The 3-mile loop

It is Monday morning.

Time for a 3-mile training run.

I close the door behind me, and press start on my Apple Watch.  It will track my mileage even though I know how far the route is.  It will tell me how fast I’m moving even if only I know where I’m going.

I start down my street, past the newer houses is my not-so-old development.

A man and his sandy-blonde haired little girl are walking their two dogs–two playful retrievers, muzzled lightly who have just done their business.  As I approach, the sidewalk seems a little small and the man yells, “HEY!” at his dogs as the Labrador retriever bounds playfully towards me. The dog and I are both startled. We pull back and keep moving our separate ways.

I run over the railroad tracks towards the 7-11.

On my way to the corner, I pass a brown-skinned boy in his gray school-affiliated polo shirt on his way to the middle school that is a mile away.  It is the same school that my own son got dropped off at, an hour before, so that he could take a bus across our city to the other side of town, where he would begin his school day as I finished my run.

I run past the ruins of a factory, sitting silently in rubble.  The construction day has not yet begun.

I run past our neighborhood bodega.  It is also silent, although the metal siding is up, signaling that it is open for business.

The light to cross to the other side is flashing red so I turn the corner on the same side of the street.

I pass the mamas con sus niños, one of whom says as she pulls her son out of my path on the sidewalk, “Cuidado, hijo!”

I look up and although I should excuse myself, because I cannot remember my Spanish quickly enough, I simply say, “Gracias, Señora. Buenos Dias” as I run by.

I pause at the corner with the gas station because the lights still won’t let me pass, but the light changes quickly and I proceed down the route.

Next, I see Tom, with his long white beard, washing his white Chevy Suburban. I yell out, “Good morning!” as I pass with a wave. I only know Tom’s name because I heard another man, James, call out to him last week on my run, as James stopped at Tom’s house on his walk with his dog, but I see Tom nearly every morning, working on his lawn or washing his cars, or, at Christmas, hanging his lights.

I don’t wait then for a response as I am hitting my stride.

I cross the street at the crosswalk, past darker skinned Señor Javier who is trimming his grass with a weed whacker.  He once called out, “Ganas!” to me as I cruised by, but today he just nods and waits for me to pass so he can get the last patch of his grass trimmed in the coolness of the morning before it gets too hot.

I round the last corner before the halfway point, past the flagship Northgate supermarket and the smaller El Gaucho Argentinian meat market with the empanadas my sister-in-law always brings us when she comes to visit, past NV Nails, the Vietnamese-owned nail salon that I frequent, and finally arrive at the corner by Boysen Park.

It was only this weekend that I found out the elementary school on Vermont, just west of the park, had been demolished.  More rubble and reconstruction.

It was a surprise then, but today, the first weekday morning that I run by, it feels joyless.

Gone is the friendly abuelita crossing guard who would always tell me that I’m too skinny and don’t need to be running then laugh as she stopped traffic for me to finish crossing the street.  Gone are the children with the parents walking and talking before the first bell rang.

It is quiet as I weave through the neighborhoods on the other side of the school, back towards the street where Tom & Señor Javier live.

On the way back, I pass the cocoa and cream skinned ladies in their 60s always walking their dog together.  I call out hello and the darker skinned woman says, “Hello there, young lady!” We recognize each other.  Her light skinned walking partner is still recovering from being startled by my boisterous hello.  Perhaps she does not remember me as I remember them. Perhaps she is just startled by my loud, clear voice.

I pass Tom again, who this time is by the sidewalk, and tells me, “Keep up the good work!”

I am almost to the corner when I see James who apologizes that his chihuahua is in my path.  I say, “No problem” and “Good morning” as I pass, wondering if he is on his way to talk with Tom.

I round the corner by the gas station.  Again the lights are not in my favor so I run down the opposite side of the streets, near the walls of the homes that have been there for decades.  The fruit of the mature guayaba trees and the flowers of the fragrant jasmine flowers remind me that I am almost home.

I finally get a green light to cross by the 7-11, pass the local bodega, now open, with the middle aged brown skinned owner who is always smoking and never smiling if I see him as I pass.

The construction site is open now. The old factory will become new homes.  The neighborhood is changing. I wonder who my new neighbors will be.

I am a few steps from home, and say a final hello, to the landscapers in my development.  We know each other from my morning runs in our respective uniforms, their bright orange vests against their dark leather brown skin and my running shirt, shorts, and shoes with the fancy orthotics, my black hair tied back so it doesn’t cover my almond-shaped eyes.

I am home. I stop my watch. 3.01 miles.

I ascend the stairs to the jasmine tea made with the water from my hot water pot. I gaze at the orchid on my counter. I think of my neighborhood.

I begin to write, starting on a second journey through my neighborhood.

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