Sunday, July 17, 2011



The neighborhood seems to wake up in waves. Due to my nocturnal schedule, I only see the early risers when I stay up all night. From 5 to 6am, the nighttime sounds of crickets, cars on 12th Street and the errant night wanderer give way to the rumble of pick up tracks, ferrying men out towards the main arteries that lead to highways and jobs. From 7-8am, women make a beeline for the bus stop on 12th Street, often wearing uniform tops and pleated pants. Then, around 9am, Lee, the barber, and Miss Bobbie, the hair stylist, open for business. Construction crews arrive at one of the new in-fill houses springing up on empty lots, city employees come by to clean up trash or mow grass in the park.

If I go to bed early, I will catch this last wave of day workers upon waking, and it is with them that I am most familiar. I open my front door, still in pajamas, to pick up the paper and check the weather, maybe to water my plants. I stretch, wash my face, get dressed and if I have time, run on the track before heading to work at noon.

The track is well populated in the mornings, often by older people who walk laps in groups, talking to each other, laughing as they stretch halfheartedly. It's not my style of exercise, but their stately pace has a dignity to it. Running in the daytime is a hassle for me, wrapped in all manner of fabrics to avoid the sun's rays, sweating profusely and suffering through morning shows on the radio.

I prefer to run as the sun sets. The businesses are in the process of bedding down as I walk the five blocks to the track, Little League games are beginning in the park and I am moving against the grain, out of the residential blocks and across 12th Street, to one of my favorite oases in the neighborhood, this state of the art rubber composition track which circles a manicured football field.

The track, sunk into a hillside, is below street level to the east but above on the west, which affords a beautiful view of the downtown skyline and sunset. It is not lit at night, so as I run I absorb the last of the daylight and when I stretch at the end of my run, I search the sky for the first star. Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight… My wish is always the same, and I can't tell it to you, or it won't come true. Sometimes, though, I feel a twinge of sadness at the thought that it might. I leave the track happy and serene, unbothered by the beer cans in the gutter, or the cars which slow to stare at me. I feel at home under this dome of sky. I walk back to my little house, glowing from within, and my boyfriend is in the living room practicing blues licks on guitar. Outside, Little League kids squeal as their teammates round the bases and cars inch along the crowded street, their engine sounds overwhelmed by the bass in their stereos, which as always, seems to propel them forward.

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