The Scarab and I wandered around the Island during the sunset yesterday, reminding me of my tradition of evening walks with Cap’n Boysenberry, who is away in the South. For a moment, all of the cares and chaos of the last three weeks disappeared, and I was simply myself, strolling in the gathering dusk and investigating the world around me. The sunset was stellar, rich bands of yellow, orange, red, purple, and blue looming over the City, with the spike of the TransAmerica Pyramid seeming to pierce the heavens. I felt at ease and momentarily happy in my freshly patched pants while we peered up into the olive trees and looked into the campus of the fire training school before racing off to evade a man with a coffee cup.
We walked a few feet apart, hands bundled into our coats against the gathering chill, and talked about nothing terribly important, just to hear ourselves speak. The Scarab and I have never been practiced at the companionable silence.
Walking along Avenue N, we noticed a hole where there hadn’t been one before, and we stopped to peer into it with a flashlight. The dimly illuminated space inside had blankets and other sundries, suggesting that it was being used as a squat, and the sprawling building looked relatively virginal inside. The dingy white exterior with the faded blue shutters reminded me of Greece, and I felt sad for a moment, walking under the olives.
As we rounded the corner, I noticed a white truck, and I moved to the side of the road to allow it to pass. It did not pass, but stopped, and the man inside must have said something, because the Scarab turned, and so did I, and a tall older man who reminded me of a heron was strolling towards us. Something about his controlled, even gait put me on edge, and I instinctively pulled my hands from the pockets of my loose sweatshirt and kept them low, palms facing the man, while I halfway turned, so that he could only see my profile.
He had Navy issue plates and desert issue camouflage, and he stopped about two feet away from us.
“What are you guys doing,” he said, in a low, measured voice.
“Oh, we’re out walking,” the Scarab said.
“You aren’t going in any buildings, are you?”
“Oh, no. There was just a hole, so I had to look.”
“You guys have flashlights…”
“Oh,” I interjected, “we’re way too fat to fit in there.”
He visibly relaxed, as did we, and the Scarab put his hand out to introduce himself, as did I.
His hand was cool and dry, and his handshake assertive. I could tell that he was taking our measure, as indeed were we.
“What are you guys working at out here?”
“Er…we live here,” I said.
The Scarab and I said our house numbers simultaneously.
The Scarab spoke alone this time, and the man nodded.
“We’re just out for our evening perambulation, you know,” I said. “Checking out the state of the world. Seeing what there is to be seen.” I swept my arms to the blazing sunset behind us. “Watching the sunset.”
“Well then,” he said. “You take care now.”
“You too,” we echoed, and we stood silently facing his truck while he walked back and drove away.