There are those times when maybe, you’ve gone to a bar.
Listen. Listen for a minute. This is just a hypothetical situation.
Maybe a friend has left her old job for a new one. You know? So she calls a meeting of the minds. She sets up court at a couple of tables pushed together in the back of a brew pub just south of the freeway.
And you go down there. You walk to the bar because it’s within walking distance, and because it’s a nice day. The late-afternoon sun warms your shoulders as you wend your way down two blocks, over two blocks, down again, to the right, dipping under the overpass, then up again and to the left. You’re wearing a halter dress the color of grass.
Did I mention it was a nice day?
You’re at the bar for a couple of hours and you have a couple of drinks. Goodbyes are given in the parking lot and you set off for home again in the waning light. Back under the freeway. You pass the State Preschool, a community garden, the laundromat. You gape in amusement at the inexplicable sight of the lights of someone’s Christmas tree blinking against a window. Through another window three ceramic frogs wearing clothes line the sill, a pink curtain as their backdrop.
Ahead, a man pushing an ice cream cart with a tinkling bell turns the corner. Another man lopes down his driveway to meet him and the cart stops, the bell silenced. “Mango,” the man in the driveway says, and the ice cream man repeats in confirmation: “Mango?” You take a nerdy delight in the long “a” of their “mahngo,” filing it away in case you’re ever called upon to know these kinds of things. You were the person who, while living in a state where just over half of the population speaks Spanish, elected to take German in secondary school.
A kid sprints down the sidewalk at full speed, money in hand, beelining for the corner market. Young men are smoking joints on the dirt patch of their front yard, peering out from behind the tall shrubbery. Smoke from an unseen barbecue is wafting down the street along with the pungent smell of lighter fluid.
Back on your block; almost home. Your neighbors have carried out an old desk to serve as a beer pong table in the front yard, where they are now whooping and playing Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” Another neighbor has started up his motorcycle and it revving the engine for the sheer pleasure of it. It’s a little ninja-style Japanese bike where you hitch your heels back and crouch forward for speed. Rice burners, they used to call them in American-motor-proud Michigan. That phrase always made you uncomfortable but there it is, hung permanently on the walls of your brain.
You walk up the three broken concrete steps of your front porch and unlock the door. As you walk into the empty house, the heat envelopes you. A physical entity.
Not wanting the feeling you had to leave, you mix another drink and stand out on the porch, listening to chimes jangle in the warm breeze. It is the most beautiful evening on the planet, and it belongs to you. In an attempt to share it, maybe you call your husband, maybe you call your friend. Maybe you stay out there as long as you can, watching the shadows chase the light from the ground, up the sides of buildings, and up the mountains until it reaches the very peaks. And then it’s gone entirely.
Blue deepens into black, and a full moon rises. But if you lift your shoulder and inhale deeply, you can still smell the sun on your skin.
I’m not saying this happened to me or anything.
I’m just saying it’s days like these that’ll make me miss this little city the most.