Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Walking at twilight

The restaurant had grown stuffy and noisy, and the kids were yawning. So B and the boys headed for home, leaving me to finish my drink and settle the check.

It was cool when I headed outside a few minutes later, but it felt good after the overheated interior, so I carried my pullover along with my box of leftovers. In a block or two, I’d left the busy retail area behind.

The sky had that particular glow that sometimes develops on a clear evening, when sunlight continues to brighten the horizon for a while after the sun has set. Overhead was still blue, not yet black, many blues shading to light grey and gold toward the west.

This is an urban area, and many of the windows I passed were open to the cool still air, yet it was quiet. I heard crickets, distant car sounds, quiet voices from a balcony as I passed below. Once a jet hummed and groaned from high abovc, banking over the mountains to the west, on a heading toward SFO.

The loudest sound after the crickets was the hissing of sprinklers. It doesn’t rain at all here in summer, and in-ground irrigation systems are common.

There’s a ground-cover plant that’s common here, with small glossy green leaves and star-shaped white flowers. I think it’s a type of jasmine, because it has a strong sweet smell, especially at night. Whiffs of scent leap out at me as I pass, and it’s always a pleasant surprise.

This is the best time of day to walk and wonder about your surroundings. It’s not fully dark, so places still seem familiar, but there’s an anonymity to the people passing by, their faces indistinct.

I like to look at the lit windows and catch glimpses of the lives lived inside. Here there’s a flat-screen TV on the wall, showing a ball game; next door, the wall is bare and the light us harsh. I try to imagine how the room looks from the inside out, how it appears to those accustomed to living within it, and sometimes, for a second or two, I think I can.

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