Every morning an old woman with a red beret sneaks into my history. She pulls an old two-wheeled cart to fill with the voids. My city is filled with these anonymous people. These folks that linger the streets in the hours of the working people intrigue me. They creep around corners and wake circles from dumpster to dumpster hoping to find a find. I find them.
When the weather was cold, the bundleds of down hid me. They couldn’t notice unless I passed them directly and I had the pup as a cover. The fever of spring has awakened the primitive awareness in their blasé hearts. Weary of me weeks ago, I’m becoming a part of the usual scenery, but the lonely are always attuned of my presence. I try to say “hello” to ease their demons. They don’t make eye contact. They are afraid of me because I look normal now.
The lady in the red beret does not know I was one of her not long ago. She doesn’t know where I slept or the dreams I forgot. She is afraid and has no home for her cats to feed.
The fence I’m on is a retaining wall. I always have an out.
Lethargic are our dance. We take small steps and hear the wind. Standing still is the way. On rainy days after my coffee when I drag the dog out, the red beret lady peeks at me. She has been following me. She knows where I live. If I spot her, she looks down and adjusts her sleeves, or pushes up her faux glasses. I am looking at her always empty cart. If another one is dipping in the dumpsters outside my window, she waits, she wants something else.
When I am working, and pounding the clay, I think of all the steps of these people I am missing. I slam the rubber mallet into the mounds of clay, pressing out the bubbles. Wedging, I wonder about all the steps it takes to make a trip. I roll out bubbles and think about their escape. The cold clay wets the air and the woes of all our lives dwindles with ease. I relax with the work and forget about the sorrow. I drone into the process and feel the heat of the warming kiln on the backs of my calves.
Rushing home down Bryant avenue I watch the people waiting for the bus. I watch them wait at every stop sign of the side thoroughfare. Most wait alone, but sometimes a lover waits with them and they hug and kiss in the new love like spring. They coddle the emotions and roll with a content that may be true. Any time my father ever saw a couple kiss in public he’d say,
“Ah, young love.” No matter how old they were.
The bus people are always going somewhere.
When the creaks of morning infiltrate my sleep I rest in bed waning for the drips of dew that hang on the green blades of urban grass outside. The moments between dream and wake are loosen molten. Looking toward the window, I spy bits of light hanging through the slate band blinds. Morning.
Bouquets of dandelions bounce out of the ground and their yellow manes sing Tuscan sun on the horizon of a fog rune sky.
Outside the screened window I hear the untrue squeak of the second wheel of the cart. I spring from bed. I run and peek at her through the screens of the railroad apartment. It is so early and my socks slide on the dirty floor. She is speaking to herself and creeping toward the garbage taking turns over her shoulder like a marathon runner after the wall. She does not know I’m watching her. When she bends into the first dumpster I run out the side door.
I didn’t know I would startle her so much but her startled weight dragged her into the almost empty dumpster with flailing legs and a thud. I ran out of concern as the alley cats mewed and scattered with the stub tailed squirrels. I heard her moan groan from under the plastic lid.
”Are you all right?” I yelled.
”Get. Me. Out." She bellowed.
I grabbed her skinny arm as she mustered a sea step on the broken cardboard and plump plastic bags underneath her white Reebok tennis shoes. Then I dragged her over the side, hearing all her brittle bones bend over the metal. I felt awful and exhausted.
The woman hobbled to her downed cart and picked it up and as she wheeled away, turned over her shoulder and said,
”Just leave me alone.”
I knew just how she felt and I smiled.