“It’s not my fault. Sure I come here everyday but that doesn’t mean everything that happens I did.”
“You were sitting right there, where you always sit.”
“I don’t even know what that is.”
“So do you want me to try to clean it?”
“Okay, sit over there for a second. What do you think it is?”
“Looks like white paint.”
“Why would someone bring white paint in here?”
“I didn’t say it is white paint. I said it looks like white paint. I touched it.”
“Why would you touch it? You have no idea what it is. Believe me, the people who come into this place, it could be anything.”
“Too flaky to be paint.”
“There it wiped right off. You can have your seat back.”
“I think I’ll stay here.”
“It’s clean, look, all gone.”
“I stay here, if it’s okay?”
“Sit wherever you want, but it’s clean.”
“Whatever it was.”
“The people that come into this place!”
“We could go in,” the rain showed no sign of having mercy. My short, plastered, hair wanted a hat, a stream dripping from my chin.
She just stood there, a black line of make-up under each blue eye, “Not yet.”
A gust of wind filled with water pushed us both sideways. I grabbed her hand, not to steady her but to insure we would both leave together, “they might not even be home.” I said, just to pass the time, I knew it wouldn’t affect our condition. I think she started to cry; she sniffed and rubbed her nose with her gloved hand. I opened my coat and put my arm around her shoulders covering her back with my coat. I could feel her shudders, she was crying.
“Come on now,” it wasn’t poetry but it was all I could think to say. She turned toward me and snuggled her head into my chest. I wrapped her completely in my jacket and held her until her breath returned to normal. We stood there for years. Worlds came and went. Our chests filled and emptied together.
The wind died, the rain became a sprinkle, “knock”, she said still smothered in my chest.
All there was was gray. Grainy gray. Sometimes shadows, sometimes-sharp clear images. As things warm up the sides come in, “turn that knob on the left, just a little. There. What’s that black line? It’s scrolling up. Stop it; turn that knob on the right. Can we get a little more contrast? Maybe turn the brightness down a tad. How come they put the two best shows on at the same time? Click the big dial, we can watch during the commercial. How come they both put commercials on at the same time? Three stations and nothing on. No, don’t turn it off, it takes forever to warm up”. Paid for with cigarettes and soap.
The bus pushed air to the curb, cups and napkins from the nearby Burger King swirled in disturbed air. The oversized tires gripped the asphalt and held. The air brakes groaned and motion stopped. Hydraulic arms pushed aside the folding doors and waited. A lone man, small, dressed in a gray and black splattered suit, put one foot on the lower step and paused to look to the right and then to the left. He made his decision and grasped the chrome railing with his right hand and pulled himself into the almost empty vehicle. He stood there, just beyond the steps, paid with a token, and then turned to look at me, the only other passenger. I watched him without blinking from the farthest seat and waited. He smiled at the driver, touched the rim of his gray and black splattered fedora and started walking in my direction. He had a slight limp very few people would notice. I noticed. I knew what had happened. He took his time, holding briefly to each seat he passed, as the bus driver patiently waited for him to find his seat. He stopped two feet in front of me and smiled, touched his hat again, and looked at the empty space on the seat next to me. I nodded and he sat down. The bus strained and pulled itself back into traffic. “Are you here on business?” he asked, using an archaic code. “I’m only here until May,” I responded with the answer that was proper twenty years ago. The answer he would be expecting. “I’m cold,” he said, despite the hot sun shining in the tinted windows of the bus. I understood, “We’ll take care of that.” He leaned back on the bench seat and relaxed for the first time in a long time. I took a quick look at the driver, he was adsorbed in traffic, I slipped my gun from its armpit home and pushed it, silencer first, into his open jacket. There was a slight puff and he slumped slightly. I reached for the wire above the bus’s tinted window and pulled. The bus continued for another five hundred feet and then pulled to the curb, the back door folded and the driver watched as I stepped out into the warm morning.
Sand. It can be hot. It can grind and abrase. For sand to enter the world of praise it needs to be washed, at least once a day, with cold salty water. Treated this way sand turns to a soft, forgiving friend that pushes between your toes, gives graciously when you fall upon your knees, and conforms to contours when laid upon. Some care is still required; sand, by nature, is clingy, it wants to adhere, a joiner. This must be kept in check. Never allow sand “in”, it should treated as a friend of a friend. And as a friend of a friend sand should never be invited home. If sand is taken from the edge of the cold salty water it instantly becomes a guest over staying their welcome, very hard to get rid of and always a nuisance.
The trunk is huge but there are footholds, some carved by others, some provided by the tree. Climbing starts without decision, it is simply what must be done, like breathing in and out. Two branches leave the trunk, one to the north one to the south, I look up to see how they end but leaves covering small limbs conceal all in shadows of dark and light greens. Both branches are strong. I test my weight on the right and then on the left, both are sturdy. I choose the right branch; it shows the most use by others. Another why, another choice, I choose the thicker limb. Another choice, I choose the move toward the center. Another choice, this time only one stem will take my weight. The direction is not what I prefer, but is there really a choice? Looking down into the tree I can see into the leaves where the first branches leave the trunk, I see the way to the top of the tree. Around me branches from other paths come near my perch, a jump of only a few feet would give me choices I no longer have. Pushing from the already over used stem produces a crack, my foot slips, I grab for twigs and leaves as I fall, some slow my decent, some just slap my face and pull skin from my hands. Falling stops. I lay in the crotch of the tree, breathing hard, filled with the joy of life. I am still climbing but now I sit once more at the first branching. The vision from the top comes back to me as my breath returns. My hands are sore, my back hurts, but my legs are strong. I choose the branch to the left; the less used, and start to climb.