After a week of taking the bus, I rode my bike again today. It’s hot in Portland — both suffocating and burning if you’re out there long enough — and I had to concentrate so that my lungs got their rhythms back just right. But my legs are still strong, my balance still steady.
Somehow I was surprised.
I keep seeing Portland in new ways. All along I have thought I would be here temporarily, like any day now some great newspaper job would invent itself in the South, and I would run happily back. I’d be tan and eat snowcones and see my brother whenever I damn well please.
Newspapers being where they are, that is serious dreaming, but here’s the thing: Lately, I’m not even dreaming for it anymore.
Maybe I’m just carrying it with me? Talking more thickly, cooking red beans and rice and sharing more stories.
Or maybe I’m just loosening up, learning to look at Portland, eyes-wide-open. This has happened twice this week. Once, I was riding the bus over the Broadway bridge. I was a reading a New Yorker piece about something or another and listening to Tupac. I looked across the river and realized that I am, still, wholly myself. What a gift.
Then again, today, biking over the Hawthorne Bridge, I looked down and saw so many sail boats docked alongside the blues festival. It’s no Subway Lounge — the Mississippi club where I went in college. It didn’t open till midnight, and you could get in with any ID (literally, I frequently used a 45-year-old black man’s ID), and if you wanted beer or hot dogs, you had to go to a house next door. It stayed open till 4 a.m. till one day it all came crashing down and the musicians (formerly sweaty and crammed into such small spaces) moved down the road to Schimmel’s, a fancy, open-spaced, air-conditioned joint — but the blues festival on the river was a nice little reminder of home.
Anyway, I looked out at the river again and felt like I actually love being here.
I keep thinking I have lost something (myself, my muscles), but it’s always there. My essential truths are all in tact.
Everything I hold takes root.
I remember what the world was like before -- t. hayes