Cafe Hitch-hike


The country drive

In some ways, I catastrophized some events at work the other day. A disgruntled former colleague had some ammo to release and I got to see them go to target practice and see what was what once the smoke cleared. I actually thanked them for what they shared by saying, "to be foretold is to be forewarned." Maybe what happened there reflects what else is happening in this world. There's plenty of abuse of power, incompetence, hatred, and blatant ignorance to go around. I just didn't think my little brace... brace... brace mantra from the other day would just about apply to the upheavals that were to come in so many places around my country.

Rafa came over for the weekend and we spent a lot of our time outdoors. Today, we drove out to the country to check out a very long hiking trail. We weren't going to hike it, but check it out from a few spots. I was familiar with the area because it was where my father's people were from. My uncle Catalino took me out there where we walked through the brush under the hot, summer sun to look for a gator he called Houdini. We didn't see Houdini or other gators for that matter.

This time, Rafa and I visited 3 parks at the trailheads. We walked around a bit, took in the wildlife, and also enjoyed people watching. Quite a few families were having picnics and enjoying the day. Some kids on dirt bikes rode by, and we heard motorcycles rumble through; I cruised that same stretch with Remy about 4 years ago. Rafa and I climbed some big, retired water pumps and hydraulics that had been retired but repurposed so people could look around and climb a ladder to get on top of them. We stopped at a last trailhead/ park and safely saw plenty of gator! Now I see why Catalino called his reptile friend Houdini. I didn't realize how stealthily they could sink under water (their bodies usually go first, followed by their heads), and they can swim very quickly underwater without leaving any wake or wave above them.

We wrapped up this visit and had some water before heading back to town. A county sheriff stopped and rolled his window down. I asked, "Yes, sir?" He quickly replied we were ok (we parked on the grass) but asked where we were from. We told him, and then he gently cautioned us about being around there at night.

"It's different once it gets dark," he said, "and it's a pretty sensitive time now." The copper then repeated the conversation to a couple near us who said they were from a neighboring county.

I felt rather upset as we drove away. During one of our walks, I felt relieved to not be home and to be away from TV and media. Last night, we watched TV and read online news with silent despair. Neither of us could really say anything about what we saw or heard, but we were finally able to get a break from the mayhem the following day. Maybe that was why I suggested the country drive, just to get away. We felt lighter and free in our exploration of this new terrain; I had been there, but not the trails and not from the perspective of being tour guide. When the cop talked to us, he burst our little bubble.

The cop didn't tell me anything I didn't already know about the area. I knew it was one of the poorest and most segregated areas of the state on multiple levels. He also didn't tell us anything we didn't know about the social unrest taking place. He just squirted us with some cold water. Maybe it was another cosmic reminder: brace... brace... brace...

I think about the times I catastrophized, and then compare that to when people stood by and just stared in the face of something awful, frozen with disbelief, or giving the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I wasn't overreacting. But, maybe all we wanted was a little break for a little while.

I still talk to my niece B. just about every day. B. started reaching out to me after Christmas (she noticed I left in haste), and since we've had to stay home, it's more frequent. Her mother (my sis Princ) got major surgery about 2 weeks ago and is supposed to be off her feet for 6 weeks. When I jokingly asked Princ if she told her employer she'd return to work the next day, her husband laughed. She didn't hear me, so I repeated myself. Yeah, she told them she'd return to to work the day after a hysterectomy. That's my sister all right, thinking her willpower can force her body to get right back up after something like that.

B. set up a makeshift bed next to her mother's bed so she can be with her. B. said she holds her mother's hand when she's in pain. B. also pointed out that she made her sure her makeshift bed was next to an outlet so she could keep her tablet charged.

My niece just turned 9 years old. I sent her a birthday card with her favorite colors and with a big '9' on the cover. She got a giftcard to a local ice creamery.

Then, in the breakfast place where we ate this morning, I saw a pic of a little girl that looked nearly identical to B. She was mixing something and had a big smile. She had puffy, brown hair, the wide smile, and the eyes just like B. She had messaged me almost immediately after I noticed the pic. Wow... I snapped the picture and sent it to her, joking, "is that you?" It wasn't, but the resemblance was really stunning!

I never alarm B. about what's going on, and she talks about it once in a while. I admitted to her that sometimes I felt unsure and scared; it was ok for her to feel the same way, but to take heart and think about the things that make her feel happy. B. lives a very protected life and has very loving (paternal) grandparents who help look after her, and I know her dad Chad loves her very much. I'm the quirky aunt who takes time, listens to her, and shares a bit of her world. I jokingly promised I'd teach her cuss words in Spanish when she becomes a teenager (hahahh). In a way, having this next generation in regular contact might be part of what's guiding me as much as my presence may be guiding her.

It makes me feel needed in a way I've never felt before, and maybe that's part of what I need in a time like now. I don't feel like it's an obligation, maybe I want to help her be more assured of herself in these wild times, which reminds me to stay as self-assured as I can.

downwind | upstream