December 8, 2011 – A Quiet Place
Never in my life did I ever think the words, “Dallas is a quiet city,” would come out of my mouth. I’d have bet against those odds. “Right,” I’d have said, drawing out the word with total disbelief. “Dallas. Quiet. Ha.” But recently I’ve learned never to think in absolutes. Especially when I hear the kinds of words coming out of my own mouth.Dallas is a quiet city. After Lima my sense of noise has forever altered. Here, the omnipresent cacophony of horns does not plague the air. Car alarms aren’t a constant melody. Screaming kids and yipping puppies are at least not within hearing distance for hours on end. Strange sounds like duck calls or misplayed kazoos do not reverberate up and down the street as some vendor announces his presence selling bread, ice cream, sweets, or sharpening knives. This is not to say that the City of Dallas is not without sound--no--but it is at least, from what I’ve heard in the last four days, less noise polluted.
This astounds me. I stand in the middle of the sidewalk listening to one airplane passing overhead. Then I only hear the rustle of drying leaves against the concrete. The soft whir of a passing car says something sibilant. A distant dog barks then stops. I go back inside and sit on the couch looking out at my mother’s garden. The refrigerator hums comfortingly and Rocky sleeps against my knees making soft snorting, sighing sounds.Something warm settles around my ears absorbing the chill I got from standing in the outside air. Silence. The silence I’ve been craving for so long is here in the place I left behind me so long ago.
I would never have believed this of Dallas.I’d fled to the mountains of Colorado and sworn off cities. Forever I thought. Then, in a fit of craziness, I moved into a city of nine million people. Lima. Someplace where I never thought I could survive. A city jungle I wasn’t sure I could handle. Fighting it, resisting it, trying to find my place within it somehow I have survived and I have handled it. Me—one among millions.
The Dallas metroplex contains only six million people. That three extra million that Lima has makes a heck of a difference that’s for sure.With the warding off and protective measures I’d learned in the last six months’ of my Lima living I decide to walk to the library. It’s four and a half miles from my parents’ house. I don’t have a real reason to go except that I’ve missed books and want to see how it is walking in this city.
DART, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, is a relatively new thing, and the trains don’t go everywhere. As I head down Carroll Drive towards Glenbrook, there aren’t seven million taxis passing me, slowing down, yelling out the window, “Taxi. Taxi?” to me as I walk head down and fast. Here I don’t have to walk fast at all. I take a leisurely stroll and only two cars go by me in that half a mile stretch.Here I meander. I gaze up at the blue sky. I stop to turn my face into the sun. I watch a yellow leaf fall to the ground and then I sidestep it so I don’t crunch it underfoot.
I walk for an hour without getting honked at once. I don’t get yelled to or whistled at. I only pass one other walker and she meets me eye to eye, smiles. Smiles! and says, “Hi.”“How’s it going?” I say as I pass her and keep on.
The streets are empty of humanity. The people of this city are behind their wheels, inside their insulated houses, at their jobs – they’re not out walking the streets to get somewhere. Places are too far apart for that.Settling way too quickly into this City’s mentality I get about halfway to the library and realize I don’t really need to go there. So I walk up Sycamore Street to gaze at the house my parents’ bought after they got married. The house where they brought me right after I was born. The tiny house I lived in until I was about seven years old. My older sister and I swung on swings in that backyard looking up at the stars and dreaming of Care Bears. We made notes with Crepe Myrtle blossoms in the front yard. We tricked people into smelling the pollen filled centers of Buttercups and then laughed with delight at their yellow tipped noses.
I smile at the memories. Then I walk the back way to Blossom Road where I lived from age seven until I was ten. I walk past my childhood best friend’s house, up the hill, to the house with the tall Pine tree that I climbed at least once to satisfy a dare. There’s someone on the front porch talking on the phone. So I duck out of sight to take a picture without being seen. The roofers on the house next door don’t whistle down at me or blow my cover.Just when I tuck my camera back into my bag and start walking again, a white truck pulls up to the curb. I pause to check both ways before I cross the street. The driver catches my eye as he climbs down out of the cab and says, “Hi.”
“How’s it going?” I reply and go on.It’s not a come on. It’s not a, “What beautiful eyes you have,” hit. It’s just a hi.
I’m not used to that. I scrunch my forehead and ponder ulterior motives. Then I laugh. I look up at the glorious cloudless blue sky. I watch an American Flag flip against the wind. Here I can walk with my head up. I can meet people’s gaze without recrimination.I can let down my defenses. This is the place I’m from.
This is Texas. The Friendly State. Welcome back.