Friday, January 19, 2018

Renewed Responsibility

It is 8:31am Fri Jan 19 (2018) as I begin this 3rd part of my search for Arshad story. 

The Thursday evening I began knocking on doors was weirdly warm and humid, a strange change so suddenly after the bitter cold of the previous record setting days.  I parked in the area where I thought I remembered  first spotting Arshad the day I had gone to visit him.  He was already outside, so I did not have to find the door with his number.  His happiness radiated with speech and gestures of great joy.  The phrases were still difficult to recognize; I was thrown again into that lost feeling I used to get walking through the unfinished framing of houses under construction. 

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I grew up in a house built before the civil war within short commuting distance to Washington DC.  My parents were in the first wave of northerners settling around the nation's capital at the end of WWII.  As the farmland surrounding our three acres got bought up and turned into grids of mass produced houses, my mother took us kids through every development in progress.  She would speculate which areas of a concrete base surrounded by mud, construction debris and the coke bottles we kids collected to cash in for candy and trips to the movies....which sections would be bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens or living rooms.  It was a good exercise in reading a situation stripped of its customary cues. 

My husband, a carpenter, can walk into the the framing of a house getting started and feel completely at home, but I am lost, struggling to find familiar cues to orient myself in the naked bones of a future home.

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He thought he would never hear from me!  My call was such a wonderful surprise!  He asked if I had a car, and seemed surprised as he followed me to where I had parked.  He said something about a great car (teenage Nissan Altima built in 1999) and prepared to get in on the passenger side as he suggested we go for a ride. 

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I woke up this morning feeling a bit, just a tad, oppressed with the weight of this unfinished story.  Yesterday I enjoyed a day off from both house cleaning and blogging, and set out with boots, hat, scarf and gloves completing the coverup of my New Jersey Devils jacket, trudging up the snow messy street, across the highway that leads to the beach from Raleigh, for my friend's house.  The boots are great for keeping wet snow out, but not so good for walking.  I thought maybe i would turn around when i got a little ways and come back to recuperate on the couch.  The sun was bright and its light reflected with almost frightening brilliance from all the surrounding ice and snow.  I am more fearful of falls and fatigue in this 59 year old body.  Some ruts between snow were slushy, others were icey and then there would be patches on hills where the water had trickled down the incline immediately upon melting in the sun.

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This morning as I hid under the covers from my cat I thought about how far the moon had gotten from where it was when I began this story.  I wondered if it was in Pisces yet.  No, after feeding the cats and settling down to enjoy my morning tea, I saw that it is still finishing up the last two dodecs of Aquarius.  I looked out my front window at the Sun rising, remarked to America that it will now start rising a little more to the left every day.  She was standing in the living room waiting for a work buddy to show up.  A pick up job.  Catching work where ever it is available.

I have been aware most of the morning of my change in attitude about this series of blog posts.  I have progressed from vaguely wondering if it is worth all the effort to a strong sense of responsibility to complete the documentation and give it my best effort. Mercury is no longer coming in for a meeting with disciplinary Saturn as it was last week, the meeting is now behind them and the commitment to build something together has been renewed.  We build with words and small deeds in the same way construction crews build houses for families to live in.

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Well I surprised myself yesterday.  I crossed the highway to my friend's house and swept snow from his steps and car.  It was great to be out in the cold now that there was beautiful snow and the temp was just above freezing.  The clear skies and bright sunlight felt medicinal.  I often go for walks just to be out in the Sun, the way couples find things to do together because the company of each other feels so important to their spiritual well being. 

My friend's need for help is temporary.  He will be able to do his own snow cleaning next winter if all goes well with his healing.  Now, while he depends on his friends we are all figuring out our temporary roles.  Who will bring groceries, who will offer a cooked meal.  How will he show us his gratitude.  Though our friendship roles are all well established there has been a slight shift.  The furniture on the stage was switched between the closing and opening of the big velvet curtains and now we circle around an ottoman instead of exiting directly to stage left.

I worried about whether he wanted the help being forced on him as I enjoyed the chores in the snow.  He was gracious and invited me in.  No, I had just been for a visit the day before as the snow started falling.  I waited on the front porch as he went and filled a container of bean soup to take home for later.  Domestic exchanges of food cooked in kitchens warmed with their inviting smells.

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The fourth door I knocked on, in my search for Arshad, had a restaurant size box of cooking oil out front.  A woman on the ground floor of the first building I had tried would not come to the door, but was willing to talk to me though the front window.  She was about my age and two or three children were gathered with her, eager to hear the conversation and offer what help they could add.  She didn't speak English but understood my broken Spanish when I said I was looking for a man that was from another country.

First she pointed to the apartment just above hers.  "No," I said.  "I knocked on that one.  A little woman from Somalia?  Very dark skin?  The man I am looking for is not so dark.  He has a little bit of color.  He is from a country like India."

"Oh!  That would be the building  over there, the upper level."  And she pointed to the nearest building facing theirs from across the parking lot.

And with this distinction of the shades of our skins I got some direction of which doors to try.  I went back to my car and got my phone out.  I had knocked on three doors and met people from three different continents.  The initial courage that drove me forward was morphing to a sobering realization of how Plutonian this search was.  Imagine finding Pluto among the thousands of small bodies circling in the Kuiper belt.  What chance was there of finding this man from the other side of Earth whose full name I did not even know and whose phone number I had lost. 

As I looked at the upper windows of the other building, considering which one to try first, two cars pulled in to the lot and parked beside each other.  A man got out of the first one and after speaking to the driver of the second one went to the back and opened it.  I could not see the driver of the second vehicle, one of those big sport utility numbers that have taken the place of vans, and wondered if I was about to witness some parking lot exchange of merchandise.  I considered how accustomed I've become to seeing drug deals in parking lots.  Then I saw a woman and 2 boys getting out from the suv and thought, geez Mary Pat, what a susupicious mind!  I approached them and asked the man if he spoke English.  I went right into Spanish when he hesitated and told him i was looking for a man from Pakistan.  I had lost his phone number but he lived somewhere in these apartments several months ago.

The couple thought together and said the same as the woman from the window.  They also motioned to the units i had first knocked on, but I told them I had already tried and they were from other countries but didn't have the man I was looking for.

I thanked the couple for their help and approached the building with renewed hope.  When I saw the industrial size container of cooking oil in front of the door on the left I thought that would be Arshad's style and knocked there instead of on the right door where I hesitated looking at the carpet remnant for wiping feet that also made me think it could be his home.  I stood for a minute deciding and looking at the concrete hallway dingy with chipping paint and lots of cobwebs.  When I finally knocked on the left door with the cooking oil I could hear children coming to answer.  A girl about middle school aged answered and said yes she knew Arshad.  Of course it felt like a miracle.

And I am sort of, but not exactly, sorry to say I have to stop here at 12:30pm to go clean a house.  I would like to finish this story more quickly, but it seems to require a great deal of thought and I welcome the breaks from so much deliberation on how best to relate the series of events.