Last week, during the horrible heat wave, I had to get out of the house and take a walk because diabetes & celiac were all I did for a day and the kids were fractious and the heat jailed us. Even the pool was nasty, the water was too warm to be refreshing. When Matt came home I told him that I needed to go out for a walk and I needed to do it alone (rather than taking diabetes boy out for exercise). It was hot, but the sun had fallen over the edge of the trees so the only real heat I felt was what oozed up out of the sidewalk, the remains of the day. Everything had a burned smell to it and the grass was crispy; it sounded like I was walking across a snowy lawn. The smell sent me back to when I was a kid and I lived in Florida. We lived in Cape Canaveral, near where the astronauts took off, in some apartments off the main strip, A1A. I used to cross A1A to walk to school. It was a Rockville Pike kind of place, but this was the 1970's, so it was kind of kitschy, and glowed with neon at night. As I walked my neighborhood, a hot breeze sprang up, carrying with it McDonalds smells, Baskin Robbins, gas stations. A line of poetry ran through my head as I was carried back in time to 4th grade and A1A, and I tried to hold one line, then another in my head as I walked, but I said to the universe that it would really be helpful to have a pen with which to capture these words before I get distracted, as I so often do. Maybe 20 yards later--right in the middle of the sidewalk--a pen. I picked it up and scratched it experimentally across my thumb. Ink! I suppose I could write all over my hand, I told the universe as I resumed my walk, but paper would really be helpful. A few steps later I saw a flash of white to my left -- a paper towel. Yeah, I thought, not so good for writing. What I really need is lined paper. And before I turned the next corner, folded up on the grass at the edge of someone's lawn, was my lined paper. Dirty, a bit crumpled, but lined. I stopped now for a moment and the thought came to me that I should thank the universe for its gifts, and I did. And I wrote my accumulated bits of poetry quickly on the paper, walking slowly (walking while writing is not one of my strong points). When it was done, I tucked both in my pocket and thought that as long as the universe is handing out gifts tonight, I could really use a twenty because I never got to the banking machine today and I'm out of cash. Or a wad of twenties. Hmmm? I scanned the road ahead, the lawns to the side. No twenty. Ah well, I guess I caught my limit. I picked up the pace and walked off the day, the diseases, the petty bickering, the unclean house, the unpaid bills. One mile turned into two and the sweat swiveled its way down my neck and some of the troubles of the day stopped mattering so much. Then I came back round to my conversation with the universe and apologized for being so crass as to ask for cash. I guess it wasn't really a very nice thing to do. A bit tacky. And as I apologized, I saw another fluttering in another lawn, a small, flat... dollar bill. A one. Perhaps a lesson in tact. A tip. And I immediately thanked the universe once again, not for the actual money, but for its kind attention, because sometimes the best gift is just knowing that you are, in some small way, being heard.
Hot nights and neon
I remember the Holiday Inn sign on A1A
with the star on top,
the buzzing lights
of other greasy spoons.
My dad called it "prole food."
A half mile walk to my elementary school
on the beach, it was called
and still may be.
I could Google it to see
if it still is, still has a view
of that jut of land where the rockets launched,
another star in the sky.