45 tagged with #interactions

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favors i denied


i left the grocery store, panniers packed full of eggs and frozen green beans and others, swathed up to my eyes with a grey scarf. i walked my bike across the parking lot driveway, mashing the pedestrian cross button so the busy road would eventually stop for me.

a few steps away, he approached, knit cap pulled down past his eyebrows and grey hands jutting from the sleeves of a stiff sweatshirt. 'hey, can you do me a favor?' he asked.

'yeah, what's up?'

'can i get a light?' a cigarette jabbed my way. i shook my head.

'sorry, buddy.'

'oh, okay. can i ask for another favor?'

'sure thing.'

'you see, i work here at mcdonalds,' he started, gesturing to the drive-thru behind me with his unlit smoke. 'and i gotta get some roses for my mother who's in the hospital. but i can't go into trader joe's no more. can you go in there and buy me a dozen roses? i've got the money.'

the back of my neck prickled, even as i leaned in to hear him over the roar of traffic. i looked straight into his cataracts while he gave me his spiel, then flicked my gaze over to the street. it takes several minutes for the light to turn over.

'sorry, man, i can't help you,' i said, hoping to time my exit smoothly.

'why not?' he was accusatory now, challenging me to tell him the truth.

in my head, i spun through several answers. i'd rather he tell me why he really wanted a dozen roses; i'd seen him walking through traffic selling them to commuters. i'd have helped him get some roses to flipped if he asked me for that. then, i thought about ways he could have been setting me up; he left his money in mcdonald's where he worked, i just had to wait for him to get it, but i'd have to give him the roses i paid for anyway. and then i thought about even less generous possibilities; he'd offer to hold my bike while i was inside, or demand to know why i didn't trust him if i locked up anyway, or if i brought my panniers in with me.

i want to help strangers, but i don't trust strangers. the light was about to change. i lifted my chin that way. 'i just gotta get home, man, sorry. i can't help you. i hope you find someone who's got a few more minutes than i do.'

'damn. damn, it's cold out. you know what the weather's gonna be?'

this last thing he asked, i could answer. 'tomorrow's gonna be colder than today, maybe some snow. probably rough this week.'

'damn, it's so cold.'

the light changed. i nudged my bike into the street. 'sorry, man, stay warm, okay?'

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02 December 2018 22:35


reminders from the crossing guard


the street reeks of ginkgo berries, a warm mushy pungent paste that coats the fresh pavement, which is too hot in this mid-october week. i skid to a stop, panting gently in the shade.

"how are you?" she asks, peacefully standing in the rectangle formed by the power box blocking the afternoon sun.

"hot. too hot. i wish it were colder."

she let me sweat for a moment while the cars blew past us, then reminded me that the weather came from something i didn't understand. true enough, i thought. we have never understood the weather. "are you a christian?" she asks.

"no."

"well, sometimes i read the bible," she confesses. "and sometimes i'm out here, and i see the trees waving, and i say it's because they're thanking god for the day."

we cross the street together, looking up at the canopy of branches forming a shield for us against a hazy blue sky. it is mid-october, and they are not yet ready to drop their leaves. sweat pools under my watch strap. she tells me about how before i ran up to her, she was just standing there enjoying the nice breeze.

"and maybe sometimes we gotta think about how our negativity might impact the world around us," she tells me gently, while i take an extra moment to let my skin cool. "we can be grateful just to be here today."

she puts out her hand to me, and thanks me for taking the moment to listen. i shake her hand; it's dry and cool, and she does not grip firmly when she wishes me a good rest of my run.

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08 October 2018 16:53


fixative


i worry that i get myopic. i thumb through dozens, hundreds, thousands of photographs that are evidence of a life i have lived, and worry about the spaces in between that i have forgotten because i chose not to excise a slice of it to fix in a flat, static object.

sometimes, the photographs dilute the experience. sometimes, they dilute the memory. sometimes, they dilute the sense of being.

but then i think about all of the unphotographed and wonder, how much more has been lost?

--

i sat on the concrete curb, a small ledge delineating sidewalk from front lawn of the special needs school. the road glowed a silvery overcast sunset tone, and i stared into the dark spaces of densely leafed trees covering lawns and wrought-iron fences on the other side. one of my hands held my phone, flicking a thumb idly while waiting for things to appear in my game.

a man walked up the sidewalk towards me, thick shoes splaying out to exaggerate his uneven stride. his hair was wild, and cigarette smoke trailed behind him. he did not make eye contact with me as he passed, and i found myself stuck between giving him the courtesy of privacy by not taking in his every movement with my gaze, or ignoring him completely by being too engrossed in my phone to acknowledge another human.

the grit of the concrete made my clothes seem conspicuously thin.

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24 September 2018 21:32


culture


'you got your samurai sword?' the old man asked me as he was coming out of the library, and i was going in. i looked at his floppy sun hat, the yoga mat rolled up under his arm.

'...what?'

'i love your topknot, that's what i mean!' he said, holding his hands over his head as if grabbing one of his own. my hands instinctively mimicked his, pushing my bun straighter on top of my head with a little bit of embarrassment.

'...thanks?' i think.

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01 September 2018 20:35


windows


the neighbor's kitchen window hangs mere feet from our bicycle shed door. at night, it is a lit rectangular portal into a tidy, dated room with sunny yellow wallpaper and a hanging calendar that always shows the proper month. during the days, when the sun can bounce just enough of its rays to reach the sill, toy potted plants dance to signal that their solar panels have been activated.

sometimes, i see the old lady who lives there, always in a comfortable gown, hunched with her head at a painful angle, shuffling towards the sink. her aides are never far, but they leave her the space to maintain her dignity.

sometimes, an aide comes out to sweep the walkway. once, i left the shed at the same time, and she jumped, yelped, and then said hello out of embarrassment.

i always wave to them; they look happy, and that makes me happy.

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25 August 2018 21:36


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