Moments with People

Sunflowers along the road to Boulder, 2016

Sunflowers along the road to Boulder, 2016

At Sprouts, a woman and two pre-teens. A boy and a girl, they alternate between picking at each other and asking Mom to buy something. “Mom, Mom, let’s get this.” No, she says. No and no and no. She’s at the checkout with a full cart when the boy brings a package of cookies. At wit’s end, because apparently they aren’t getting it in English, Mom switches to rapid-fire Spanish that is basically “What did I tell you? Are you even listening? I’m not buying another thing so me dejen en paz.” The kids stop immediately. Leaving her in peace indeed, they go to the entrance to wait, still elbowing each other.

Delivering the neighborhood newsletter, I come upon a black family moving out of a duplex on 30th, helped by a brother visiting from back east. “In New York,” he’s telling them, “you can buy a case of umbrellas for $13, take them uptown and so long as it’s raining, people will give you $5 or $10 apiece for them.” I calculate: profit of maybe $140 for a long day’s work in the rain. And since he’s bragging, it must be better than folks do around here.

A couple from Manual High School, Hispanic, slender and good-looking, leave the campus and cross the street hand in hand, scarcely waiting until they turn the corner to pause for a kiss before lighting up. On the alley, a bunch of sunflowers is in full bloom. The girl slides her phone out of the back pocket of her jeans and takes photos of these bright beauties, also brown-eyed children of the sun.

I’ve been idly gazing out my window at Ocho, my neighbor Jenn’s cat, perched atop the privacy fence between our yards. So called because he already lost one of his nine lives, he’s part Siamese and loves high places. He walks the top of the fences, leaps up and down easily. Jenn steps into her yard and Ocho immediately paces toward her, making as if to jump, hesitating, meowing pitifully. She coos, encourages him. He remains on the fence, meowing. Eventually Jenn stretches up to reach him, upon which he scrambles away from her. “Watch,” Ocho says. “I can make her come over here.”

The coffee shop closed so we went across the street to the old Greek diner to meet. “We’re back in America now,” Marilyn says. Basic eggs and pancakes, no lattes or scones. None of the coffee shop regulars join us: I presume they opted for the nearest Starbucks instead. I have the temerity to ask if I can get blueberries in my short stack. “No, honey. We have strawberry compote.” “That’s good,” I say, although I know it won’t be. “You were being too fancy,” the waitress snaps. Yep. Back in America.

I go for a quick swim at the motel. Besides me, there are only a father, sitting in a chair and his daughter, perhaps seven, bobbing in the pool. She has what Henry Louis Gates describes as “good hair,” a loose curl; an angelic face, large shining eyes. Are you coming in, she asks eagerly. If there are no choices, small children are not particular about who they play with. Old white ladies will do. Is it cold? I ask. No, she says. I step in. You lied to me, I reprove. No, you just have to get used to it and then it’s not cold, she tells me wisely. As we swim the length and back at a leisurely pace, I learn that her name is Grace and they are from Houston—Ten minutes, Gracie, Dad calls—and they went to Royal Gorge today and tomorrow they’re going to Garden of the Gods, and she really loves swimming—five minutes, Gracie—and after this they’ll go to Yellowstone and look, how the water is warmer here on the deep end by the lights—time to go, Gracie. Ten more minutes, Gracie asks automatically, in the way children do when they know the answer already and have accepted it. You already had ten more minutes. Mom’s waiting for us. Grace, I say, I’ll race you to the stairs. When we get there she observes, you slowed down at the end. Adults always do that.

At the KUVO donor appreciation night, Steve Chaves, one of the DJs, takes us back to the studio for a visit because we’re first-timers. He nods to the DJ on duty, says it’s bigger than most control rooms, shows us the extensive music library. Suddenly he says, “Shh, listen, he’s doing a transition.” We go silent as the song ends. The DJ grins at us. “And now we’re going to hear Etta James doing the Eagles. She’s taking it to church.”

The Eagles have never been so holy.

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2 Responses to Moments with People

  1. DPS says:

    How dare you ask for elitist blueberries! Adults always do slow down at the end. Nice.

  2. Bob Jaeger says:

    Wonderful! Crazy matters not as long as we have moments like these.

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