don’t know.
As I sat in the comfort of my own home and watched the home-team lose a sad contest, I kept track of the commercials that the network showed during the last quarter of the game. Noticing repeated commercials for the same show in the earlier quarters of the game compelled me to keep track toward the end…and the network and sponsors want us to purchase their home, auto, and life insurance, eat their subway sandwiches, drink their various beers, eat their brand of sour-cream, drink their soda because it’s the official soda of the football league so it must be good, use their package delivery company, buy their trucks, use their brand of medicine to fix our erectile-dysfunction so “you can be ready” the same day or every other day or something…which made me think about the beer and condom theft today at work…the guys stole their suds and prophylactics in a stolen car…wonderful…and Burger King tells us that even a grown-man sized baby who was born yesterday knows that their quarter-pound double cheese-burgers are bigger and better than McDonalds’ burgers of the same style…and we were encouraged to watch a show that claims to bring us our nation’s idol…one painful episode and week at a time…and one car company told us that they’ve been environmentally sound and concerned since way back when peace-signs and tie-dyed shirts and long hair were in vogue and another car company told us that the economy sucks so badly that they’ll accept the car back that they just sold us if we lose our jobs…because while the news and politicians tell us the nation is recovering, it isn’t really recovering until every last goddamned one of us is financially recovered…and the dead Michael Jackson’s song about needing someone to trust and “I’ll be there” was used as a marketing ploy by State Farm to tell us that we should trust them and buy their insurance…and the network wants us to laugh tonight with the Wanda Sykes show…and Tuesday night we’re supposed to be in suspense with them as we watch “The Human Target” show which appears to be a rich-guy’s version of the drive-by shootings we encounter in our western and southern city neighborhoods on a near-nightly basis…or we can use a certain broadband 3G or 4G network to talk on the phone and check our email simultaneously or find the capital of Peru while talking to our friend who’s a contestant in a game-show…and we can trust that the particular ‘chubby’ lady really did lose 54 pounds by eating the light menu…the “Drive-thru Diet,” from Taco Bell and so should or can we…and there were 26 commercials in the last quarter of play…and that’s more than enough for me.
Maybe I should have stuck with the first thought…sometimes there’s nothing to say.
How beats my heart, until this night is over?
My child struggles in the portal of his dawn while nature and time fight against him.
I have yet to meet him and my heart aches at what must not be.
As time and pressure bring forth diamonds and gems,
I wait for them to bring my son.
As angels roar and demons quake,
I stand on the edge of time and yell through the heavens and beyond the fiery dust of our beginnings and demand what is mine and hers to be ours and then.
Three times gone and here at last,
a life coveted and desired and hoped for in dreams and waking and plans and.
Our hearts beat in our bedroom chamber when love joined flesh and might.
And now mine beats in my chest and head and hands…
as his echoes between these walls…strong and solid and fading and gone…
Fast hands and quick and yawning door, her pulse rips live in mine,
From flesh comes flesh and beating blood, I yell and scream;
In tears and raging life comes dawn in pulse and pounding show.
In crushing force and ragged breath
Tiny ribs and lungs and arms and hands
Grasping wildly at light and cold and what.
And now beats my heart, and hers, in his.
I started my evening walk earlier than usual tonight, as my little one and his mom were on their way over to our other son’s house where my youngest would/will spend the night and day tomorrow until I retrieve him after work and go to yet another son’s house for his son’s birthday party. Over the many years that we have lived here, we have found a circuit through the neighborhood that is exactly one mile in length, as measured by our various cars and trucks over the same years to make sure that we were accurate that one or several time(s) that we thought we measured it correctly and determined that it was really a mile…and it is almost a habit of sorts to make two rounds of the path or circuit of an evening, maybe once or twice or sometimes three times a week, if I’m in that particular habit at the particular moment, or week or month or whatever. So, again, I set out early tonight as the little one and his mom are gone and I knew that if I sat in my esteemed and favorite chair to begin reading a book, it would be only a matter of minutes until my already heavy eyelids would close and close and bother me in their desire to sleep and I would fall that way and then, and then I would be hitting some serious sleep several or a few hours before I needed to go that way for the evening…so I went walking earlier than normal, as I’ve said.
