The BART train climbed out of the Lake Merritt station toward Fruitvale. Along this route, we see the place where the city stashes its stuff—tires and palates, barrels and construction vehicles. It’s the city’s junk drawer. The clutter of the flatlands rises up to the hills and their golden chain of houses and cathedrals. I look right below me, at the life in the street that is rutted from semis and that collects the people who are visible from what they carry and roll around in shopping carts.
As we near the seminary, I see a soccer field, green and expansive. A father and a son are kicking a ball back and forth. Another boy, son, is lying on the grass, his arms out wide and his face to the sun. They are far away, below the train and they don’t take notice us passing overhead, although I know the sound tears across the atmosphere like a mini supersonic jet. The boy lying on the grass, I'm guessing, may have his eyes closed, may be soaking in the sun; or perhaps his eyes are open and he’s staring into the blue sky—clear today—feeling like he was dropped below it, feeling like he could float up.
I think he is seeing past the cables and lines, poles and towers that buzz the air with electrical charges and transmission. Past jet streams and traffic copters, cell towers and microwaves. Past this train headed to the next station. A boy lying in the grass, arms open, is not tense, is not negotiating the density of the atmosphere against his body or shielding himself from visible and invisible forces.
On the other side of the road, some one is pushing one cart and pulling another. Two men lean against a truck talking on cell phones, presumably not to each other. Traffic crests over a ramp leading to a bridge that goes over the estuary to Alameda—the bay as brilliant as the sky even with the leaky boats and rusty pylons, a skim of oil on the surface. This boy is in the sky, even in the soccer field. He has a father, a brother, soccer and sunlight.
When I imagined buying a house, the yard was most important feature. The house would have this many bedrooms, a bath, and a kitchen…fine, fine. And it would have a yard, and a back door that would bang as I would leave to read a book sitting in my grass—long, fresh, shiny grass-so beautiful, I would be annoyed by the amount of tending it would require.
Because we grew up modestly, in working class towns, where everyone pretty much had a yard, I didn’t think of it as a luxury. We lived outside as much as inside. The garden fed us, the laundry was hung, we played and swung on the swings, we ate in the yard or on the patio as long as we could—it was a family place.
And a private one. Behind the swing set, against the fence, toward the quince trees, was a tree with low hanging branches. They umbrella-ed out and drooped around in a veil. Beneath the tree was a rock, the right size for an eight year old to sit on. And hide. Sometimes to cry when I was whipped, got a bad grade, was teased by my brothers, needed quiet, I sat under the tree and looked between the wind chimes of the twisting leaves to the movements in the yard. The boys were playing kick the can. Mother was showing my sister how to pick sweet peas by the lilac bushes. I brooded in my tree cave, sometime wanting to be missed.
Other times when we played on the hill that led down to the rose bushes, I stopped and lay on the grass, arms out to the side, face to the sun. When I sunk into the softness of the soil, I floated away from the people around me. I breathed extra deep, sang sometimes in my head. Watched a line of a jet stream far up in the sky. Bugs circled in clusters and moved on. Even with my sisters sitting next to me pulling weeds and blowing snowy dandelion seeds, I felt utterly alone and undisturbed. Weirdly we didn’t bother each other at times like these. One sister didn’t pull on my arm to get me up, the other didn’t throw grass in my hair, my mother didn’t tell me I was a dirty mess. Something about lying in the grass separated us from other.
Is lying on the beach the same as lying on the grass? Hm, I don’t think so –lying on the beach makes me constantly aware of the ocean—the racket it makes and attention it wants and gets. I sleep well with her rhythms and gorge on the sun reflecting off the water. But when I'm lying on the grass, it’s only the sky. And it’s so far away that something inside is lifting and not dozing.
The kid lying on the soccer field might think this is pretty crazy. He could be lying down because he got tired of kicking the ball around. I don’t know. But the way he has his arms out, and his face straight up…I take the leap to what he might imagine or that he’s completely blank and is thinking nothing at all. It’s a moment of easy. He has uncomplicated the questions that mess us up, he doesn’t have to perform, or beat his brother or stand up for something. He can just think it all out or not.
Causes Elmaz Abinader Supports