I’ll miss a lot of things about Kansas City.
The rumble of the trash trucks in early morning as I sit on the porch has always spoken to me. When it’s just me and the sanitation engineers in the crisp fall air, it’s hard to believe that anywhere could be as perfect. I walk the boards of my deck in worn pajamas, holding the crystal mug which Sheldon and Paula’s daughter left one time, when she was house-sitting. I pick a few dead blooms off the begonia, and turn at the sharp sound of a recycle box hitting asphalt. I doubt that trashmen in California will be so cavalier, so tenderly careless.
I’ll miss the crowds on 18th street, once a month, gathering outside of Ruthie’s gallery. I always try to get there early, before the teens, when it’s still old married couples following their eager grandchildren. I slip into David Jones’ place first, the big rooms with their wide high ceilings holding art so keen that my heart aches just standing in the open space. I can’t walk to Gallery 504 from there so I drive around, squeezing the Prius into the smallest imaginable spots to leave room for someone else.
Ruthie has a hug and a drink every time I enter. She hasn’t figured out that I don’t much like alcohol. I take the glass anyway. I sip a little and set it on the tiki bar, ostensibly to pass Ruthie’s love to the next person who happens by. It’s usually David Arnold Hughes, an old poet with something faraway and painful lurking in his eyes. David does drink, cold bottled beer. He waves me into a chair. We listen to the band and think about all the things that might have been, if other things had not happened along the way.
I’ll miss the children, too; the sad and wistful ones who can’t decide who I am but usually tell me their secrets anyway. We sit in restaurants, offices, parks, and their foster-parents’ kitchens. I tell them love is sometimes like a balloon filled with too much air. I tell them, your mother and your father want me to help them figure out what to do. I don’t think they believe me but they’ve grown accustomed to doing what they’re told. Too accustomed, in the case of many of them. I get down to their level and let them draw in my tablet. I ask them to draw who lives in their houses. The forlorn faces of the stick pictures tell me more than the words which I mark on my legal pad.
I suppose in time, I’ll find somewhere to hear live music, on Saturday, on third Friday, on a gentle Sunday morning. The organizers will figure out that I have a deft hand with social media and they’ll recruit me to serve on their committee. Soon, I’ll be a regular, and I’ll live-stream the songs with a glass of water on the table and a thousand followers from all over the Delta watching. Or just a handful, maybe, but intensely devoted.
On the weekends, I’ll drive the hour to the ocean with a shawl, a book, and a picnic cooler. I’ll wrap myself and sit on whatever comes to hand, a bench or a rock, or the edge of an old stone wall. I’ll think about Kansas City. I’ll remember the happy years, the joyful sounds of voices which I heard in love, in passion, and in mild despair. Once in a while someone will fly to visit, and we’ll walk on the sand beneath the rocky cliffs or in the delta along the timeless banks of the San Joaquin. They will ask if I am happy. I’ll look out, over the water, and listen to my heart before I whisper, yes; but I still miss Kansas City. And I always will.
It’s evening; third Friday on 39th Street. A singer strums a guitar nearby, reaching for songs which he knows that I will like. I smile, and I clap, and once in a while I gaze over the heads of the little trick-or-treaters walking down the path. The dark gathers. A siren wails. Here, on a broken bench, on a rough patio, I’m nearly as content as I can be this far away from my Pacific.