Awareness

The night I move in, I sit in my darkened kitchen and sip wine next to the open window. I watch as the cops pull up beside a black teenager who is walking on the sidewalk across the street. They say something to him, get out of their squad car, and pat him down. One of the cops glances up, sees me peering out. After a few minutes, they pull away and the lanky teenager is free to go. Hands tucked in the pockets of his hoodie, he heads back down the street.

 

I know the sound of the security code—four short beeps and two longer ones that extend into the sound of the metal gate unlatching, gaining entrance to “Miller Mews,” the cottage-style townhouses across the street. They are red, green, and blue and face the street at odd angles, a recent addition to the neighborhood. The people who live there are mostly young, in their thirties, and drive compact SUVs or station wagons. They come home, punch in their codes at the gate, check their mail, and a few hours later come out again dressed for a different time of day. They slide into the front seats of their sports vehicles, take off for an appointment or game, or head just up the street to buy groceries.

Next door to the townhouses is a grey, A-frame house. Every so often a group of people dressed in black comes outside into the yard. The one in front wears a long flowing robe. He is bald, white, in his sixties, with glasses. The men and women who follow are also white. Some wear robes, others street clothes: sweatshirts, pants, sandals. They circle the house slowly, then disappear from view. Almost an hour later I see them return from down the street, unlatch the tall wooden fence to the property, and file back up the stairs inside.

 

Tonight, I drive back to my parents’ to eat dinner, do laundry, and load my car with things from their house. By the time I drive home, it is almost eleven. As I pull up at the curb, a black man runs up to my car from across the street. Instinctively, I lock the doors. He comes up to the window and our eyes meet. “Oh, you live here?” he says through the glass. “Yeah,” I nod. “Sorry,” he apologizes and walks back to the corner to wait for his real customers. Heart beating fast, I gather my things and pass him as I hurry to let myself into the building. “And you have a good night, m’am,” he calls out from behind.

When I first moved in, I didn’t realize that the dealers like to stand on the corner near the side door to my apartment, under the tree that provides a bit of shelter. Or even the front steps of my building sometimes, to toke up, have a conversation, maybe rest a while. I should’ve realized just how close my apartment building was to Deano’s, the infamous ghetto bar in Seattle, the place to find crackheads for as long as I can remember, a group of them hanging out at all hours every day. Even though I went to high school a couple miles from here and my friends and I often drove up this street on our lunch break, somehow the fact that the back of my building shares an alley with Deano’s failed to register. It’s been almost a decade since I’ve spent much time in Seattle, and when I have lived here in short intervals, I’ve stayed with my parents in the north end.

By daylight, the neighborhood seemed pleasant enough—a mix of small run-down houses, low-income apartment buildings, new condos, and the brick 1920s thirty-unit complex where I live on the corner. The rent was cheap, and it was close to the bars and cafes on Capitol Hill, but not stuck in the midst of dense apartment blocks filled with young hipsters, too cool to smile or look you in the eye. I also liked the fact that the people who live here are not all white.

After living in China for the last three years, I am happy to be back in Seattle, where people don’t stare at me and ethnic diversity actually exists in pockets. Maybe not so much in the neighborhood I grew up in, where my mixed Chinese and white family and the black family next door were the “diversity,” but down south, in the areas where I went to school from fourth to twelfth grade: schools that were about half black and half white, where rousing MLK day assemblies and post-Rodney King breakout discussions were the norm.

Now, when I come home at night I do a quick assessment of who is out and where they are: will I have to pass them on my way into the building? I make sure I have all my stuff ready to hoist across my shoulders and lift into my arms before I open the car door, so I don’t have to lean into the car and fumble with my back turned, unaware of who may be approaching. I lock the doors and stride toward the entrance, purposeful, like I belong here, unfazed by the dealers on the corner. I open my line of vision, scan up and down the street, aware, keys in hand.

