There’s a movie going on outside your house and you get a the best seat when you sit on the front porch. A petite Asian woman wears her hair in a braid and she wears and pink shirt and while she walks, her arms swing back and forth, soft and careless. A neighbor drives his brown pick up truck up the road and take a smooth left turn and disappears behind his house where he parks the car, turns off the engine, gathers his belongings, and walks inside the back door. I can hear crickets from where I sit, interrupted by another car speeding by down the river of pavement that separates this house from the one directly across from it. A tiny bug explores the screen of my laptop computer and I let him do it because it’s new to him, he’s never seen these words before. My right foot is propped on part of the wooden beam that holds the front porch up. The man that went inside just cme back out again. He moved his car on to the road and parked it closer to me. He wears a light green t-shirt and jean shorts and a frown, looking down the whole time as he walks back in to his house. I slap my leg because I feel some intrusive insect trying to make a meal out of my flesh and blood. I smile because I’m so far from home and i’m far enough that I miss it intensely.
I think about the moments that got me to where I am – the scene, the city of Athens, Ohio; college town belonging to the idle minds of Ohio University and the families that decided these wooden houses were just where they belonged. I take a moment to switch feet, to allow the relentless bugs to feast on my freshly shaved leg, the one that has the tattoo on the upper back of the ankle, the one that still has the remnants of bruises from when I kicked down a friend’s door just some nights before this.
I have two favorite things right now from where I’m sitting. The first is the chair that holds me up from falling on to the wooden, green floor of the porch. The chair is white wood, and the right arm is a little broken but not so much as you’d notice right away but rather it hangs there waiting for you to try and prop yourself against it and then falls again. Rocking chairs take me back to my childhood, to the living room of my parents, of my aunt and my grandmother. The chairs were enormous to me then, these soothing pieces of furniture to climb on and move about in, to give me a sense of motion when I was really just staying still. The ones I grew up with were imported from Nicaragua, where my family is from. They came in boxes, the pieces wrapped tightly in plastic and sealed up with flimsy scotch tape. I remember my father bringing out this smelly, yellow colored glue, piecing each component together, holding them tightly until they sealed and dried evenly. And then at the end, there was this wonderful piece of furniture which had traveled so far and seen so much and yet said nothing except that one should sit down and use it and rock themselves back and forth and they thought about anything and talked about everything.
My second favorite thing about this particular porch is the tree to the left of me that’s planted on the miniscule patch of grass that would be the lawn. The tree is not as tall as the house, but it’s certainly taller than I. It divides itself in two very distinct directions, and then the branches multiply and divide and reach out in every which way, toward every neighbor, toward me. The branches are thin and thinner still, and from them hang mostly dead and dying leaves the color of rust and mud, with a few specks of fire in between. The leaves are anticipating the Fall, the great fall when they drop down onto the earth to be re-born again, immortalized and idolized from this front porch, that is like any other porch in this country, a front row seat to the neighborhood picture show.
But the owner of the tree, she gave the tree more life, dressed it up the way young girls dress up dolls and later dress up themselves. There are multi-colored beads hanging all around the tree. You can tell she had fun throwing these up and around so that different branches caught different necklaces each time. They are the types of beads that are thrown up and around during Mardis Gras so that different men catch different necks each time, catch glimpses of different breasts each time, catch the eye of different women each and every time. The beads hang tightly around some and loosely around others, depending on the shape of the branch, the strength and the height of the branch, the weight of the beads varying, conversely weighing the branches down differently each and every time. Some are like thick, white pearls and others are flat and crimson like speckled blood. There are lime colored ones, and broken gold ones, and ones with medallions, emblazoned with the hopes of sports teams, or with the face of Bacchus, or with inscriptions like “ZULU: Social Aid and Pleasure Club” and I only wish I knew what the hell that actually meant. They hang there and bring the tree a bit of magic, and they bring the street a bit of magic as well.
And I sit here because I need a break from running around and flitting from place to place. I sit here on the rocking chair, moving but knowing I’m just sitting still. And the sun, it starts to get sleepy and begins dipping down behind the trees on Sunnyside Drive, the street that I rock back and forth on, the stage of my current story. A woman down the street wears pink and purple plaid and a white bowler hat and she waits patiently for her dog to do its business, which is just a nice way of saying it’s pissing and shitting. I can hear the squeals of small children having a grand old time from afar. The crickets get louder. I fail at killing a mosquito that silently attacks my arm. Another song come on my computer. I rock faster and faster, using both sandaled feet. A white pick up truck squeaks at the end of the road. A young girl bikes down in the opposite direction, wearing a shiny bike helmet and bright yellow shorts. An American flag is wrapped around a pole on the neighbor’s front porch. And I’m so far from home.