Thursday, June 28, 2012

An Obvious Thing

We are in flagrant disregard of Duty.
It would seem an obvious thing, the sun in summer.

There are wild fires, heat waves, people evacuating, sweating. We sit in sweatshirts in the evening and discuss whether or not to build a fire. It would seem an obvious thing, the sun in summer.

It emerges and so do we. We come out blinking, a city of moles. White like Haddocks and timid, unsure. Like shy brides we haltingly walk into the parks, the squares, the public spaces. We resist the urge to cover newly exposed flesh. We take all our business outdoors. Lunches are eaten, teeth are picked, clothes are changed, naps, definitely naps.

Siblings fight and wrestle, dump water down each other's pants. I write and practice my long range stink-eye. They lift their heads and look at me sometimes. They nod, thumbs-up, mouth O-K. They do not take this stink-eye seriously. Nor do I. It is merely for effect. A reminder. Yes, we are stripped to our underwear and playing in a public fountain, but there are decencies to observe. This stink-eye of mine remains like a vestigial tail or something from a time before them, before the sunshine and the splashing and the underwear and shrieking. Some archetypal image of The Way Things Are Done and Things We Do Not Do and I Would Never...

I forget and I ignore them while they play. This is why they love me best today. Because I ignore them. Sometimes it is best to be ignored and be left to mischief. The crows are taking advantage of these lax circumstances. And a seagull has swung by from the ship canal. The seagull is ridiculous, as big as a goose. Like that tall kid in middle school who got breasts and acne early. Awkward, gawking around, looking for a place to fit. The crows mock it and chase it with their fierce, hard beaks. They have rumbling smokers' caws and slick black feathers like greasers. They are pretty and too smart for their own good. The seagull just plods around among them, trying to find a friend.

The hobos have a box of popcorn. Like a moving-sized box. Full of popcorn. I am curious about the provenance of this popcorn. They scatter the popcorn for the birds and the seagull taunting ceases temporarily. There is more than enough for everyone. I am a little bit ashamed. I have been rabidly protecting my pizza crusts, bagel ends and fancy expensive protein bar remains from the birds. I don't want them to touch me with their lizardy feet or poop near me. I am squeamish and selfish. The hobos, they understand scavenging. They understand being misfit. They have watched the moms gather their children closer when they pass. I feel bad and want to ask them about their giant box of popcorn.

The birds are done with the popcorn for now and they have moved on in a loosely choreographed flapping and squawking. Incredibly they have reformed on the arm of a well-dressed man. Pencil thin gray trousers, neatly pressed dress shirt sleeves turned up in honor of the sudden warmth. An inky flock of birds fly from knuckles to elbow and up under his Important sleeve. He walks with purpose, buried in conversation on his phone. He has Important Things To Discuss. His birds tell a slightly different story than his phone and his clothes and I want to ask him about them. I am not on the other end of his phone, though, so I do not get the chance.

The girls in dresses from my eighth grade dances breeze past. All shoulder pads, high waists, wide belts. Geometric patterns and bold colors. They can wear these though. They are young and invincible. They are not Haddocks. They are brown and brushed and do not chase small people across public spaces. They are like burnished statues, monuments to youth and perfection and seem to say "We can wear these ugly clothes because we make them beautiful with our glow. We are young because we do not remember them from before. These are not the clothes of agonizing adolescence. These are the clothes of quirky irony and we have inherited them to show you how it's done." I let them because I don't care that much about it. I laugh that what is old is new again, and I am suddenly older. They will see pictures later and wonder who these people were who thought such things were good ideas and then they will know why we others sit in comfortable jeans and natural fibers, sensible shoes.

There are children on leashes and dogs who roam free. I wonder at this backwards world and hope the dogs don't poop near me or touch me with their tongues. I briefly hope the same of the children. But they are on leashes, so it is less likely. The children are up long past nap time and sit on the ground and cry. The mothers resist the urge to do the same. Childless grass nappers open one eye and stare. They do not understand this resistance to repose. The dogs sniff for popcorn. The hobos have moved on and left their box. A large child rides a tiny tricycle through the fountain. There is scolding and pouting and arguing. Perhaps some foot stomping, too. The sun has turned a bit in the sky.

The opalescent Haddock flesh begins to turn the iridescent pink of Salmon and the dogs get restless. Mothers check their clocks and a general rustling begins. Like the crows, they begin to flap and migrate. Disorganized and all at once, emerging into a pattern. Dripping children, blue lips with soggy pants, pink cheeks and goosebumps find bicycle helmets, a drink of water. I stand and somehow dump my coffee down the back of my shirt and pants. I am dripping, too, and smell like what I imagine is South America. Musk and sunshine, sweat and strawberries and coffee. I sit back down and laugh.

I stand again and collect my things. I sneak past the box of popcorn and take a peek. I say a silent thank you for all of this nonsense. For the birds and the fountain. The hobos and their purloined popcorn in a shipping box. For the children and the dogs and the walking, rusting tattoos. For the statuesque goddesses and the skate punks. For my Haddock flesh that will carry me home with groceries and wet monkeys on two wheels.

It is all absurd.
It is all so beautiful and in motion.
An amoebic throbbing and constant moving of in and out.
The world contracts and expands to allow another and some more as we come and go.
There is room for everyone here in the sun.
It's an obvious thing, this sun in summer.


  1. Beautiful, beautiful. I love this perfect polaroid of life in motion.

  2. I could say so many things, but I mainly would like to state that I want a huge shipping box of popcorn...just to set about. Why had this obvious thing never occurred to me before? Beautiful post.

  3. Yes, Vesuvius, a perfect polaroid. I adore this look at a summer afternoon. Makes me want to close my computer and head outside.

  4. Haddocks ... that totally made me grin. This whole post is well, it's you. And that's awesome. I had an occupational therapist once tell me my skin is fish belly white.

  5. My son is a true PNW guy. The mildly warm, overcast days we've had are what he considers perfect weather. He dons his layers of clothes and heads out with his friends, not knowing or not caring, that the sun should be out and shining in the good old summertime!


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