Eleanor: Part II

Alleyway

Previously: Part I

The first thing I saw as I entered the mouth of the alleyway was a large, tattered pair of long underwear hanging above a brick wall lined with potted plants. Had I been holding a camera I might have taken a photograph, but mostly it was an unremarkable scene.

Meanwhile, Eleanor — she with the denim-wrapped stems of a god and the thin, purple blouse over a black bra-line — rode on, unaware of my pursuit. The motorcycle taxi driver would be heading due south on the street behind me, and at the next intersection they would cut left and head east. I knew that the alley, which bisected the block east-west and connected with a smaller alley that ran southeast, was a significant shortcut I was lucky to have.

The first thing in the alley I noticed straight off were all the olds milling about. Morning routines and the like. Further ahead, at the junction where the alley expanded and another leg split to the right, I saw an old man pushing a weathered loved one in a wheelchair.

I had left the frantic energy of the street behind me but the alley-calm was constricting in its own way. I had to slow down. The clear and present priority immediately became: avoid injuring the elderly (or anyone, for that matter). It’s one thing to assert yourself on the streets, where portly cadres run reds, enormous trucks approach intersections as though in battle and commuters make a mockery of traffic lanes. But rolling up on someone’s home turf and acting like a dick is another thing altogether. It was their space, and I was careening through it. The least I could do was make it a controlled-careen.

I ran past a woman washing vegetables in a red colander outside of her kitchen door. Through the window, a little counter-top TV played CCTV morning news. Down a ways a man in pajamas was reading the newspaper on a tiny stool, leaning against a door frame. A  ways down from there I passed a boy in a red kerchief eating a bowl of dumplings. He had a blue backpack on.

I kept running, mostly down the middle, weaving to leave room. I nodded a few times. I said good morning to a group of women talking about their grandsons.

One man asked, “Where are you going?” I didn’t answer, but I smiled back.

As I prepared to bear right I noticed that the wheelchair couple had stopped. There was a slice of sunlight down the center of the alley, and they were both standing. The woman who had been sitting shuffled backwards with her hand on the black grip of the wheelchair’s handle bars. The man stepped forward and gently settled himself into the unfurled-scroll-like canopy seat, his elbows raised high and wide. The woman took the handles, bent forward with the sun at her back and walked on.

I leaned into the second alley and ran harder. It was three or four meters wide, and on the left cars were parked against the row of concrete apartment lanes. There was room to move my legs and I held my eyes steady on the gate ahead.

Somewhere on that street, beyond the thinly-painted green metal gate, ahead or behind, Eleanor was splitting lanes on the back of a motorcycle taxi, shoulder blades framed in purple and black, still dipping and weaving. Hair in the wind.

This is how I imagined her: directing the driver; leaning into the turns; legs gripping the saddle.

I had seen her. She was beautiful. I kept moving.

Next: Part III

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  1. Eleanor: Part I | Roger Presents: - September 9, 2013

    […] Read Eleanor: Part II […]

  2. Eleanor: Part III | Roger Presents: - September 18, 2013

    […] Previously: Part I | Part II […]

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