Sunday, August 20, 2006

Second Chance at First Love - Part 2

We continue our story with William awakening from his dream. If you are just joining the story, go back to Part 1.

The Wake Up

The boundary between dreamland and reality is hard to discern. The chill of the November air is replaced by the warmth of my bed covers. The diminutive child has transformed into two hundred and ten pounds of … lets just say a mid-thirties pajama-clothed man. The old neighborhood setting has morphed into the smallish bedroom of a smallish apartment in a concrete and paved over jungle with trees relegated to oversized pots used as landscape highlights.

The dawn of a new day feels like a mini-resurrection, the death of sleep yields to the rebirth of awakening. I stretch my muscles extending my arms and legs sideways encountering only bed linens and air; there is no sign of another warm, soft body anywhere under the sheets. A sigh of relief instead of resignation washes over me! I had recently broken up with my current girl friend and, as yet, had not ventured forth testing the waters for new conquests. Perhaps that’s why thoughts of my first love permeated my dreams?

The end of my current relationship led to a sense of liberation instead of sorrow or wounded pride! It felt good not having to leave someone else’s apartment in the early morning hours, making my way back home in the dreary darkness; or worst, having the awkwardness of wondering when she would get up, get dressed and leave my place. I was always uneasy just lying there cuddling too. The only person that I recalled enjoying just snuggling with was my first love. Those were the days before sex, where nearness and touching were pleasures enough.

Today, there are no excuses to make, no need to comfort some else’s ego, no strained “I love you”. I have only to get up, take care of my bathroom routine and get to work.

Yet, as I thought about my dream, a smile reflexively came to my face. I guessed that’s because the past could always be perfect, since you didn’t have to deal with the players in the here and now. Their virtues could be elevated and their shortcomings minimized. The “you” of your past and the “she” of her past could be manipulated like puppets on a string.

“I wonder what Camille’s doing now?” I conjecture, finally getting out of bed.

The Drive to Work

Every time I get ensnarled in a traffic jam on the Chrysler “expressway”, I think about relocating to downtown Detroit. The new town homes near the river look great, but come at a steep price. The stagnant traffic flow liberates my eyes to glance around at the mix of old and new buildings and vacant lots that line the freeway in its due south trek toward downtown.

I remember Hastings street that used to be here. Long ago, it was a street lined with bustling shops and busy traffic, intersected by tree lined residential roads. A vibrant community populated mostly by Black people. A variety of folks from those whose ancestors came up from the South via the Underground Railroad a hundred or more years ago, to the people who had themselves only recently made the trek up north. All jammed together in this part of town from Grand Boulevard to almost the Detroit river. My grandparents on both sides of my family had roots there and businesses too. As a young lad they would often intrigue me with stories of both struggles and good times relating to Hastings street.

Although Michigan was never a so-called Slave State, and never had any segregation types of laws on the books, there was indeed prejudice. We had our share of problems and a couple of nasty riots mixed in. However, things begun to ease up as the 1970s turned into the 1980s. The “White flight” phenomena had just about run its course and the city of Detroit had become mostly Black. Now even the close-in suburbs were gaining in Black population triggering another surge of white people on the move. Alas, the expanding opportunities for Blacks to move up and out to all parts of the city and beyond also meant the dilution of places like Hastings street. Long before its fate was sealed by the construction of the Chrysler highway, Hastings laid mostly abandoned, its once vibrant shops wasting away, its once crowded residential side streets lined with burnt out hulks and dead trees. It fell without a fight, without even a whimper to benign neglect.

A honk of a car horn shakes me out of my reverie, as traffic seems to finally be getting back to an acceptable flow. “I may yet make it to work on time”: I thought.

The Start of the Work Day

As I walk into the offices of my employer, I hear: “Good Morning Mr. Baker. There will be an eleven o’clock staff meeting in conference room B”.

I turn and smile at the receptionist and respond: “And a good morning to you Miss Jones”. My gaze lingers on the receptionist’s face focusing in on the pair of bright red ribbons in her hair. Continuing to walk, I almost bump into Carl, one of my co-workers.

“Hey, watch where you’re going there Bill” said Carl as he quickly sidesteps me while balancing a cup of coffee. Seeing where I am looking, he adds in a lower tone: “Hmmm, starting to get the hots for Gail huh?”

I abruptly stop and turn toward Carl: “Uh, … No! I’m just thinking about … about the up coming staff meeting.” The words seem to spurt out in short burst. I turn back to Gail, managing a weak wave, then give Carl a glare, and go on my way toward the sanctuary of my cubical.

Sitting down at my desk and switching the computer on, my mind wandered back to those red ribbons in Gail’s hair. “Its not Gail that I was starting to have the hots for”. I pondered, as my thoughts drifted back to my dream.

I was shaken out of my reverie by a beeping sound emanating from my workstation. My eyes focus on the accompanying proclamation indicating that I have twenty-five new email messages. “Oh well, time to tote that barge and lift that bale” I think as my fingers stretch toward the keyboard.


Next we will join Willam at the Staff Meeting


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