 

Both couples are young, in their mid-thirties. The short brunette looks like she shops out of J.Crew: lime-colored shirt, black capris, fitted denim jacket, black leather clogs. Sometimes she carries tall rolled-up documents in a big square leather bag. I watch as her belly grows big, and she continues to hoist herself up into the driver’s seat of her silver SUV and drive off. She is pregnant for a while, and then one day she has a baby. Sometimes her husband is with her, a tall white guy with wire-framed glasses and fleece jackets. The two of them unload a folded-up stroller and groceries from the trunk before going inside.

The other couple is blonde, tall, and athletic. She drives a green Subaru Outback with a tiny Grateful Dead sticker. He drives the electric blue Volvo wagon with the UW sticker. Sometimes they trade. She wears tight jeans and fitted down vests in bright red or powder blue, sunglasses, hair pulled back from her face. He has broad shoulders, short hair, and an Eddie Bauer wardrobe. They are both handsome, in a homecoming queen/quarterback kind of way. One Saturday afternoon, I watch him stand on the street in a tux, waiting for his ride. The next day a taxi from a hotel drops both of them off; he still wears his tux, she wears sweats and carries an overflowing pile of white gauzy veil in her arms. The first couple is just coming out for the day and gives them both hugs of congratulations. I wonder if it was everything they’d wanted it to be.

 

I hang prayer flags outside my window. I sit on the couch and consider the placement of my things. I get up to move a picture frame just a few centimeters higher. Everything needs to be just right. This is the first time I’ve lived alone, without roommates, without family, without my boyfriend in China, who I just left behind. This is the first time I get to inhabit a space completely my own, with my own dishes, kitchen, bathroom, desk, and door to close to my own private world. A home where I can invent myself anew.

Near my bed, I build an altar atop an old chest full of journals. On top, I place my artifacts from China and Tibet, candles, and incense. I’ve never called myself a Buddhist, never developed a regular sitting practice nor taken vows of refuge, but I have read my share of dharma books, sat in on meditation sessions, and absorbed so many of the teachings. I’ve flirted with calling myself a Buddhist for years, but something has held me back. Maybe I resist claiming one category of belief, because I fear how this will lead to other’s judgments. Or maybe it’s because I know that it ultimately doesn’t matter what I call myself, but instead how I live and what I know.

What I know now is that I want to return to a place of greater awareness and compassion , a moment-by-moment connection with my body and breath, a softening of my heart to myself and to others. I’ve been living for too long in a city of nine million, living in a place where anytime I left our home, all eyes descended on me, voices whispering as I passed, Where is she from? Is she a foreigner or Chinese? Tired of being so publicly exposed and digested, the longer I was there the more I learned to shut these strangers out with a hardened tunnel vision. Or else I’d look them in an eye and feel a certain satisfaction when they looked away. 

 

When I look at the grey house sometimes I can see the flashing glare of a big-screen TV. But usually the blinds are drawn, and rarely do I see people, except when they come out in their black robes to circle. On Tuesdays and Sundays there are more of them; a woman in her fifties with short cropped hair, an Asian man in his twenties, nondescript white males in their forties and fifties. Sometimes, they linger for a moment on the front porch before walking down the street to get in their cars, leaving one by one.

 

Friday and Saturday nights, the neighborhood is alive: low-riders, people parked in cars down the street, crackheads criss-crossing back and forth from hot corner to corner. A sign on a telephone pole says the alley behind my apartment and Deano’s is officially closed from dusk to dawn, so the action takes place on the corners, encircling my apartment on all sides. Occasionally I hear a gunshot, or is it a car backfiring? I’m not sure. Sometimes, the high rising note of a police siren announces the arrival of law and order, lights flashing. The cops drive by all the time, but I have yet to see them make an arrest. They’re rarely here when the action is, when the place is crawling with deals and customers. My neighbor across the hall says the dealers have a whole alert network going, that someone up the street will call on a cell phone if the cops are coming and everyone will disappear. Cops drive by slow and then they’re gone, and the dealers and junkies are out again, hustling and smoking, even in broad daylight.

