Thick, the air was thick,
Sweat started to flow
Just about as soon
As I stepped out of my car.

A quick Mr. Rogers moment
Where I changed into some trail shoes
Preceded a Shackleton glimpse of the map,
This being my first time running on this track.

Into the tropics I went,
Hitting a hill within the first hundred yards,
The heavy air was hard to breath.
My heart rate skyrocketed.

All I could do was walk a bit to encourage my lungs
To relax, to work efficiently, to help my heart.
Before long I was running, listening to my easing breath,
A steady pace allowing an inner smile.

Because I don’t really smile on the outside,
But that’s not the point, I was really happy on this path,
The dirt slick from rain and humidity, the trail narrow,
Single track, made more slender by summer’s vegetation.

Light streamed through the trees,
But there wasn’t a hint of a breeze, and
After one lap, I committed to another,
This time turning right at the fallen tree, a different way.

Which was awesome, a new look, a random connection
Taking me on a novel journey through the woods,
Over the slick trail, while the heavy air
Gradually became nothing but an afterthought.

The third lap followed the original route,
Familiarity was coming quickly, that root, that rock,
Each a marker to remember and an alert
That I must not forget about this special place.

After most of an hour, I exited the woods after being alone,
A place I was all too prepared to be as I dried off,
But a guy named Dave came over
Fully intent on having a conversation.

He was restoring the old mill house, along with Jeff and Mike.
The house had been slated for a controlled burn
So the fire company could get some experience,
But conservancy won out and now Dave had some work.

He talked about blending old construction techniques
With modern appearances for his contemporary jobs.
I shared that I used live in colonial homes that were built
Back when his techniques would have been modern.

He was the first stranger conversation I’d had in a long time,
Maybe since March, nearly four months ago.
He went back to work, I squeezed the sweat from my shirt,
Pulled my Mr. Rogers move again, and drove home.

Smiling.

The other day another youthful fantasy
Got destroyed
When a sitcom siren was reportedly involved
In a naked knife-wielding domestic dispute.

Not sure who was supposed to be naked,
But either way,
It kind of killed the memory
Of what she brought to the table.

So with the gossipy news
Taking away the salacious thoughts
I was left with morning conversations
With the coolest old heads I know.

We ran through the dark,
Comparing food choices
That increasing include fewer bouts with sugar
And greater experimentation with lifestyle changes.

When cruised into the morning
Listening to a hoodied meathead
Grunt over creaking knees
As they provided a porn soundtrack to simple leg extensions.

We gathered at the watering hole
A table at the Y where swill coffee goes down
Better than the reality of whatever happens
During a shutdown week.

Farts on planes,
Attempts to move the burning air,
Recirculating an old friend’s Army story of
Clearing back blast areas.

Just another Friday with my mates…

Thought I saw a shark fin today,
Turned out that it was nothing,
But good for the laughs.

Walked a mile in blazing afternoon sun,
Only to turn around and do it again,
But it was good for the muscles and hanging time.

Talked about schools in the blazing evening sun,
Finishing up with reminiscing about my new hometown,
But it seemed important to do.

Had a hot shot of coffee flavored tequila,
Followed up by an ocean cold shower,
It doesn’t take much.

Riding in my first car,
A `67 Mustang was something.
Windows down, wind rushing in,
That 289-sound,
I love it,
Everything except the radio
Which didn’t preset well,
Leaving me with only the right side knob
To find the stations
To score whatever the drive.

Each turn gave the stations
Just enough time to check-in,
A sort of Name That Tune simulation
Of blended music, talk, and commercials.
Funny how we can tune out the noise
Until the moment when clarity hits
And the perfect sound gets through our haze.

We ran this morning,
A good run, four or five in total, I think,
Cold, crisp air, no breeze,
The smell of toast in the air,
Which was distracting,
Except for the hills,
Which have not changed in years
And it seems my noise tuning memories
Are turning into flashbacks
That became amplified after our run.

