Settled into this too-large couch at Xtreme Bean- my toes are dangling off the over-sized cushion and I wish that talented man would come back and play the piano again.
I love it here. And have loved it here for nearly 15 years. Back when it was Gold Bar. Back when I first fell in love with the smell of roasted coffee beans and peppermint tea. When I can remember living out loud and in color.
Flashback to landing here as a 7-year-old. The one that danced a sang and lived only halfway here on Earth, and halfway on an ethereal plane. Barefoot on concrete, picking red berries off the Wolfberry bush growing decoratively in our apartment complex. Imagining the drama and horror of what it would be like to eat them (Daddy said they’re poisonous).
Marveling at the bright, plastic texture- the red skin fading into orange, then yellow. The way they burst full of seeds and oozed red liquid when you picked one just ripe enough. The way they stained the sidewalk. And matched the sinking Arizona sky.
Hiding in the bushes, sunshine toasting the skin to a deep brown, and holding your breath lest your sister- the seeker- come catch you where you hide.
These were summer days in 9W. An apartment complex full of college students, less than a mile from Arizona State University. Indian spices filled the air when the neighbors cooked with windows open, before the heat became too oppressive.
Cracks in the pavement to avoid when riding bikes. Freshly cut grass and what we called the ‘Bamboo grove’ at the end of the pothole-laden parking lot. Mom would walk all three of us down to pick out long, smooth tan sticks of bamboo to take home and keep forever. My sister and I would take turns using them as a leash to make sure our toddler brother didn’t wander off.
Located just a few blocks down from my favorite store- Circle K- with its 10-cent Tootsie Pops, and 5-cent Bazooka bubble gum, and I could walk there on my very own if they would let me. My sister and I both agreed Blow Pops tasted better, but they were a nickel more than a tootsie and carried no reward of doubling-down- in case the Indian Star Shooter boy appeared on the wrapper and you got a free one. We would eagerly wait for Daddy to get home from his job at ASU (where he got to work in parking lot and read his favorite books all day) to ask whether today was a Circle K day. Most days were no. But some were Yes, and those were my very favorite days. Payday, Daddy called them.
“Mr Owl, How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of the tootsie pop?”
The world may never know.
Our shared bedroom sat on the second story above the front entrance. A cement awning covered the front entrance, and I found the dented window screen could be removed and hidden in my closet, without my parents knowing. When my sister and I squabbled, I found relief by crawling out the window and sitting atop this ledge for what felt like hours- like a secret spy, hidden from my family and the world, armed with my favorite Cherry Tootsie Pop.
I could watch the world pass by, counting the injustices of being a middle sister.
Before the growing up got going, I could sit and dream of every adventure waiting to scoop me up in its wings.