On Christmas Eve, late afternoon, I gather my things to go load up my grey Subaru wagon: wrapped presents, a packed suitcase, laundry. A group of black men huddle on the front steps passing around a makeshift pipe—crack, I assume, even though I’ve never seen it.

“Don’t mind us…” one of them chuckles, and I smile, because that’s my reflex. “We’re just…”

“Having a little holiday cheer?” I volunteer.

“Yeah,” they laugh, “that’s right, holiday cheer. Heh, heh. Wanna join us?”

“No, thanks,” I say with a hint of a smile, and go back inside for another load.

When I come back out they are still there and I hear one of them give a whoo-ee girl kind of whistle. I pretend I don’t hear them and reconsider my attitude—they’re smoking crack on my front porch and I smile and wave like they’re just any old tenants? I pull my skirt and long black coat into the car before slamming the door and starting the engine. Oh, well. This was their neighborhood before it was mine. And it is Christmas, after all.

 

I’m surfing the Internet looking up sanghas, Buddhist communities. We have so many more choices here in America, so many groups to join, ways to potentially belong. I want to find a community of people I feel at home with, people with whom I share a common vision, but I’m not sure where this resides. In China, my friends were drawn from the Chinese artist/rebel types whom I knew through my boyfriend, and the expat community that frequented the weekend bar scene. But in America, just being “an artist” or “a native English speaker” is no longer a significant marker of inclusion. Here, I must stake out my identity more intentionally. Who am I comfortable with? What do I care about? How do I seek to learn and grow?

I scroll through the list of sanghas and notice an address that is close to my own. A Zen community. The grey house! The TV threw me. Sitting meditation on Tuesdays and Sundays. I realize then that the distant gong I sometimes hear must come from the grey house, as well. Walking past the next day, I stand on the sidewalk and peer over the tall fence. No signs of life, just a wooden sign hanging vertically by the door with crudely painted Chinese characters I can’t read. I imagine the person who wrote them, maybe a middle-aged white American enamored of all things Oriental and Zen. I imagine opening the gate and knocking, but the space doesn’t feel welcoming. My impulse to reach out is not strong enough, and I know that by tomorrow or next week or next month, my mind too will move on, imagining different versions of myself and my future.

 

I rarely close my blinds during the day. Even if I’m changing, I’ll just turn my back and duck into the corner, where only a premeditated Tom could see my skin. In China, I lived in the midst of so many strangers that the streets here feel empty by comparison, my apartment secluded and private. But occasionally when I sit here at the table with my coffee, looking out at the young professionals, they’ll look up and see me, then quickly look away before getting in their cars to drive off. I wonder if they can feel my eyes, or if I’m simply in their line of vision.

On my window I have displayed a protest/peace/political sign, which changes depending on the season. The first one had an image of Martin Luther King, Jr. in black and white with Support the Poor, No More War! in red. I picked it up at my old high school, at their annual MLK day rally, my first time back since graduation. Later, when the bombs first started falling in earnest on Iraq, I drew one with blue, green and red markers: Question this War. Question the Media. Question our Culture of Fear and Greed and Violence—Life is Too Precious—LOVE EACH OTHER NOW! It felt bold to make my own sign, to display my words for all to see. Yet in time, I took that one down too. Its urgency began to feel dated. The novelty of speaking out politically, and in my native tongue no less, had worn off. Now, I’m no longer sure what to display, if these signs even matter, or if they are just here for myself, to make me feel like I’ve done something and not simply turned away.

Sometimes I have the urge to yell, Shut the fuck up! to the crackheads beneath my window so they can understand that people live here and are trying to sleep. Of course, I’d never do that. I’ve never liked confrontation, and I’d rather not draw attention to myself and the unit where I live. Plus, I’m sure they don’t give a shit about my sleep. Right now, there are two of them beneath my window, a man and woman, clearly wasted. I am tuning them out, until the woman starts hollering, “Who threw the penny?! Who threw a penny out here?! Who threw the Goddamn penny?!” “I think it was that one,” I hear the man say. “I’m gonna start breaking windows,” the woman continues. “Who threw it?!”

