I’m making a list—this list:
- Loan deferrment
- All bills
- Next week’s package
- Call Marymount
- Emails about HUB
- Email Crispin
- Email to all on list about if they want to be on list
…so that maybe the day will pick up some purpose and momentum, so maybe I can forget about this haunting loneliness inside of me. And yet suddenly, I realize that I am not alone—
There’s a tiny black girl on the porch next door. Shiny lamé on her t-shirt and a pink ruffly diaper. She may be 1 1/2 or 2 at the most. Her mother sits on the stoop, glancing my way—I think it’s a smile I see crossing her lips, melting away quickly in the heat.
This is a new view, from the front porch of this little house that I am sitting. You see, usually, I sit on the porch out back—the nice lawn and an orange tree are picturesque. But that’s my excuse, a lame one, for hiding out back. In the front there are people. They may look at me, talk to me even. Am I prepared for that kind of direct assault?
In Chicago, you have a door to your building, another door to protect from the weather, and then your own apartment door perhaps a few flights up.
She’s playing now, changed into hot pink shorts and a white tee with a large rainbow heart on the front. Leaning against the housefront, she stares at me with that pacifier stuck in her mouth. She retreats inside. And soon, so do I.
I had reached the end of my cigarette and looking up and away from the neighbor next door, I spotted a man walking down the middle of my street, carrying nothing but a backpack. My internal armor bristled. I leaned on the cafe table in front of me, stared for perhaps one moment too long, but averted my eyes before the inevitable eye contact could take place. Parceling up my things, I stepped off the front into the house and locked the door behind me.
The front—front porch, houses the front door of course and also the mailbox at its right attached to the siding. Footfalls reach my ears on a daily basis and the idea that a mere wall separates me from some stranger… Again, that armor bristles.
The house seems to act as an odd seal, a protective barrier that breeds expectations of not being breeched. And yet it’s more than the house. It’s the car. It’s the suburban outdoor shopping center… With all it’s mirror-like windows and sprawling sidewalks, you’d think it might be a playground for me and my dancing, but something is in the way—like this invisible forcefield of ownership over space.
I can’t just start dancing outside the Starbucks across from Whole Foods and the Gap! People will see me. I will disturb them. What if they call the police on that crazy woman who is moving awkwardly in the storefront window!? —I would never or did never consider such concerns when I taped out a frame on an empty storefront and its adjacent sidewalk on Wabash Ave. I had no hesitation when I made dances there for days, sometimes for invited guests but mostly for the passers by.
Maybe because that felt like so much like a public space, public property (even though someone must own those windows) while this in Baton Rouge feels so private. Maybe I need to journey into “downtown,” take a walk even. Maybe, in the somewhat pathetic excuse for a cityscape that this town does have, perhaps I can find a stage.
And yet, perhaps the greater challenge is to return to this “Towne Center” shopping mall and be that crazy woman. I have rural dancing down pat. And the domestic. It’s the suburban in which I feel paralyzed. It’s these sheltered spaces—meant to make me feel safe and secure—that engender fear and retreat.
It’s like my relationship with two-wheeled vehicles. That is, I generally fall over on bicycles. I’m quite a hazard. This has nothing to do with balance. Rather, what scares me most about bikes is how my body is just enough disarmed to make my sense of vulnerability outweigh the excitement. Whereas, when on a motorcycle, I feel so much excitement that I embrace my vulnerabilities to where my body relaxes into the danger of the situation.
It’s as if bikes aren’t dangerous enough to engender the intense focus that a motorcycle ride can (thank’s Brent Fogt for this insight!). It’s not for the rush, it’s for the focus, the calm… Now would be the time to reach some profound conclusion, and yet it hasn’t hit me as yet. I can at least say that I’ll be spending more time on the front side of this little world I am in.