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….