My windows are closed, shades drawn by night, but still, I move away from my table near the window, imagining a rock hitting my head, little glass shards imbedding themselves into my laptop. I hear the heavy feet of the young white woman who lives above me clomping back and forth, either to the window or away from it. I’ve never liked her, the way she blasts her techno or hip-hop late at night, and I wonder if she might have thrown it. Or perhaps she too is just listening right now to the people below, like me, afraid of being implicated due to association, another “white person” who lives here, taking over the neighborhood, silent hidden figures behind the blinds. I pick up my phone and go sit on my bed, consider calling the police, or Steve, my manager. I wait, listening for further instruction. Finally, the woman calms down and I go back to my desk. I have never come that close to calling the cops. I fear it does little good. I know there is no treatment, no concern, no point in calling unless someone gets violent. Especially if the violence is turned on me. Then the cops I scorn become the good guys. Not so bad after all. Maybe even on my side.

 

Morning, the sidewalk is littered with cans and paper bags. A strung out woman sits whimpering on the front steps. She is black, in her late forties, hunched over with her arms wrapped around her stomach. She looks up as I come out the front door and says hello softly. I ask if she’s okay. “My stomach hurts,” she replies. I give her a sympathetic look, but don’t know what to say. She is often out here, crying or smoking. Occasionally asking for change or the clothes that the tenants in our building leave in the free pile on the couch in the foyer. She told me Steve lets her take what she wants.

Meanwhile, the birds are singing and the cherry blossoms are starting to bloom outside our building and it’s not even March. I pass by the huddle on the corner, amazed by the hours they keep. I’m beginning to recognize most of them, who are the dealers and who are the crackheads, although some are both—sell a little, get a little. Sometimes they sit dazed on the steps of the pink house behind the chain-link fence, needing a hit or riding one, coming down or wanting more. Sometimes they smack their lips, swagger, a far-off look in their eyes. A few of them are especially nice, and will say good morning with a gentlemanly cadence that may seem absurd but that I find endearing all the same. Maybe they recognize me by now, that Asian girl who will sometimes smile and say hello.

In China, I was marked by my larger-than-normal eyes, my lighter hair, my larger body; I was a hunxue, a mixed blood, marked by my differences from the Chinese. Even though I could pass at times while walking the streets at night or sliding into the back of a taxi and rattling off my destination with fluency, each day I was mostly reminded that I was foreign. Yet here, in America, I am Asian again, my Chinese face distinguishing me from the white default norm. It is confusing to move between each culture’s preferred mode of differentiation of “us” versus “them”: whether “foreign or Chinese,” “white or Asian,” or “white or a person of color.” In China, even though I hated the stares, it was more clear to me how I was seen. In America, it depends on who is doing the seeing.

 

In the upper left-hand window of the Zen house I can sometimes see the top of a head that belongs to a body that must be sitting on the floor. Cross-legged. Meditating. Eyes closed, back straight, perfect posture.

I imagine the rest of the room is bare, sparse, with wooden floors and tatami mats, maybe a bowl and small altar in the middle, pillows at the edges near the walls.

Maybe they are reciting the Heart Sutra. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

Maybe they are getting knocked upside the head by a koan.

Or maybe no one’s meditating at all, but instead it’s just the father and daughter who live there and take care of the place, making dinner and watching Tom Brokaw on TV.

A bell rings.

Dinner’s ready.

 

Growing up, there was never some mixed-white-and-Asian club to which I could belong, a club that years later I learned could be called “hapa.” Instead my friends were mostly white, so I thought that was my place too. But now I know that’s not true. I just went into hiding, learned to watch closely, didn’t want to be singled out for my opinion.