The post-run conversation became more active,
Each new person checking in about the group’s workout,
Explaining their own,
Then there was some rapid fire about color coordinating outfits,
And then, silence.
I was gone, lost in the sound of rapid tuning on the old Philco,
When the dial scanned the stations so quickly
That there wasn’t even a sound.
I could see my friends talking,
They were laughing, making faces, enjoying themselves.

Just as I was,
Content in the serene nature of the quiet
There, not there, no where.
Something woke me up, brought me back,
I would guess it was the gargoyle of the pool,
Who true to email descriptions
Does have a Jimmy Dean quality to his digits.
At first, I thought I missed out,
Not hitting on any conversation,
Then I realized, the calm that I was feeling.
There and knowing it was okay that I checked out
Because the comfort of friendships is allowing people
To be themselves.

Maybe that little diversion
Is the reason why I thought about my old car,
Windows down, radio up,
No static.

She walked into the coffee shop a full facade of anything real. There was a perfect tan all over except her hands, feet, and swaddle of skin under her neck. There was the big jewelry, the costume of it all put together at a Macy’s counter. The earrings, necklaces, and bracelets all playing second fiddle to her two carat diamond wedding ring. Her mid-level heels pushed her retirement aged curves beyond the point of where they had been twenty years earlier when teachers her age thought she was the hottest thing going. Now she survived on the  guise of confidence and the miracle of foundation that hid her deep set lines of age.

She was pushing sixty-two, but but she led a social life that took advantage of every moment. Today she was meeting a man her age, but he carried himself in a different way. Where she sported a mini-skirt and low cut blouse, he wore Dockers and an Oxford shirt. His hair was cut like his clothes, conservative and business casual. He was holding onto an old man look in a most relaxed way, no wrinkles, no paunch, and no formerly buffed muscles. He looked good and had no idea why because he just went about life in a direct way.

Their mid-morning meeting had the feel of a first date. There was a bit of awkwardness when they said hello. There was also a bit of familiarity as he grabbed the back of her arm as she balanced against him for a kiss on her cheek. They ordered coffee and leaned in over their cups taking stock of their public situation. Perhaps this was a coming out party. Was it possible that they had been carrying on secretly and this was their first time alone in public?

“I’ve been playing a lot of golf,” she said.

“Really. How is that?” he said.

“It’s great, different from tennis. I can play a round with anyone and don’t have to be matched with someone.”

“I never thought of it that way.”

“I’m better on the course now, too.”

“How so?”

“I don’t throw my clubs anymore. I used to get so mad. One time I dumped all of my clubs right there on the golf cart.”

“Probably not the best place for that kind of display.”

“No and learning to control my passion has made me a better player.”

She felt the need to talk. He listened.

“Tennis, though, that’s how I stay in shape,” she said.

“And it works very well for you.”

She smiled, “Thank you.” She was a little embarrassed for with all of the work that she put into looking the part of a sexy lady, her true feelings were anything but confident. She knew her arms were sagging and her hair was only salon bottle dark. She knew her time was passing, so she covered for her lack of confidence with a self-centered focus on the accomplishments of everything she had done, was doing, or wanted to do. She went on with a stream of her nervous talk. He listened patiently projecting interest while masking whatever it was he was thinking about behind his poker face and timed nods of affirmation.

“I love going to the movies. I just saw Dory at the dinner theater place.”

“I’m not sure about this election. I used to take my students to Richmond. We would meet the most important politicians.”

“Broadway is the greatest, don’t you think. My daughters and I just saw Hamilton. Did you and your wife go?” This was her not so subtle check on his marriage in an effort to gain insight into his intentions.

“Yes,” he said.

She kept going, “My father was in the military. We moved around a lot. It meant keeping friends hard. I think that’s why I do so much. When we settled in Williamsburg, I knew this would be the place for me.”

“Us, too.”

“I’m not a big fan of the climate. I prefer Arizona, but this is home.”

