I was lost inside my head, swirling around in haphazard thoughts when you passed me on the sidewalk. The sun was tucked behind clouds you could walk on, but my sunglasses were justified. It was bright, after all, on this overcast afternoon. I walked leisurely, waited patiently for the little white man to light up and let me cross the street. You must’ve been waiting the same on the other side. I could’ve seen you like a dashed line between passing cars, heard you like a pulse or a heartbeat between Morse code horns. In fact, you surprised me when you looked up from the street and your feet and smiled something more than a polite how-do-you-do at me.
I didn’t turn around to watch you walk away, as I might have wanted. Instead, I imagined you smitten with me and changing your plans about wherever you were going. In my story, you turned around and caught back up, walked in step with me on Wells, aborted your journey South and we got to talking.
In my story, you actually weren’t wearing that Cubs t-shirt to begin with and so you had a chance. I’m from the South suburbs and my dad wouldn’t stand for me bringing a Cubs fan around. I told you so, or would’ve, but you weren’t wearing that shirt, so no, I didn’t.
I entertained the thought of you walking a block or two with me, but only because you poked fun at the very idea of a stranger like yourself turning around in such a way. We both thought it was silly but we walked in step anyway. Walked for blocks until one of us got to where we were going. And then, my story was over.
Every day, I sit for four hours on a lifeguard stand made of four by four’s. Just me, my swimsuit, and pair of basketball shorts, saving lives in Jesus’ name. My job is like kinetic energy: holding this world as we’ve always and ever known it in the balance, trained to breathe life back into bodies fading to gray, but spending most of my time kicking back behind sunscreen and shades on summer afternoons. I don’t do a lot in the day-to-day, but I’m equipped to change the world in a big way, and quickly.
When the clouds roll in and the kids run up to the Sweet Shop to play games and get cavities, folks climb up the ladder to the lifeguard stand and we’re all equal. We bury authority in the sand. Without chairs or cushions, the staffers and I, we create furniture out of everything on the lifeguard stand and on the lifeguard stand there are only bodies. We lean and lay and listen to the lake hit the wet sand. We all look at the sunset or the storm creep across the thunderclouded sky.