039 - guts
Jessie walked over the bridge to South 81st. It was a long walk. She was used to making the trip every week. The weather today wasn't making things any easier, though. It was hot. The air blowing in her face mixed with the evaporating seawater below. Rather than cooling her down, it just felt like salty steam.
She made it, though. Off the bridge, at least the wind wasn't so strong. It was still hot. She just put her hands in her pockets and shrugged. It was a stance she often took, but especially when she felt like she just needed to buckle down and pass the time.
It was a few blocks from the bridge. The streets were familiar. Still familiar enough, she thought. Fifty-two times a year, it was enough to notice at least most of the changes. Perhaps better, actually, than when she had been here every day.
When you see something everyday, all but the largest changes are too gradual. Yet when you frequent a place only infrequently, all changes are large, and it's overwhelming. Her schedule was just right. Nothing passed her by, but nothing was too shocking, either.
But does anything ever really change, she wondered. It's the same old street it ever was. Well, okay, the Italian ice vendor never seemed to be on his corner anymore. The barbershop on Houston was one of those franchise tax preparation offices now.
Okay, she conceded, things have changed. At least a little bit.
Eventually, she got to the little park where she was heading. It was hardly a park. Just a little lot between two buildings that had somehow resisted development for all of these years. Some time ago, the residents of the community had decided to clean it up and turn it into a place that at least looked decent to walk by.
It was one of those little oases of green in the city. It consisted mostly of just grass, and a little cobblestone walkway that took a meandering path through the park. There were two benches where people could stop and take a rest.
They rarely did, though. A few years ago, the city installed armrests on the benches, for the purpose of deterring the homeless from sleeping on them. The homeless, for their part, rarely had used these benches as places of rest, so nothing really changed much.
What gives the homeless any less of a right to use the benches than anyone else, Jessie would always ask herself, whenever her eyes caught notice of those armrests. She had never been particularly bothered by the homeless, though. If anything, she had come too close to being there herself to ever feel any ill will towards them.
And then there was the tree. That one tree. It had been in this place long before the lot had been designated as a park. No, a tree this grand could not have recently been planted. It was no sapling. It carried a kind of strength and a maturity that said it had been in that spot longer than anyone or anything else.
It was an oak. This tree was certainly the only tree in the little park where Jessie now found herself, but she reckoned that it was the only real tree for miles. This was the reason she had made her way here, every week, religiously, for so many years.
She sat down beneath it, at the base of its trunk. It was a hot day, but here, in the shade of its mighty branches and copious leaves, things felt much better. They always did, though, when she was here.
"I'm back," she said.