And the smells of our desert winter Friday evening ranged from someone frying some kind of food with nice spices to accent the flavor or cover their wanting skill in the kitchen, the wonderful something or other that they were preparing in the Chinese restaurant kitchen down the road and around the corner…maybe the empress or emperor’s chicken with sweetened brown hot sauce and smothered deep-fried chicken chunks or something that hopefully isn’t cat or dog or something we don’t normally eat…but it does look like chicken when you tear it open or cut it in half…and I noticed when passing the mobile-home park down the road from our neighborhood that all the fan-palm trees were leaning southward…really, they’ve got that lean. I understand their reaching upwards to the sun, but I guess they have altered their stretch and yearn to the south where the sun is more direct, I guess, and not exactly overhead…and some of the passing vehicles on my rounds were very quiet, some mostly quiet, and only one or two that were loud enough to make me want to get out of the street and stay on the sidewalk as I pondered my life and the smells of my evening walk…and one of the louder trucks had an exhaust that was a bit rich and I could smell the heavy gas linger in the cooling evening air as I looked beyond the leaning palm trees and watched the flaming orange and pink clouds of this January sunset roll into themselves from their vaporous lines and trails and become fat-bottomed and darkening masses of pink and gray cotton batting that would coat the underside of our nighttime sky…as I smelled dryer sheets and dust that one of the neighborhood dogs was kicking-up on the other side of his gate in his feisty demonstrating and complaining that I should be trespassing in his line of sight or within earshot with my worn tennies occasionally scraping the asphalt or kicking a loosened pebble as I made my way past his house and along the road and track and measured pathway of my walking, as I pondered my life and smelled what the approaching night offered me…in the way of corn tortillas being warmed or cooked on the raw burner of someone’s stove…or others that were being stuffed with some type of carne or another and wrapped and fried in the Mexican food restaurant just around the same different corner as the Chinese restaurant.
There were oil stains in front of some houses that had and have been rented two and three and more times over the last several years and have yards with weeds sticking up through the gravel and plastic and gum wrappers and the blown G2 bottle from someone’s careless aim at an open-lidded garbage can/dumpster that was parked on the sidewalk, and another house that used to belong to a lawyer and her pool-builder husband and their clan of dark-skinned and beautiful children and their grandmother, that had a lighted multi-tiered fountain in their front yard and beautiful queen palms and ocotillos and a sweetly-clipped lawn and flagstone walkway now has dead palm trees that have folded-over onto themselves and collapsed in their dying onto the dirt that remains from the not-watered lawn that has broken and blown away and they used to have a parrot in a cage on their backyard screened-in porch that would talk and squawk in the sweet sunrising spring-time mornings…and many of the other homes do not have oil stains in front of their curbs and their winter lawns are manicured and coifed and otherwise trimmed to an obsessive’s perfection as the living room or family room lamps illumine and reflect into and through their decorated rooms and offer window-framed glimpses into their comfy sanctuaries as their white and spotted boxer stands at the security door and huffs while their own little ones run pell-mell through and around the kitchen and living room and “I told you to settle down already” mixes with the boxer’s huff and the pebble that rolled under my shoe as I consider my children and the drama of life and my daughters-in-law and sons and daughters and coworkers and my sisters and mother and the things and situations that I have passed-through and observed in my figurative times around the block and wonder again or marvel again at the pink and closing sky and remember the images and renderings from the book I just finished, The Good Soldiers, that chronicled a year in the life of a battalion of soldiers in Iraq and the horrors they endured every single day over there, the lives and limbs and dreams that were lost in what I and some others perceive to be a senseless war as my eyes tear-up again and my throat is tight as I swallow in the evening air, and wonder again at what is significant and what matters and how we can write hurtful words that express our deepest thoughts, our truest thoughts, and somewhere along the line we should have learned that we’re not supposed to do that…sometimes we aren’t supposed to tell the truth because it is going to hurt too much. We’re not supposed to say anything…we’re not supposed to write those things…we’re supposed to keep them to ourselves…we abhor the game, yet we commit ourselves to playing it to spare the others’ feelings…and the one soldier had both of his legs blown off above the knee and his one arm at the shoulder and his other arm just below the elbow and a piece of shrapnel tore off the bottom of his jaw and his ears and eyelids were burned off and his 19 year-old wife and his mother sat at his bedside for months hoping that he would again be the husband and son that he had been those six or eight months ago before he went off and fought his fight in a country that didn’t want him there and did their goddamned best to get rid of him and his buddies who had taken that oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all foes, foreign and domestic…so help me God…SO HELP ME GOD!!!
