Otherwhens, otherwheres

Crossing the parking lot on the way to the gym I pass a woman standing on the sidewalk dragging a cigarette   finishing up as I’m walking by flicks it behind her   the epitome of my mental image when I think the words low-rent apartment and I almost call out to her (but I don’t, of course, cause I never do) that the other day walking across the parking lot I was behind a woman in heels, skirt above the knee but severe, bearing an umbrella and bits of trash, every ten feet or so bending down neatly to add her handful and when I passed her she shrugged her shoulders and smiled  – People, what can you do…. –   and I took a few more steps before I turned to thank her, remembering how my first few weeks back from otherwheres, walking the straight, clean sidewalks, how I’d stop to pick up the stray bit even though it cost me momentum and twinged my hip to bend and no one ever noticed and the streets stayed clean and eventually I just stopped doing it because my momentum became more important even though my hip didn’t hurt anymore

Walking the treadmill staring out at four hoodie-ed workers huddled at the bottom of the waterless pool scraping and brushing as it starts to rain and one by one they climb out to stand under the overhang and one by one hand into pocket out comes the pack (shake shake shake) and hand in the other to light boy do I know the moves and I am walking harder watching them while their eyes turn a corner watching/not watching me (is one of them female?) as they inhale and I inhale and I remember being them other whens and wheres until one by one they flick those burning roses and turn aside and there’s the line

I could never do that is that the California in me?

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