Lindsay, OK (Southwest of OK City)
To walk America solo is to wash many feet while still remembering that my hands are getting clean in the process, as well as my heart. Walking these miles is to take the lowly seat while remembering to give thanks that I am, for this moment, sitting without fire ants running up my shorts, and the sun is not making me hear things that aren't there. What does it matter if children coming into the resturant point and stare at this man that is sitting on the floor by the stock shelves of oil cans eating cold beans out of a can? It amuses me that the parents choose not to see me as they rush to their tables, while their children seeing nothing else. I have become , of all things, Peter Pan without the ability to fly. At least I have managed to retain my shadow.
Leaving the Lindsay Library late, I am heading out of town with my mind all over the idea of a night of flat land on lush grass. It will be a couple of miles before there will be a fence to hop, afield of horses to cross. The sun is already pulling down the shades. Passing the Shell station that is also a Mexican Resturant, I wonder if the two cold sandwiches I'm packing will beat the frost, and 22 miles of walking to Chicasha. My stomach holds the majority vote. The air inside the station/resturant is warmer than I expected.
Always squeezing dollars into more days of walking, I buy a can of baked beans for 99 cents, and a tall beer for a dollar to thank my back for carrying the brunt of my foolishness. At the cashier I smile, feeling the cold in my cheeks flush into heat. "A cowboy dinner," I grin sheepishly at the teller who is clearly amused.
"Yes," agrees the dark skinned man that I like instantly,"I like beans very much." It is clear that he would be more at ease speaking Spanish. My Spanish, what little I could flub, went under when I left Central America in the eighties. Not smart. "Would you like to have some warm tortillas with that? It would be easy for me to warm those beans." The kind man is already far from the register collecting foil and four fresh hot tortillas that he rolls as if he is caring for his son. "Stay here at my tables," he insists. "Do you have an opener?"
My head has already promised me the cold quiet outside curb beside the building for dinning. With this plan I am quite happy. "I would make your guests uncomfortable," I grin.
"Please, it is cold out. The floor is clean. You and your things, you can rest and eat over there. Noone will care." His eyes are soft in worry. He is tending to my feet as if God is watching. He is a hand over my own in concern. I take my spoils to the piece of floor that I have been given feeling my heart grow large for this man that sees me as brother, in his eyes I am a man moving like his people, quiet across a large land--but alone, through towns of uncertainity, praying for kindness more that warm tortillas now radiating into my skin. After opening the can with my old army issue P-38 opener, I spoon beans onto the steaming flatbread, I can no longer hear the children pointing their words at me.
As my mouth moves over the warm bread, my heart is a dozen blocks back sitting next to a librairian that talks in a soft southern voice. She has warmed a cup of coffee for me, and brought me pumkin bread that smells like fall. There is a small circle of us sharing words, and old fears of winters past, and the new uncertainty of snows preparing to speak. We talk about black powder hunters, and I remember the risk of the coming season's hungry rifles and open land. The ladies are very generous as they look at me through eyes that I do not have for myself. We are laughing over stories or some silly quip I've said, some turn of words. It was then that she touched my knee while laughing. Wearing shorts, my skin was bare. Everything that is me becomes swirling light, saturating sound falling just like her hand to my knee, just a brush, and then it is gone.
Behind the book house she hugs me with that thick sweater that feels like fur between my fingers. This lady, named Jan, is telling me how to find the reporters office through the alley, down a turn. There is her radiant face, and soft blue-gray eyes of water knowing somehow that I am swimming. Of course I hear nothing she says. If I were to suddenly fall I could not be expected to find the ground beneath me. My mouth says things that sound alot like good-bye, and then I am walking noticing suddenly that the day is getting colder in a sad familiar quiet.
An hour later my legs are being pulled by dogs that have had kindness paid to them and suddenly remembered. They want to leave the hardness of this resturant floor, returning to the room of books, and the smell of women talking in autumn through their forests of fragrant hair. I tell my feet that it is late. New trees are waiting for us. My feet grow quiet still watching the door.
Is this it? Is this the all of it? Is this what I have become now that the lead has been removed from the paint? Is this what it feels like to be clean? Tonight I will be awake in my tent feeling a hand fall exactly like a leaf. The last tortilla is still warm, though no longer hot. I roll it slowly as I spoon the remainder of beans. This is road wear talking. I know this. One last piece of bread and I hear you laughing with your hands.