“What’s been most disappointing – and – most surprising – to you about our move,” my husband asked, as we sat at Nicola’s for the Monday night Bolognese special, without our expert pasta diner, Davis.
This was known in our family as the Mark Manley line of questioning. The intention was in line with high-low of the day, a tradition we shared at dinnertime. Most guests came to detest this custom, and probably stopped accepting invitations because of it.
I began with the first theme of disappointment and could only form a single opinion. “How much the house echoes,” I said.
We were busy locating the right size and color of rugs, for each room deemed necessary. But my office seemed to voice the majority of the echoes, perhaps because it was near the back of the house, with only a brick wall, some of which I left exposed, to separate from the outside. Its location was also at the crossroads of two sets of stairs, one leading up from the first floor, and one leading from the second to the third. While space is a gift to writers, open air is not.
We never did move on to “most surprising”, but as I ran the next morning, I began to devise a list.
First, my feet had taken on a rather grey, street pavement hue, and scales, the likes of alligator skin, run up and down the exterior of each foot. The bottoms picked up one hundred years worth of dirt, and minutes worth of dog hair. I had taken to wearing “house shoes” which my mother always did.
I was rather focused on my feet, looking down at my newly neon purple and blue shoes, which my mother would surely love to hate when I finally visited and wore them for her. And just as I rounded the corner, I ran smack dab into an unsuspecting citizen in the early morning street.
“Oops. Sorry,” I said. “I was in my zone.”
He laughed. I wasn’t sure he ever had a zone.
I stumbled into the intersection, still laughing at myself, when another one of his compatriots, exiting the City Gospel Mission, shouted out. “Hey, can I run with you?”
At first glance, I thought, “Sure, why not.” But then I watched the haze rising with my cardio rate, and looked at him again. He really wasn’t planning to, but I wasn’t sure how far he would have made it anyhow.
I waved him over, just in case, and he shook me off. Apparently, porch-sitting was just fine with him.
That is what I found most surprising. The average everyday encounters that cause me to break out in a smile, while I am breaking out into sweat. That I am called, Pretty, Baby, or Sweetheart, and I don’t find it offensive. Okay. Maybe I’ll attribute that to maturity.
But I could blog every day about these happenstances, these reasons that I keep bumping into, that make me want to be a part of this city every day more and more. That make me want more for the city, for the people living in it.
They are minute interactions.
That is about being on foot. When my boots are on the ground, and not pushing a gas pedal, I begin to see the details of ordinary living, beyond the intricate facades of centuries old buildings. I can detect the color of someone’s eyes, if I smell past the waft of urine. I imagine the “more” of the city, beyond the rising spires of the churches.
Our son makes fun of why we say, “hi,” to everyone.
I really don’t know. We started it, so we would feel comfortable with every stranger. But now it seems commonplace, and I would feel a snob if I didn’t.
Yes, what I have found surprising is how easy I have come to call this home, to appreciate the small interactions.
Returning from my run, I decided to beat the storms and walk Enzo. I sprinted across Fourteenth St, and a James Earl Jones voice, not God’s, called out my name. It was my friend H.
“Are you running with me?” I asked, as I circled back to say hello.
He rose from his box to greet me and shook his head.
“That’s Ok. Hey, I haven’t seen you.” I mentioned, at the exact moment he said the same.
“I’ve been out early, probably before you get up,” I teased.
“How long you running today?”
“Well, until the rain comes, I suppose.”
“’Bout fifteen minutes them,” he told me.
“Time me,” I said, and ran off.
We weren’t best friends, H. and I. But the intersection of our paths only came from feet on the ground, meeting someone face to face. Recognizing the gait, the stature, and even the shoes, not visible from any driver’s seat.
I kept running up Liberty then Prospect Hill, until I knew I had passed the fifteen-minute mark, and turned back around. I didn’t cross H. again, he wasn’t on my route.
But he was looking out for me. And I would for him.
That is what I have found most surprising.
* The photo above is the former German Mutual Insurance Company building. Read more in this link.