Sidewalking

Some months of commutes I’ve spent, on foot and off, in the tangled company of cheap earbuds, a charged phone and a decent enough podcast. This is sonic equivalent of an arm’s length away from all else that is shared in the street. I don’t really understand how to behave myself in so much public except to wash my hands when I come back inside. There are just so many faces and bodies with sounds and goings on about their lives.

Hitting the lottery is a little bumping up against and all the disorientation falls away. Her meaty fist against his exposed knuckle is a sober introduction and an adios half-uttered. Probability picks the times and days to pull together the ones knowable; the ones with whom our eyebrows lock and level back and forth, the ones that play chicken with strollers, the ones that crosswalk after we do likewise, during which we are signing each others’ risky business permission slips and we are hushing each others’ Mesolithic brain stems that stop us mid-lurch upon spotting the red, traffic-lit flashes of the hunt.

Even at that empty hour I imagine myself deemed an obvious outsider by some ghostly populace; they can pick out the way I gauge person-to-personal space, and my measurements of auric bubbles on the street. I hope they can root for me when I go up against the ones who I can’t ever figure out how to pass from behind. We share the sidewalk walk walk it out of maybe a meter wide.

Count your blessings if they are certifiably off to one side; even when you’re met with the package deal of a quivering Yorkie, three shopping bags, a lit cigarette and a flip-phone gluing their shoulder to ear.

But the middle-ish walkers, god forbid there’s a small child there too, are tough cookies. Go around a car if you have to. Don’t exhaust your daily ration of mental math just to deduce the next move of some body in the middle-ish. A viable remedy is jumping off into the calle-kalea or onto the front step of an apartment building. Forget that you’re from the burbs of west of the Missisip, because this be a game of awholenotherly dif’urnt ratio n’ execution, girl.

Don’t even ask me how to execute a little vamos vamos Petey c’mon venga vamos around the block on a weekday at 1pm with this toddling bulldog, a tote of empty Tupperwares, and a too long leash.

Yesterday, in a gesture most kind, a lady with her elderly mother hanging from her right arm warned me of the freshly dead rat perfectly centered in the crosswalk – you know, because the dog would go for it. I can say that you really gotta start by pulling one of those things out and throwing it over your shoulder; put your ear to the street.

Larreagaburu

wpid-20130519_171534.jpgTook Peteychenko Pedrovich up the hill to the park, the Larreagaburu (’miraflores’ in Spanish, ‘to watch flowers’), and finally felt as if I’d dropped all pretense and shut up clamoring over earthly things.

But for real this time, a new edition of the self-assessment Scripture with the consistency of the illusionist’s flashpaper. This time, rather than avoiding them, I could stomp eggshells with due diligence: for real this time, I still care about not caring and maintain a preoccupation with unoccupation; these are surely hazards – beware of repetitive motions, safety first. Drying the throat, sharp altitudes dole out a sense of fortune. The suddenness of a little drop of gratitude’s aftertaste on my tongue’s bitter region, the tender nasal membrane welcoming white ash.

Wind in our little faces, the smoke of burning wood and wet brush clinging to the ridge that drops into the Nervión River where the channel takes a sharp turn in the barrio of La Peña. Communion with the crosswinds is a controlled burn with no ordained supervision.

When one lives like a ant on a hill, rugged individualism takes a gasping pull inward, lungs-ward, and gets that smartass of yours submerged again in the tides of the common good. The social contract you must make here includes the brushfire’s municipal smoke in your drying laundry and scraping the dogshit off your boot and all over the northern stairwell of Building #2.

But we come back up for air, the anonymous mass and I, and we take turns being considerate. Damned be the riptides. Join us in this effort to cede to others and to the urge to fight tooth and nail not to. Maybe your role here is to commandeer 3 square meters of public park, to cut and terrace on the steep southern slope. I’d bet you and this guy too don’t even consider yourselves gardeners, just a couple of citizen stomaches with no balcony for a tomato plant.

Descending on the other side of Larreagaburu now, Pete and I stare at a lady sitting on a picnic table, her hands busy near her face. False, Pete stares and I struggle with oppositional social norms taught by my upbringing and my adopted home regarding the behavior of fixed gazes. Maybe she’s plucking her eyebrows on the picnic tabletop in a down coat and tan boots. Maybe she’s fashioning a means to combust herself full of brown hash and hiding it from her husband. Maybe she’s just picking herself apart and we’d agree that this is a damn good place to do it. We both might be looking over things from above and making little what really isn’t big to begin with.

Hello Propriety, it’s nice to meet you. Please excuse me, I have a hard time with common first names that correspond to so many faces. I’ll repeat your name during our first exchanges. I’ll try to recognize this version of you by the contours of your face. I’ll calculate my next moves with that data and apply the ratio of people per square kilometer. The resulting density leads me to conclude that the situation requires a degree of give and take, give a shit and take one, or not.

This is how I tell you how I feel about living in this pushed together richness, mounded up with all these strangers cold with opinions and warm with suggestions. These are the words I use to describe the pile of unmet neighbors numberless like me. This is how I explain it to myself.

You’re an ant on a hill.

You could carry up to 50 times your own heft, but you won’t need nearly that much brawn to arrive at the fertile lawn.

Make that art you gotta make and carry that weight of purpose with your own legs; creation gets its own momentum with the stretch out, the crack of joints, and the pull of lactic acid from the muscles.

Just give the shit that you were given to give. Take the chance in spite of the shivering and the rigor mortis of beginning something; the colony’s gonna do it’s thing either way, anyway.

Step out from under the shelter, you do you. That art ain’t gonna make itself. Get up the hill. Somebody is bound to come across you making it up as you go along. Your sisters will carry your corpse back home.