Walgreen's isn't open yet; delivery guys are loading boxes through the front door. One guy's shirt collar opens to show a perfect, lipsticked imprint on his neck. A kiss, preserved. It's so pristine I wonder if it's a tattoo.
I'm walking through the park when the fountain comes on. A sudden wall of water. I think this should make me happy, and it does, but in an abstract way. I observe myself being cheered.
One of my neighbors has wind chimes. The wind is sharp this week. The sound of metal on ringing metal is layered above the sounds emerging from the alley below. I don't know where the chimes are; I can't see them when I climb onto the window seat and press my face against the glass.
Today I'm visiting S at Laguna Honda hospital. A man in a wheelchair sits in the community room. He looks as though he may have severe cerebral palsy, like my cousin, my great-aunt. His neck stretched long and his head high against the headrest. His whole face smiles when I say hello as I pass. He lifts his chin as though to nod back at me, as if to thank me for recognizing the man inside. Or maybe I assume too much.
An elderly man in a black leather vest - missing teeth, tattooed arms - carries a bicycle wheel through the hallway.
There are snacks in a side room today. Guacamole and chips, wine and beer. H says she's feeling a little tipsy; she hasn't had wine in years.
"There aren't many of us in here," says a fast-talking man, "but we take up so much more space, with all the wheelchairs." He talks like he's trying to get out as many words as possible while someone is listening.
I hug S goodbye, wave to the others as I leave.
In the elevator, another wheelchair-bound man asks me to push him to the corner. I end up pushing him through hallways and onto a different elevator, through more hallways until we finally find the smoking area, a last patch of sun. He mumbles, his words trailing off to nothing; I keep bending over him to try to catch what he's saying. He asks for a quarter.
A skinny man on his way back inside is stopped by my companion. The skinny man asks him to repeat himself three times before pulling out his pack of Marlboros and handing him three cigarettes, taking a dollar in exchange. Price is up since I was a smoker.
I ask my charge if he'll be okay now. He nods, says something like Yeah, so I leave him in the sun to find my way back. Down the broad steps, onto the train.
A woman on the train carries a tight bouquet of white roses. A kid by the door looks like a hayseed, the arms of his plaid shirtsleeves cut off at the shoulder, threads hanging. I don't know if it's a carefully crafted look or the opposite.
A few steps from my building, a new sculpture has been installed: giant wooden blocks. I want to look for the monstrous toddler who left them here.
Outside my window, the chimes are ringing.