Lying in bed now, I listen to the voices outside my window. A man and a woman are arguing. I can’t hear what they’re saying. I don’t care what they’re saying. I just want them to shut up. I hear the sound of water splashing against the ground. More yelling. More water. There’s another woman’s voice now; someone outside is cursing. “Fuck you, white girl.” More water hitting pavement. That’s when I realize that the woman above me and her boyfriend are pouring water out their window onto a woman below. “Fuck you bitch,” she yells from above. Her voice is high and shrill. She is laughing, her boyfriend is laughing. I hear feet running back and forth above, more water thrown out the window.

Now, the woman outside warns, “I’m gonna tell Steve! I’m gonna tell Steve what you’re doing, white girl.” Whoosh. More water hitting the sidewalk. A cackle of laughter. I’m getting pissed. Does she think this helps anything? It’s not like she has any respect for her neighbors. Should I call Steve? Or should I just stay out of it? Roll over and wait till it’s over?

The woman outside has stopped yelling. She has gone away. The couple upstairs must be feeling triumphant. I wonder if I should say something tomorrow. Knock on her door and tell her what I think. Or not.

 

In the morning, I open my blinds in my kitchen and there’s a crackhead that I recognize—a skinny guy in his forties. His eyes light up with a smile as he sees me. You? He points. I nod hello. He puts his hand over his heart like I am breaking it, with a flirtatious, goofy smile. I smile and walk out of his vision to put water on to boil, then wander back and he is still there, looking up. He raises his fist. I raise mine. Then, smiling, self-conscious, I wave goodbye—and walk away from the window to go about my morning, unclear what we are saluting. Power to the people? Power to the Asians and the Brothers? Power to the cute girl in the window?

I get dressed, make coffee, and sit down at my desk to write. Spring is here and change is in the air. A new fitness place for women has just opened down the street, and I watch a woman in her fifties who can’t parallel park back in and out, in and out, before sneaking away guiltily in her sweats. New faces are showing up, different dealers, more aggressive, making threats beneath my window. “You better get me my money or else your back is gonna be hurtin’ a whole lot more,” I hear one say. It’s like they’re on a movie set, especially at night with just the glow of the corner street lamp. I move closer to the window and peer down from above, not wanting to be spotted. It’s ironic, because I have every right to watch them—they are making noise beneath my window—and yet I still feel guilty, like I’m infringing on their privacy, some voyeur peeking at their ghetto street scene.

The couples across the street, though, are easy to watch,. They fall naturally in my line of vision; I can gaze out at them without any effort. It is not so obvious that I am curious, that my looking has gone beyond passive glances. The young professionals are on the move, in and out of their homes and their cars, barely glancing at the action on our side. Lucky for them, the crackheads stay near my building, favoring the smooth front steps and shade of the trees. Our manager isn’t cool with them smoking or pissing near our front steps, but at the same time, he knows them, he treats them like they are people. He let one of them stay in an empty unit for a while—a woman with two kids who was trying to get away from her boyfriend. But then she started bringing her user friends inside, in and out, a troop of them. Her boyfriend was still around and you could hear them yelling through the door. Piles of their junk spilled out into the hallway. Finally my manager said she had to go, and I was relieved.

 

In the last few months, a white girl has shown up on the block. She is in her early thirties, with short blonde hair, sagging hip-hop style pants, black ski jacket, knit cap, sneakers. The longer she’s around the more the other crackheads seem to welcome her, the more I see her hanging out and talking to them, instead of wandering around by herself, laughing at her own private jokes. Crack Sees No Color, I think to myself.

But she’s not the only white person who’s come by regularly; there’s also a blond woman in her fifties. She is small and thin, with long straight hair, a tight face and anxious walk. I see her and a black guy every so often; they get off at my stop on the #43, cross the street and head towards “the” corner. I’ve also seen her down near the Montlake bridge, gateway to the whiter parts of Seattle. She stands upright in a blue raincoat, respectable NW gear, with a sign: “Laid-off Mother Needs Money for Food.” She has perfected a look of stoic pride, staring ahead with a face of humble suffering, white woman down on her luck, but with your help, with your generous kindness, sir…. Liar. I imagine myself going up to her and blowing her cover. I’ve seen you down on my corner. I know what you’re about. She’d turn to me and her face would transform into the sickly-pale-needy-strained-do-anything-for-a-fix face that it is, and then I’d feel guilty for singling her out because she’s white. Why not let her work the system? She’s got what it takes.