And I noticed the one house that has a huge satellite dish on its roof with an accompanying smaller dish right next to it and even an old-timey UHF/VHF television antennae close-by…they must be a multi-generational-multiple-television-technology-viewing household, and while there were a handful of houses that still had their Christmas lights affixed to their roof trim, doors, and landscaping, only one house still had their lights on…blue-ish white lights strung and twisted around the columns in front of their door…that blue-white light that looks like the projector-lamps that you see on some cars…Merry Christmas brought to you by after-market lighting…and my one daughter-in-law/daughter is due to deliver her first child in two days, and my other daughter-in-law who is due in June learned today that her spotting or bleeding is due to the placenta having attached itself to the interior side of her cervix…which isn’t supposed to happen…and bed-rest and no nookie and no picking-up of her other child and no scooting of the laundry basket down the hall…and really take it easy, so said the doctor…and it’s a boy…at 20 weeks along…five grandkids and only one girl…and the one soldier who said he fell in love with the Army because of the testimony and promises of brotherhood and the friendship of his recruiter, one of the guys who had been there to uncover the spider-hole where Saddam Hussein was hiding, this soldier received a letter from his mom or girlfriend telling him that his recruiter friend had killed himself…he couldn’t deal with the pain of what he saw and did over there…all these years later…and the second time around the block or measured mile brings a breeze and the smell of my wife’s perfume from my hoodie as the black and white long-haired cat scampers in a low-crawl from the front tire of the red suburban and up to the house where the people are always sitting on the bench outside their front door smoking in the dark…the cigarette smell is there, the glowing tip of their smoke in front of their face, and the productive cough that speaks of sand in the glass and the ticking and tocking of the clock of their life as the guy across the street from them grinds something or other in his garage, making a shower and cascade of orange-yellow-white sparks and noise as the SUVs and passenger cars and full-sized and mid-sized pick-up trucks come around the corner and pull into their respective driveways and garages beneath winter mesquite trees and mercury-vapor lights that reveal or otherwise prevent from hiding what might be hiding in the shadows as the pink is wholly gone from the western sky and a dense gray has come to take its place as the lights from the jet-liners appear in an arc in their blinking and circling from that northern pathway and down to and around the western city and into the metropolitan middle where there is a sky harbor in the middle of an asphalt and literal desert.
And holy mother of Buddha! It was 30 years ago tonight that I first held the soft hand of that 17 year-old, tall, blonde, and gray-eyed little-girl-young-lady who became my girlfriend and wife and mother of my six kids…and I thank you, Lori Kim, for your love and patience and wisdom and understanding and forgiveness and guiding hand in bringing me from where and what I used to be to where and what I am today. I do love you so….
I thought of you yesterday morning, whoever you are or used to be who now lives in perpetuity as a roadside reminder of a life lived and lost and wondered at and then; I passed the place where your blood was spilled and your heart stopped beating and your present became your forever past and your future became something that neither you nor I will ever know; it is something that your loved ones and intimates can or would or might imagine when they recall you and your dreams and your possibilities and the things that made you You and then; it won’t go beyond their thoughts and mine; you died there on an Sunday morning when you were on your way to church, they’ve said, you and your four buddies or friends and brothers; five of you left your shattered bodies in a mangle of twisted metal and broken glass and churned asphalt and concrete and cross-walk tape in and through the intersection that crosses the spillway and canal where people drive and walk and ride their bicycles past and wonder at your name and date of birth and date of death and the candles that sit there for you and your friends, lit as markers in the night and fading glimmers of souls in an April morning sunrise; those people see the Easter bunnies and Valentines’ hearts and Christmas garlands that your living family and friends attach and leave on the fence and railing that line the canal and floodway; they saw, back then, those few and several years ago when you left them and us, the five candles lit and maintained for nine days after your death that were surrounded by stuffed animals and cards and pictures and flowers that those loved ones left in their loving of and for you, those tangible and sundry things that spoke to the rest of us and you about their love and the things they wish they had said to you before that Sunday morning; we are reminded, in passing-by as passers-by, that you had and have birthdays that are remembered with tears and a drive to the bridge that is caddy-corner from a burger shop and across the street from a flower store and we see the blurry pictures of you and the lighted candles and poster-notes that you were and are loved by the people who made those pretty signs that tell us they do as we drive-by to here and there and so.
