10 January 2008

That voice again

Drama has settled down to a dull roar; boredom has settled in.

I am restless; I am waiting.

Misty morning, sun filters through the water in the air. I kissed the son goodbye at his locker. Why he allows, even encourages, this I don't understand. He feels vulnerable right now, this child trapped in the body of an almost man. He wants his mother, even with the girls crowding around. I notice, again, one girl in particular who has been hanging around the brighter boys a great deal lately. She is not attractive with her long brown hair and glasses, her clear discomfort with her gawky body, her strained earnestness. She is lost in the sea of giddy blondes who wear their uniforms well; the extroverted brunettes who converse with ease. She reminds me of myself at that age, and in my heart I whisper to her, don't worry, girl. You'll get there. Time is on your side.

The daughter still clings to me as I leave. We are well past the days of "Mommy! Stay for flag salute!" but on days when she can catch me sitting down, she curls her tall, nearly 11-year-old body into my lap. At school, she always hugs me hard, pushing her head into my chest, loathe to let go.

I feel only partly put together this morning. I was still throwing on clothing as I ran out the door, and as I exit the school, I'm surreptitiously trying to ensure that my track pants haven't slid too far down my hips. It's damp, but also chill. I settle my jacket, and head down the street.

I haven't walked the channel trail for nearly 18 months and my own internal illogic is in the driver's seat this morning. I ran this trail for several years, seeing the same people with whom I'd exchange a nod or a word, smiling at the same happy dogs who'd pull at their leashes to sample the smells on my knee, grimacing at the wretched old woman who insisted on hawking and spitting on the trail. I wonder if I will see any of those people, or if all the faces will have changed.

A mile in and it's apparent that few are out. It is cold, but I'm already shedding my jacket, doing a striptease without ever breaking my pace. An Australian Shepherd, a lovely tri-color with symmetrical markings on his face, keeps turning around to make sure that I'm not up to anything squirrely behind his back. For not the first time this week, I think that it may be time to adopt another a dog. It's been nearly two years since the Bad Dog left us. I still expect to see her every time I open the garage door.

The fence along the channel is covered in cape honeysuckle, in full and glorious orange bloom. There is little water in the channel, and I don't see any of the larger water birds that occasionally visit, but a small family of mallards is splashing amongst the rocks.

There is change and no change. The house near the public school has lost most of its roof now. It was already in bad shape the last time I traversed this area. I can't believe that someone is living there; based on what I can see from the exterior, I can only believe the place must be full of mold and other even more unsavory things. I cannot believe that the nearly new car is still parked in the driveway.

I exchange "good mornings" with many along the way, none of whom are familiar to me. I miss the elderly Asian man who walked in shorts alone whatever the weather, barechested even in cold winter rain, clearly pleased with himself, pleased with life, ever smiling. I miss the Eskie who would smile wildly at me as it pulled its owner, a very large middle-aged man, willy-nilly through the lavender.

I don't miss the spitting old lady. And I do see the old biddy squad, a group of well-turned out senior ladies who clearly believe they sit at the head of the trail social hierarchy, who tacitly maintain their right to block the entire path so that the rest of us have to step off to allow them to pass. I see their ranks have swelled as they march toward me, and as usual, I split their group down the center, smiling into their peeved faces as I go. A woman of about my own age grins at me as she runs past and through the hole I've made in their formation.

By the time I reach mile 4, summit number 3, I am bargaining with myself. No views to spur me on today, so I promise that I will make another pot of coffee when I get home, that I can eat anything I want for breakfast. Bargaining is not working.

Down the hill, up the hill, down the hill again. I've not seen the old man with the cane for a very long time. Five years ago, when we first began to meet on my morning runs, he would bow to me as he walked by. I liked him; in an odd way he reminded me of my father-in-law with his well-combed hair and jaunty bow-tie, his Mr. Rogers cardigans. After a couple of years, he would add a twirl of his cane as he greeted me. One morning, finally, he stopped me.

"Miss," he said, twinkling. "You do not run. You do not walk. You dance."

It was such a funny little thing to say, but said with a sort of Old World kindness. And a comment that always occurs to me at those moments when I am ready to levitate.

I hope that wherever he is, he is at peace.

I am home; I am exhausted. I will rest just for a moment, and restlessness will return.

I hear that voice, that seductive siren song, again.

I am waiting.

Go listen to some good music: "That Voice Again" from the album So by Peter Gabriel.

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