 

Almost every month a new “Notice of Proposed Land Use Action” sign goes up, informing neighbors of yet another set of condos. People say it’s only a matter of time before they tear down Deano’s, and who wouldn’t look forward to the day? It’s hard to imagine that the dealers could stay here much longer. Already they are squeezed in on all sides, existing in this tiny ghetto pocket, a few blocks in the midst of prime real estate. I wonder where they will go.

I step out for the day to go on a walk down the street, heading north. I walk a few blocks, past the school and community center, into the area with nice old houses, occupied by couples with well-paying jobs, colorful plastic toys strewn carelessly across their lawns. The air is infused with the scents of blossoms, plum trees, a trellis of jasmine. I inhale deeply. Bright yellow daffodils wave their trumpets of early arrival; white couples work out in their yards, absorbed in their lives, eager to plant and weed.

I walk, trying to stay aware of my breath and my body moving, each step, heel and sole against pavement. Down the street, a figure approaches: a woman with a stroller, the woman from the townhouses across the street. I am aware of the distance between us getting closer. This is the first time I’ve ever passed her on the street. I keep my eyes on her, but then look away, not wanting to seem like I’m staring her down. We are aware of each other, looking, not looking, almost passing… I look up and smile, hello. Hi, she says, not warm or cold, but brief and to the point. Then she’s gone. I walk on, slight sense of relief that the moment has passed, wondering if she has a strange feeling about me, if she can tell that I am approaching her with more than a casual glance, if she has noticed me before and knows where I live. Or maybe I am neither like her enough nor different enough for me to register in her consciousness. Just an Asian girl, not one of her tribe, unfamiliar yet non-threatening.

When I turn around and approach my street again, the houses are more run-down or replaced by condos. Black people are scattered in amidst the white. I wish our city’s neighborhoods were truly more mixed, like how I imagine parts of Los Angeles or New York, but I feel grateful that I at least know this two-block radius now, that it’s not some vortex I am wary of entering—the drug zone I’d otherwise stay away from. I live here, I can move with some kind of authority, meet people’s eyes, yuppie and crackhead alike.

“I hate it that they’re all black,” a woman in my building once said to me. She was telling me how she called and reported a major deal she saw going down, had to identify the person to the police—young black male. I nodded, understanding what she meant. Moving back to the States, I liked the idea of being around more black people again, to feel their daily presence in my world as normal versus something that made my hyper-aware of our race each time we passed. But then I think of how ironic it is that now I am around more black people, but they are mostly dealers or crackheads, reinforcing a stereotype I long to escape. There are some black homeowners or tenants left in the neighborhood—those that haven’t been chased out by the condos or the rent—but the assumption has been created: if you’re hanging out on one of “the” corners, or anywhere near the corners, and oh yeah, if you’re black, then you must be here for the drugs.

Now, when I approach a black person on the street, I go through the same ritual as I do with any other: of looking, then not looking, my eyes unsure where to rest their gaze as they approach that moment of passing and exchange. Yet I am also aware, not wanting to be, but aware—that they are black, and I am Asian/mixed/white. I am always aware, race encoded in my body, race encoded in relationship, silent, unspoken. Here, if I smile at a black person and meet their eyes, will they know that I seek to understand the dynamics between us—the forces of history, inequality, hierarchy, privilege? But not too eager, no forced smile, not to overcompensate. Just natural, natural, like any other person.

