On the way home from work, I paused for a red light adjacent to the Plaza tennis courts. I glanced out the window at a man with thick grey dreadlocks, a chunky fellow in a black suit jacket over blue jeans. He flashed a broad grin at me and i returned the beam. I stretched my neck and tossed my head on tense shoulders. The man widened his smile. My blond curls could not compete with his glorious mass of braids but something close to wild kinship crackled through the air between us.
As the light turned green, I caught his eye and nodded. He raised one hand.
The traffic report droned from the radio. Backed up from Holmes to Antioch on 435. That had to be five miles. Who would subject themselves to such drudgery? The Northland reported a stalled car on 29. My own circuit never varies: Brookside to Westport on the east side of the Plaza in the morning. Westport to Brookside straight through the middle, in the evening. Eleven minutes flat each way, timed to avoid the crawl. No sane person chooses to suffer that torture day after day.
I pulled the Prius down the driveway and swung my pocketbook as I spanned the asphalt to my door. My shoulders slowly lowered. The day’s ration of lawyering and benefit planning eased from my muscles. I had seen ten o’clock the previous night at the keyboard, hammering out a motion in a case where I’m the guardian. I knew the mother would be trouble when I failed to convince her attorney that she needed to process her grief somewhere other than in the terrified gaze of her seven-year-old son’s wide eyes. No one wants to be left; least of all the babies. I understand her pain but the children deserve to be insulated from the anger and the anguish.
I’d like to leave it at the door but my heart won’t stand for that.
I breathed easier in the kitchen, standing over a pan of sizzling tofu and red peppers. The water for my pasta boiled. I tipped a half cup of dry ancient grain penne into the pan. From the open back door, sounds of a soulful drummer drifted through the house, carried by the dancing breeze.
I took my square plate to the porch and settled in a rocker. I thought about the spring three years ago when Jenny Rosen dragged me from thrift store to thrift store, looking for plates that held no memories. My cabinets groan under the weight of too many blended households.
The crickets start their song of sleep as dusk gathers to the west. I close my eyes. Morning hovers too near. My hand falls to the pages of my book, and I begin to read.
It’s evening on the twenty-fifth day of the forty-first month of My [Long, Long] Year Without [Too Much] Complaining. Here on earth, we’re weary but optimistic. Life continues.
My wild curls.
My square-plated dinner.