Today I went for a walk. I left my apartment after my upstairs neighbor spent 15 minutes telling me about bears tipping over people’s refrigerators in Red Lodge, the place she used to live, and how it was a consequence of dumpster locks.
“Well that has to be frustrating,” I said, and she walked away from me. She probably had to make lunch.
The sun was hot so it was better to walk on the tree-lined streets where shadow shrouded the sidewalks. The leaves were trembling and yellow like a drink, but they just show up grey under your feet. For two blocks I followed a garbage truck, the mechanical arms dip down to the pavement like a ballerina to pick up the bins at the curb, just to flip them and shake them out like it was looking for milk money. The truck drove away from me, probably to find more cans.
The neighborhood around me is only a few blocks deep, so it can be hard to escape the main road where all the businesses and cars are, but you can if you just try. You have to enjoy it though, because it can end quickly.
I found a place where the pavement ends and two or three brown houses open out onto brown muddy stones. Behind them is a newer looking building that’s home to a Spanish-language church. I stopped at the street sign on the corner by the church to pull my yellow socks back up around my ankles. The street sign wobbled in the soft, wet dirt and I watched as, across the street and a muddy field, a crane lifted up some wood to the top of the skeleton of what I can only guess will someday soon be a new building.
I walked around to the main street to see what it was, but I still don’t know. I turned around, away from the cars, back to the dirt road. It’s just right there. At the end, staring at me, was an old house, nestled into a thick pillow of trees that get cut off prematurely at the edge of the property, like someone had built it there first and then someone else mowed everything else around it. It’s just right there, you can see it from the World Gym up the street, but who does? It’s like a secret that we all know but don’t acknowledge. But when you look at it you can hear something whispering. It’s fun to be in on a secret.
Across the street Habitat for Humanity is building a new house, but no one is there working on it just then. The foundation juts up from the ground and it looks like a swimming pool. I met the family moving in to the house back when they held a press ground-breaking for the house a few months ago. I imagined the family stacked up in the tiny pool, living their same lives in the bigger built up place. I got to see your house when it was naked. It’s fun to be in on a secret.
I headed back through a series of construction signs reading, “Road Closed.” I always thought that applied to sidewalks, too, but you know what? It doesn’t. I passed a road crew scraping some wet cement flat in the space between the framework for a new curb. Grey, wet, flat. Whiter, drier, flatter. Two men kneeling there scraping get asked something by the more in-charge man walking behind them. I didn’t hear what the man asked, but the older black man kneeling on the right with a grey fluffy beard like the inside of a pillow stopped his scraping, looked up and said in a kind of slow, lisping drawl that makes you glad he’s out in the world, “It looks pretty good, but it still needs some work.”