The Dalai Lama says he greets all strangers as if they are long-lost friends. I practice this at times: inhaling and trying to let my heart fill with warmth and openness, imagining how I’d feel if this person were indeed a loved one. Oh! My dear friend, walking towards me, it’s been so long since I’ve seen you! I want to greet you, see you, all of you. Human living being. Breathe you in, breathe you out. Watch my thoughts, judgment, mind. Passing. Walking by.

I watch my perceptions change from moment to moment, from block to block, or from the ease of “regular exposure.” I judge, and then resist judgment. Judge myself for judging, judge myself for not judging. My landlord says they had a talk with the girl above me who was throwing water. “Sometimes I feel like throwing water on them myself,” he says, “but I explained to her that they might take it out on the next person walking out the front door.”

I nod. “It just seemed so immature.”

“Well, she is only eighteen, you know.” He explains how she grew up in foster homes. A tenant who knew the girl asked my landlord if he’d consider renting her a studio. She is working two jobs now and going to school. She is actually quite mature for her age, given her circumstances.

Of course. I chide myself for my quick judgment. There’s always an explanation. Everyone has their story.

 

Standing in front of my apartment, I look up and notice what people can see from outside: the prayer flags, a hanging fern, a printer and desk. What do they imagine? Some hippy, creative type, maybe with a hint of Asian-spiritual-deepness? Someone pleasant, someone nice? Seattle nice.

But then when they see me standing in the window, or out on the street, what do they see? What registers first? Is it my gender, my body, my breasts, my ass, my hair, my eyes? Or do they see my Asian-ness first, my mixed. slightly different, yet non-threatening “exoticness”? Or maybe they see my nice clothes and pale skin, my ability to blend in, to come and go as I please, to move on a whim, my privilege.

I unlock the front door and climb the steps, walk down the hall to the room I call home. On my door there is a photo: a giant bell in the foreground; Tibetan monks in the background, soft focus. My friend sent it to me from India. Everyone else on my floor had something decorating their door so I felt I should as well. Something to welcome myself home each day, or to stir the imagination of those who walk by. A bell seemed right, a Buddhist bell, like the kind they sound to begin and end a session of meditation. Not a slogan or words to tell you what to think, but a bell: a call of awareness to this brief flash of now, this interlude between thinking of past or future, this glimpse beyond story and names.

 

In my mind, the bell rings and I close my eyes, draw in my breath, becoming aware of my body. When I can take in no more air, I exhale, following my breath, trying to let go of the endless loop of thoughts flashing in and out of consciousness, randomly surfacing, cluttering my mind, my vision, my heart. Judging mind, fearful mind, trying to put everything in order mind. I try and let these go.

Just breathe

In my mind, the bell dings again. A single note, clear yet soft, vibrations spilling into silence, silence engulfing vibrations.

An invitation: open your eyes and see.

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5 Comments

  • Auntsnow says:

    That’s my old neighborhood. I lived there from 1980 or so till 1996. You depicted it well.

  • Anne Liu Kellor says:

    How cool is that? Thanks for the comment. You lived there so much longer than I did, and I’m glad that you feel I did it “justice.”

  • Auntsnow says:

    Yup. 24th & Thomas. 26th & Pike. Houses, not apartments, so not so much drug traffic on my doorstep, plus we had a dog who, though sweet, had pointy ears and warded people off with his bark. I remember one hot summer night when the cops chased crack dealers through our yard and down the alley, and the next morning I found rock cocaine hidden underneath my “Festivus Maximus” peony in my garden….! Another time, the SPD SWAT team shut down our block for a morning, and it wasn’t till later I learned that it was because the co-chair of our block watch had barricaded himself in the house with a gun, grief-stricken over his partner’s death. There was a crack whore who lived in our block and her kids, aged 4 and 7, used to come over to our house and play with my son, and we’d always make sure they got something to eat. Then their mom burned their house down and they moved away, so we lost touch with them. I always wonder what became of them.

  • Emanuela says:

    This was a beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing it.

  • amberarium says:

    A really beautiful piece! I’m curious about how long it took to write. Such a precise narrative of the same feeling on a seemingly long span of time; brilliant.

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