It is my first Airbnb experience, but that’s another story. I step down the uneven stairs and slip around the unlocked gate to the sidewalk of an uncertain neighborhood; I am heading (I hope) toward a deli I found on Google. Two birds flush up from the tree behind the building. I watch them rise, dip, and pitch toward and away from each other. Spring. Love is impulse is affective proximity is nesting is sex is love. Spring. I can’t tell if they are robins or starlings because the sun is at the wrong angle for anything but dark forms to hit my eyes. No color.
My eyes dip down to the trashy roadside, the disrepair of the buildings, the overgrown patches on the road’s shoulder, and they catch the rhythm of the dandelions’ wispy afros bending in the breeze. It is cool, the air, cooler than June ought to be. But where do these “oughts” come from? Why is cut grass prettier than these dandelions and their natural beat?
I look up and see an elder occupying his front porch like a neighborhood institution. He nods his head to me, a slightly smaller bend than the dandelions. “Good morning,” my voice rings out in its best Southern singsongy Christian lilt. Where did that come from!? Before I can answer the surprise of my inner self, another man ambles down porch steps across the road in front of me. He is thin as a needle and wears jeans with brightly-embroidered back pockets. I try to catch his eye but my throw slides off of him like a sigh. His gait is lop-sided, labored. Back on the other side of the street, I see a white girl unlocking her bicycle, health oozing out of her fit limbs and correct cycling gear.
The man and I, but not together, are walking toward a liquor store. Its neon light is already trying to lure the moths, the goths, the sots, the “drinking shortens your life but it’s the bad years it takes away anyhow” sorts. Then he then I (but not together) veer left and right into the deli. I lose his embroidered pockets but I see his smile. The manager behind the counter is uncertain of this unknown me. She’s like a big, ripe plum, barely moving but so lovely. The waitress is efficient and full of blessings. Bless you, honey. You have a blessed day. “You too,” I respond, that singsongy church voice popping up from my past now twice in half an hour. She pauses and looks at me. “HE is GOOD, chil’.” “Oh, I KNOW, ma’am; thank you!”
I exit toward the conference, toward the experiments in critical practice that is the reason I am here, and see a COGIC sanctuary across the street. Ah, I think. As in, Ok, I see. But, really, who knows what I see or know, even in my knowing? I feel the presence of this place in its new-to-me’ness and I feel an openness, a juxtaposition, that has been granted me (or my white skin, which also oozes health and other goodies). I wallow in the local culture, I want my wallowing to be attunement. Love is impulse is affective proximity, even without the nesting or sex. Love. I am content with attainable attentiveness, and I am grateful.