“Did you ever live in Arizona?” he asked.

“No, but we went with my daughters and grandkids last Christmas. It was perfect.” She was making sure he understood she was still married. He knew this was a weak proclamation.

“You hardly look like you could be a grandmother.”

“It’s the tennis, I guess,” she said.

“Or the new golf attitude.”

They sat looking towards each other with less first date nervousness and more of a “now what” agenda. As the coffee cooled, so did her energy to keep things moving. She leaned back and took in all that he was. He was handsome and professional. He was also married to a former colleague of hers. While she had been friends with the other teacher, she always had more interest in him than she did for his wife. She was nice enough, but she could never put her attraction to him in a place that would allow her to be close friends with his wife.

“Why are we here?” she asked.

“Can you to come over Friday night?”

“I’m not sure what to say. I’m flattered and I would love to, but what about your wife?”

“She’ll be there.”

“Oh…”

Facades.

airport photo
Photo Credit: lifeofpix.com

She saw
What she wanted
To see
When she read
The advertisements in the paper.

She was
On her way
To Caracas,
Dressed for sleep or partying
Just as the ad promised.

She hid
Under dark sunglasses
A scarf
And a tiger stripped suit
That looked like it had in print.

She read
How the Jobs Corps
Would not
Write about sex anymore
Because it was too complex.

She agreed.
There was a time
And a place
When sex should be
Talked about in the right way.

She spotted
Someone intriguing
As she entered the plane
And acted
As if she did not see him.

He knew better
Because he was
Dangerous in his sweater,
Looking like a spy or playboy
On the way to Caracas.

He liked
The way she walked,
Trying to be a celebrity,
But showing
She was running away.

Which
Was true, she
Had become tired
In New York
And wanted time alone.

Which was
All she ever had
Because she
Really was alone
And not wanting to be so.

He
Was like her,
Only never alone,
Wanting nothing more
Than to be so.

He found
Her intriguing
As she sat across the aisle,
But he acted
As if he did not see her.

They sat
Turned
Towards each
Other and
Began to talk awkwardly.

They learned that being
With the other would never happen
Because their journey to intimacy
Was interrupted by  their conversation,

Just as the Job Corps said.

They made it to Venezuela
Stylish and fashionable,
Both content
That the complexities of togetherness
Were not for them.

A blue sky,
The first in days
An indifferent temperature,
The most comfortable of the year
An impassioned pit bull,
Only worried about our walk

Then came the lady in the fleece
With the Diane from Cheers haircut
Who used this beautiful day
To tell me it’s going to be seventy-two
Next Thursday
Then the waitress from Two Stones
Blowing through a stop sign
Unaware of its true meaning
I suppose
Then she wanted to know
All about my dog
And whether he was a blue or red

I answered, “Independent,”
Which confused her
But she recovered
With a quick come back about his eyes
Or something

Perhaps others can relate
But after a day of work
Especially one requiring talk
For the whole day
I treasure some quiet
Be it in a car
Or at the brake end of a leash
Walking on this beautiful day

Conversations of convenience
Really are not necessary
A simple hello is enough
And I do not take it personally
If there is nothing more said
Weather, gas prices,
The state of sports in Philly
Seem trivial, silly really
So why bother

I know
Being neighborly
Friendly
Social

Obligated…

I should appreciate
The community building aspects
Of conversation
But I’m particular about talking
And stingy with my non-work verbosity
Mostly to a fault
So I’ll apologize ahead of time if I don’t know
The seven day forecast
Or the exact age of my canine hanging partner
And I’ll make sure to tip well
The next time I’m craving a burger
Washed down with a snooty beer
Just so long as you come to a complete stop
And don’t ask me a bunch questions
About my dog
While I eat

Talking to my dad
The stories that he tells
Each one so full of
Historical reference
That I feel like I’m speaking with
The World Book

Today he got me with
Volume T
Mostly for Tesla
A little for tyranny
All for good conversation
Which I’ll take anytime