Distant Fireworks and Inner Freedom

The rain had gone, but I pulled on my brown leather boots anyway. I would use any excuse to wear them. They are dusty and soft, but not so worn that they hurt my feet. The water had already lifted from the parking lot in places and collected in a giant puddle of steam a mile high. The sun hadn’t broken the clouds in the west, and the southern sky was thick cerulean wool. I stepped onto my bicycle and drifted into the driveway and the wet roads, never touching the broken serpentine sidewalks and swerving wide into the right lane around puddles. The mahogany twisted spines of a locust tree caught my attention as I passed it. How did a locust tree, Gleditsia triacanthos, get two feet from a roadway in cutover country? Whoever cleared that tiny lot decided to leave the tree. Does it miss its sisters? Maybe it will colonize slowly, starting in damp spaces between sheds and fences, and eventually reclaim its former territory in the tiny spaces mankind forgot.

I reached the final bend in the road with time to spare before the train, so I pulled off for a blue ICEE. I grabbed it so fast I forgot to check if they had a picture of the cartoon polar bear. I hadn’t had anything to drink in forty minutes of riding up and down the prairie swells — prairie swells that now lie under sheets of concrete. Finally, I took the sidewalk, leisurely walking my bike at arm’s length and sipping my drink. I loved the air, I loved the row of trees to my right, and I loved the pigeons on the lines. A starling dived down over me…were those purple martins? Five snowy egrets went over me in a sloppy vee, higher than the little brown and gray birds.
I was early; I had nowhere to be. The time was not for any purpose at all but to pass. Pink fireworks crackle in the dimming sky over the train station, a final salvo of Independence Day five days ago. People’s lives take place where I’m walking. They cross this street to go shopping for the things they need. They take this sidewalk to go to work, paying little or no attention to the trees, the birds, the sky. They give and they get. I am doing neither. I, like the locust, am thriving in the places that mankind forgot. I’m existing in the empty space between need and desire. I’m looking for nothing, and going as slowly as possible. I’m free to feel free.

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