Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Frozen--in the heat


My dog was barking a sort of yippy bark, instead of her usual baying howl. I finally figured out she was actually barking at something in the spare bedroom. Under the bed. No. Behind the nightstand, or behind the bedhead.
I saw it now.  Maybe the knotted cloth end of a dog toy. No, a tail and a rump. Not moving. A pigeon. Not an exotic Egyptian bird, just a regular old charcoal-gray pigeon, which is Egyptian because there are plenty of them around here.
The French doors from the bedroom to the tiny balcony were open. So I closed the other bedroom door, with me and the dog on the other side of it. And opened it again to put a dish of water on the floor, next to the balcony door. I figured that might have been why the bird came in to begin with—to find water. And I shut myself and the dog back out of the room.

I took the dog out for a walk, past the large municipal garbage containers around the corner. There was a boy, maybe about 12 years old, sitting motionless on the edge of a garbage container. His donkey cart was standing nearby, ready for recyclables to be loaded on. The boy wasn’t sifting through the garbage for bottles and cans, though. He was just sitting there, gazing emptily into space. Well, he’d probably earned a break. Working since dawn, I guess.
But I think there was something else in that nothing look. I’ve seen it before, in boys between age 10 and 20. I don’t think I imagine it. The feeling, more of a longing, a remote dream, that there must be something more. A lad with brains sorting through garbage or sweeping stairways, going through the same motions, day after day, with the nagging thought that there must be something better, if only he could find it, if only he could find the means to grab it.

I went on to the greengrocer’s. On the way back, I saw the recycling boy covering the goods so they wouldn’t fall off the cart, getting ready to go on to the next garbage container. I stopped to pet the boy’s donkey. Well-fed enough, with generous cushioning under the parts of the harness that might chafe. I said to him, “Humar mabsuT”—happy donkey. It’s the only Arabic I have to say that the animal is well-cared-for. Then my dog got nose to nose with the donkey, as she often does. Just making friends. The boy was afraid that the dog might bite. And then he warned me of a car coming. Nothing, really. Just communication skills, people skills....

I think the pigeon’s gone, now that the dog and I are back from our walk. The dog’s tranquil. I guess that’s the big clue.

Well, that’s enough for one day. And all before 10 a.m.

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