“Without the Bitter, Baby, the Sweet Just Isn’t as Sweet”
S.W. Roxbury Street is a concrete artery through a low-slung part of Seattle called Rat City. On a misty winter morning, the rows of boarded-up businesses and housing projects become a cold grey sea. It’s bleaker than normal in COVID-19 times. San Francisco snow has made it up this way: shattered glass everywhere. With broken windows come broken people, their spirits already going as they exhale plumes—smoke or breath in the cold. I can’t tell. But a dart of color shimmers in this grey sea. It’s like the refraction of light over the waters through parting clouds. The colorful dart is me, pedaling on my bike. My son is snuggled into his toddler seat behind me, cooing out the colors of the buses which luff like manatees on wheels in primary colors.
The forlorn highway has become a rainbow tunnel of delight, on the other side of which is a café. Post daycare drop-off, I will go and indulge in the best mille-feuille found this side of the Seine. A place I’ve never been, but a place my father’s often told me of.
A dark thought falls across my thoughts like a huge leaf shed, the last of fall’s plunder:
I forgot to call my father with his failing heart on his 80th birthday—a week ago now.
The thousand flaky leaves of daily life cohere in a cream filling of sugar butter and sludge, alternately layered.
You organize to-do lists so detailed, you get nothing done.
You get married, but forget to dance with your mother, who can never look at you
the same again.
You potty train your child by two-and-a-half, but you lose your Winter Break
and a year off your life doing it.
You lose friends, jobs, and family members in a pandemic, but man, if gas isn’t cheap…
You buy a new puppy whose piss seeps in between your cracked toes so frequently those first years, its sterile acid heals not only your cracked skin, but a bunion besides.
The pizza, dough massaged, surface bedecked in farm-to-table pepperoni, burns the roof
of your mouth until the skin between your front teeth is a red node of regret that throbs the night away.
Sans job in quarantine, you take time to develop new skills and get some writing done. Though your stomach is in knots, your spirit fingers are crossed that something will pan out.
Life’s a mixed bag of wanton layers, some blemish-free as fresh linen sheets at the Waldorf, others Rorschach-blotted in mold. The moments fall from the sky, loosed from the firmament
by some unaccountable second hand.
I drop off my son, and bike to the café to find it’s closed because of COVID. It’d didn’t make it.
I dismount and call my father’s phone, and to the regular drone of the dial tone, and background of bus airbrakes, I let the moments fall on me like leaves falling in their alternating layers of delight and dread.
 Vanilla Sky (2001)
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