She said, Running as in "running out," dear man, and "walking back" . . . Why don’t we go for a walk and go straight ahead until we have to turn back to keep from running out of steam . . .
She was always a kick in the ribs; count them.
She liked to invent occasions for kisses. That’s what happened on their walks during which no one ran, not even the dogs they encountered.
The dogs were inured to humanity: too many useless rules . . . Birds may have blessed the air for holding their weight, but that was long ago, when God was still around to answer questions in person, in parables of course.
O well, she said, we can avoid the dog on the path and walk faster than the bird can fly. Don’t you want to run the gauntlet, honey?
You don’t understand, sweetie, or you’re playing dumb.
He went on this way until she led him off the path into a thicket with a well-worn circle of grass in the middle. You had to risk the climb through. It would be worth it, he knew.
All the songs come back to him: Amazing Grace, Wayfaring Stranger, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, Will the Circle Be Unbroken? and the others he heard in the storefront church. He was between little and growing, as they said about boys, but he knew what he liked, by God, and took the sound home with him, wherever home was in those days. Was it Grandma Murphy? or after Danny took him off to live with him . . . He missed his mother and sang those songs with her in mind. She had a fight with Danny once, in the apartment that may have been the same one Earlene and her son Roderick inhabited, he didn’t know the difference if there was one . . . Fighting did no good. Bobby stayed. Henrietta saw him one more time, on the street in the rain and took him to an early dinner, asking if Danny, whom she called for his sake Daddy, if he’d mind? adding, I want him to know we found each other down here, honey, I love you so, I don’t mean to be a bitch, but he didn’t know what the word meant and when he told Danny his father defined the word by using his mother’s name in the same sentence. Even between boyhood and youth he was old enough to object. Danny let it go and went out to make some money, he said. Bobby walked out and ran down the hill, past the Greyhound station, into downtown, and walked all the way down to the water. He liked to watch the water move, it felt like something inside him was moving.
Twenty-six was a good age to remain. She said he would get better when he was older. Her skin was as soft as the green grass on which they lay. Her turquoise eyes. Her blonde hair with brown roots. Where did you get that name? he loved to ask her just to see what she would say. She always shot back with something to change the subject, like going from baptism to a brothel, though he’d never been. He was never baptized on time, not until he was seven; and he never needed to pay the beautiful who shared his bed, When he told her what he said to change the subject, she replied, You do alliteration like a natural, Mister Poet, but don’t die young, I’m already too old for you, and laughed. Something in him knew he wouldn’t run all his life. You had to walk, even alone, to find out what there was to know. That’s why he studied the water at the end of that skidding, sliding Seattle street.
(28 March, 4 April 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander