Daily Archives: May 31, 2005

Familar Strangers

The elderly lady that walks her grey poodle in the morning. The two kids that run school, ten feet ahead of their mother. The woman who always collapses her side mirror when she parks her car before having a cigarette and can of pepsi for breakfast as she walks to the Metro.

They are strangers that I see every day, and they’re almost like temporal landmarks. For instance, I know I’m late to work if the car with the collapsed mirrors is already parked.

Sometimes you hear about them secondhand, like the Korean on the Red Line that used to sing Christian Hymns in between stops, although I haven’t heard about him lately.

I never knew his schedule, either.

'da Hood

Back in the neighborhood. Things were a little different. Playtime was on the street, with frequent shouts of “car!” I wasn’t there, but I heard that Denver once broke the tree in the Ruiz’s front yard. They had hit a tennis ball into the lone, spindly tree. Despite their best efforts, the tree refused to let go of the ball. Denver, in his exasperation, started shaking the tree violently. It broke at the trunk (it was a young tree) and the ball managed to stay in the branches, even though Denver was now holding the remains of the Ruiz’s tree horizontally.

“Uh oh.” I imagine Denver there, the only one of us that had to shave on a regular basis, holding a tree in his hands. The image makes me laugh, on the inside.

When he turned around, everyone was gone. Of the dozen or so kids playing in the street, they had all managed to turn into ghosts. Denver turned around in time to see one of the garage doors closing, the ankles and feet of his friends disappearing beneath the lower edge of the garage door.

I never did find out what happened after that. I never got around to stopping by the Ruiz’s place since they were further away. That, and I might be forced to tell them what I knew about the incident.

There was another time, I almost lost an eye. One of the older kids had rigged up a rock throwing rifle out of a dowel, a loose board from his fence, a clothespin, and a lot of rubber bands. All I remember is turning around and a small piece of gravel hitting me just above my right eye. I think it was the same kid that taught us all how to make switchblades out of three popsicle sticks and two rubber bands. I don’t know why we sharpened sticks on our concrete. We just did.

We had knife fights with those sharpened sticks then, saying that we’d stop as soon as someone drew blood. Nobody got hurt though. At least not that I know of.