Friday, December 12, 2008

Sliding Down The Hill

Old oak trees and tall pines line the narrow paved street. I am only five miles from the heart of a big metropolis, but the trees and small abrupt hills of this neighborhood remind me of a rural community that is far away from the noise and pollution of the city. I am sitting in my car on a small dirt pullout. On either side of the street are artistically crafted homes. Each one has its own style, Spanish houses with soft white curves, modern homes with sharp geometric lines and flat roofs, romantic designs with wooden shutters, fit for princesses and fairies. None of them are very close to the street, rather, they sit comfortably removed, close enough to add their beauty to the whole, but also disguised slightly by the trees. The neighborhood is quiet. It is late afternoon on a Saturday, maybe all the families that live in these homes are out shopping, or still at the sporting games of their children. A random car passes me every now and then, but mostly, I am alone on this street. The black tar of the road is awash in the pale golden light of a late fall afternoon.
In another 15 minutes, I am scheduled to cater a wedding at a nearby address. With only a couple minutes to spare and miles from a Starbucks with a bathroom, I am changing into my work outfit in the car. There are no pedestrians and not a car in any of the driveways that I can see. In the small cab of my truck, I wiggle out of my tight jeans and panties. Carefully, I put on another pair of clean panties, smaller red ones to avoid panty lines, and the required uniform of a caterer: black pants, black socks, and black shoes. I am already wearing a T-shirt, so I tuck it into my pants and put on my button up black dress shirt. Pulling the rear view mirror closer to me, I put on a layer of thick mocha lipstick and add some pink blush to my cheekbones. I grab a handful of my thick wavy hair and pull it into a tighter bun.
Ahead of me, the road stretches for a quarter mile, then drops from sight down the hill. The oaks and pines continue down the narrow road, and the pale sunlight of the setting sun streams through the branches and leaves, creating soft rays of light that flow diagonally from tree top to paved tar. I am dressed and ready and I turn the ignition and start the car, I need to make a U-turn and look for the address I was given for the event. The road is narrow, and I will need to make a 3-point turnaround. I look carefully behind me for cars, then I look ahead and I see him.
About a hundred feet away is a man riding on a children’s scooter. Rising from the declining hill in the distance, he is silhouetted by the light. He is wearing baggy pants and a long Indian dress shirt that comes down to his knees. His hands are holding the steering bar of the scooter, his right foot is balanced on the narrow base and his left leg reaches down to the street every few seconds, pushing himself along. He is not coming too fast, he is moving gently, enjoying the soft light, the warm rays on his face, the smell of burning leaves and baking pine needles. He is closer now, I can see his loose dress shirt is brown and embroidered at the neck, cuffs and along the trim at his knees. He looks confident and serene. "He must be going somewhere special," I think to myself. I watch him as he passes and we make quick eye contact.
With no one else on the road, I turn the car around and drive another block until I see the Women’s Community Building. I park the car by a wooden fence on top of a blanket of pine needles that have dropped from the tall branches above. The smell reminds me of summer camp. As I walk into the building, I notice that the wedding ceremony has begun. A wave of tears hits me as I feel the energy of the space. I look at the groom. I see the long brown dress shirt and the embroidered cuffs. His face is as calm and peaceful as it was when he was sliding down the hill, now enjoying the soft warmth that flows into him from the crowd, the friends and family gathered today for this warm and gentle invocation. I wipe the tears from my eyes and I walk towards the kitchen. I have work to do.

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