Standing at the traffic intersection, the gusts from cars tousling my hair all over my face, I think to myself, these cars, on this city street, are going what used to be the speed limit for HIGHWAYS when I was a kid. I pull the strands of hair out of my mouth, guide them over my ear, and look back at my son who sits on his purple bike beside me, humming a song to himself, oblivious to the two-ton dangers whizzing by, the drivers’ faces inside shining from the light of cell phone screens.
I sigh and begin the traffic crossing drill, barking the play to my son, and we cross the street like football players on a kick return, Daddy blocking for the son, the son scrambling, eyes bouncing around like atoms, as we hurry across, finishing with a light jog onto the sidewalk on the other side.
We walk around a subdivision, and my son, jittery with the trapped energy from virtual school, details to me every episode of an animé series he’s watching, as I walk across the top of a guardrail, trying to keep my balance in the buffeting wind. I nod to him and listen, and make it 2⁄3 of the way across. I’ll be back.
We enter the park from behind a row of houses, through a hidden opening between trees, pushing aside branches like the velvet curtains of a theater stage. I do so gently, every time, and it fills me with delight. Mourning doves fly out, drunk on panic beating their wings, fighting through branches, and disappear. Two mountain bikers pass in front of us, standing up to push down on pedals, fighting uphill. They nod to us, with bated breath, loosening the rocks that crackle beneath them.
We take some familiar trails, the sky like smoke smothering the sun, and make a few creek crossings over mossy stones. The water trickles, lulling my senses. I point to a wall and my son and I stand in front of it, sizing up the climb. We take turns plotting routes. I go up and
come down, and my son, as every son should, chooses the more difficult route to one-up Dad. The rock face is grey and green with lichens that remind me of the green rust found on faucets and drains. After showing off a little bit, my son goes silent, rubbing the dust off of his palms, reaching for rocks that break off the bluff like brownies that crumble in the hand. After testing his pivots, he climbs up, tossing the hair out of his eyes, and smiles.
“Ok. Come down, son. Let’s go. We’re losing daylight,” I said. I wanted him to make a couple of runs on his bike down the hills before we headed back home for dinner. We found them and he candy-caned down, his mouth in an “O” as he crested by me, the headlight blinding my eyes. Good boy. We beat quarantine today.
I texted my wife that we were on our way back. She said she’d start the steaks. My son picked the song I played on my phone, and belted it out, as he pedaled by, and coasted ahead.
Mary Moore Searight Metro Park
South Austin, Texas
Song my Son Was Singing: “Dirty Laundry,” by Don Henley