I stepped out my back door at 8:37 p.m. last night, swayed by last year's "shrinking" and unworn clothes in my closet, determined to counter age and metabolism and years of Chick-Fil-A nuggets and fries, to pursue health and fitness and that damnable, elusive fountain of youth. My commitment to exercise surprisingly but delightfully unraveled into a poet's journey…until terror descended.
Treading day like water, my expectation was speed-walking a few miles of routine. I didn't anticipate being perfectly sandwiched between sunset and moonrise, amazing orbs defining time and space, too often overlooked, forgotten because of their familiarity.
To my left the moon, a creamy fire haloed in misty slivers, nearly full, and I swear I saw it smiling. To my right, dimming shades of pink, the sun reluctantly relinquishing its hold on day. I love the long days of Summer but it occurred to me even on her brightest, cheeriest of days, the Sun doesn't smile; the moon is friendlier.
My neighborhood is not the quiet I imagined it would be at early evening. To one neighbor tending her flower bed, I enthuse about the Creamsicle moon; she hadn't even noticed and that makes me a little sad for her. Another trims his smallish yard's grass, he's perched atop a droning riding mower that, to me, makes no sense at all. We wave and I inhale fresh and green and mission accomplished.
I break into a short uphill run and while I feel the jar to my knees and gravity's cruel and greedy tug on lead-filled legs, I hear the night world coming to life. My tired body loses its relevance amidst symphony…these are not white noises I can fall asleep to or ignore; they're sounds that awaken.
…like the soft coo of doves and the call of other birds I can't distinguish but long to. I think about those kitschy bird clocks and I entertain the thought of buying one. For some reason, in that moment, it's important to know "who" I'm listening to.
The steady hum of cicada penetrates shrouding darkness; crickets chirp agreeably in reply, and I realize I've assigned nonsensical gender to both–clearly, cicadas are all boys and crickets are girls. Of course the guttural belch of bullfrogs signals the male gender. Do I hear the buzz of a grasshopper's wing? What is the night insect whose voice is a staccato, a stutter? I feel like a child who should know his colors by now but gets stuck on violet–is it blue or purple for goodness sakes?
Self amused, lost in thought, and thoroughly entertained by nature's song, headlights rouse my walking somnolence. Uninvited guest, they momentarily distract me and remind me to call my four-legged companion to my side; unleashed and also uninvited, she must've caught wind of my escape earlier and decided I needed company. Now, I'm her guardian and protecter, dim-witted, road-wanderer that she is. That's not what I signed up for.
Darkness has chased away daylight, and I resent the hair on my neck now standing at attention. There are no streetlights in my neighborhood, though some houses illumine their driveways or lawns. Childish fears creep into my mind and seep onto the street and I feel the eyes of a monster lurking in the shadows. My pace quickens–good for heart, good for body, but not so great for the head.
My dog has abandoned me–traitor! She has an insistent need to be the line leader and I shake my head yet again, amused by the thought I find safety in her. She's scared of her shadow (unlike our killer rottweiler waiting at home).
I'm 3/10 of a mile from my house when visions of Thriller start looping in my mind–the fowlest stench is in the air, the funk of 40,000 years…! Zombies aren't real I tell myself, but Very Bad People are, and they're all now hiding in the woods of nearby vacant lots. Their breaths grow heavy and obscene.
A beloved welcome sight, my house now is in view. At steady jog I pass the last thick of woods to my left when I hear a crackling of dead leaves, the swish and crunch of a machete thrashing through brush! My feet leave the ground and I break Olympic speed. I didn't know I could actually run.
As my pounding heart threatens to escape the captivity of my chest, my feet hit the line of our steep-inclined drive. Suddenly, the monster I can't shake speaks. He's hungry and demanding and absolutely incredulous I would exercise before filling his dish.
Stupid cat. He'll probably leave a "gift" for me later….
Small wonder I began my day with a morning walk; reluctantly I give up the beauty and coolness of night to avoid another monster-induced heart attack.