Paying my dues to the dirt

by thanklemons


I’m walking to make a lunch date when I stop near Kahn Park to appreciate the trees. Sometimes, the city offers an escape from itself; if I turn to face only the green here, I feel like I’m somewhere else entirely, and it’s nice. There’s a contrast in the line between grey cement and green grass that I like. I follow it as I walk, toeing the literal line, at the cusp of some intangible notion I have of freedom and release. Walking the city is like this; there’s always a sense of claustrophobia, a vague need to run away even as I enjoy the scenery. When A and I meet a short while later, I try to described the experience, and she understands, though she can’t help but laugh.

“Whether you like Philly or not, you live in a city, and you have no obligations.”

And that’s true.

Several hours later, the day has taken a turn for the cold. I’m propped up on the arm of a bench in Washington Square, watching birds through the branches overhead as I pay intermittent attention to the last few pages of Brave New World. The wind blows and I bundle my coat closer to me. Aldous Huxley is echoing through my head, even as I think I’m not paying the book enough mind.

Happiness is never grand. I suppose that’s right. And the tumult of the up-and-down, the pleasure-displeasure, salty-sweet, other-trite-opposites-that-define-one-another-through-contrast– that’s life as we know it. It’s more interesting than the alternative.  There’s nothing to say when everything is controlled and static, after all. Discontent drives art, I agree silently, looking at the clouds and the play of their shadows on the cement.

I think about this and wonder if I’d ever want to give it up. Even as I feel the wind kicking up and the rain drops starting down on this almost-perfect-weather day, I linger along the streets as I walk home. Because it’s nice that winter is over. Because I like the smell of rain. But, mostly, just because I can.