I thought of you again this morning, whoever you used to be and are and felt compelled to go again to that familiar roadside and street corner and look more closely at what has been left behind for you and your buddies or friends and brothers in this Christmas and New Year’s season and found those tangible and sundry somethings that mean you were and are in the thoughts of someone and various somebodies, as there were three separate remembrances to you and them and then, three shrines or tributes in holiday wishes across the street from that flower shop and tattoo shop and nail shop and liquor store and sports-grill and Catholic bookstore…that same flower shop that has the barrel of pink flamingos outside the front door where they sell roses for nine dollars and ninety-nine cents a dozen with crumbling horse-apples in their gravel landscaping and I wondered about you with the cars driving past my back and the cement barrier that separated them from me and you…as I sat there on my heels in the crisp January air with the winter sun shining brightly on me and the angels that were zip-tied to the railing, looking down at your sidewalk with haloes and wings and painted wooden saddened faces with their backs to the concrete spillway and their wings pointed to a sometimey-heaven in my cloudless sky with their wind-blown burgundy and antiqued gowns and then…down the walk from your place is an old bag from the burger shop and a blue-labeled beer can and several discarded butts from smoking drivers in their passing and waiting for their interminable lights to change and allow them on their ways as you sit there or hover in your wondering wandering and visiting of things passed to you and past…across the street is a bus-stop sign advertising a gun-show on some future or passed date and you don’t and won’t care as I sat there amidst the cars’ breezes and tire-hum and noted the red and silver candy-cane garland and red velvet Christmas ribbons with shiny silver-glittered snowflakes and flowers…five ribbons and snowflakes and two white ceramic sad, baby angel votive candle holders with burned-out nubs and wicks melted into their opaque waste and remnant paraffin that collected dust and grains of sand and brake-dust and tire-flashing and memories of speeding thoughts of the passersby in their passing-by…the cement barrier is sending its earnest cold through my sweatshirt and shirt and into my skin as the passing-car-rumble echos into my body and I heard again the dispatcher telling me that it looks like four are gone with two ejected and two crushed and one transported by Fire, who later died, and the other driver is ok I think and the kids are all 15 to 21 years-old and so, or maybe I disremember it that way, and your blood is gone in the years and wind and no longer warm or cold as the burger bag stirs in the other vehicles’ passing and passing and the sun is still shining on my January day as the dry-cleaning hangs in the back seat of my truck with its plastic bag reflecting the sun at me from across the street and the blue ink from my pen won’t write on the yellow crayon that my little one spent on this notepad as I’m trying to record my thoughts of your sidewalk and bridge railing and the cello music in my brain soothes my brain as I write your names on these waxen lines…and I thought you were five boys and young men and understand and know or perceive today that you were and are Eddie and Jazmin and Chris and Brenna and Esmeralda because they wished you all a Merry Xmas by name and said that you or we or I should Believe, as their signs and poster said, the poster covered with bright and spirited Christmas wrapping paper and blue lights…like a present…again, zip-tied to the railing…and there is a single plastic and silk rose with red and white petals that is attached to its own red ribbon-bow from one living person to one gone…and Christmas is passed and another year has begun in moments like the moments of your passing…another tick and tock in the life of the clock and sand that softly whispers in the glass, dropping and falling into a pile or stack of sandy moments and gone…as the poinsettia plant is crisp and watered and beautiful in its roadside red-foil wrapping and so….and I do wonder in my father-mind at the emptiness and sadness around your families’ Christmas trees and dinner tables this year and past, and wonder how their wounds have healed from having their hearts so crushed those days and years ago and I hope that they are okay, but don’t know how they could be, as I thought of you today, whoever you used to be and are….