Blake wears a John Cena t-shirt and a handsome smile. Jo and I met him as we were urban hiking, headed for the post office, passing by an elementary school.
The grounds were absent of any other children, just Blake and his mother who were occupying the playground. She was keeping a close eye on him as she sat there on a bench under a giant oak tree, talking with her friend on her cell phone.
With a book in hand, Blake came running over to us, stopping at the chain link fence that borders the campus. I said hello to the young man, admiring his ponytail, and asked him about his favorite part of his day. That’s a question I love asking. One child’s response was, “it’s not over yet!”
Blake had a series of questions for us. Looking at Jo, he said, “Is Jo a boy or girl? Does he like red? How about sticks?” And the last question, “can Jo read?” He shows the snake book to Jo, asking me if Jo wants to see it.
Then he bends down and begins flipping open the pages, asking me to read to him. The book he is holding is educational, an explanation of snakes. I begin reading the page that he’s opened to.
“The snake wraps it’s body around the chick, squeezing the air out of it until it dies”.
I glance down at Blake who’s now peering up at me with an obscure look, and I think to myself, there must be a happier ending to our brief encounter. I ask Blake to fetch a stick from under the tree, then tell him to toss it for Jo. Indeed, Jo does like sticks.
At the post office, there’s a line that’s formed, it’s longer than the Amazon River. It’s 4:02 when I walk in and there’s only one clerk working. She hollers to me at the back of the room that the lady in blue standing in front of me will be the last person in line. I disappear, not willing to wait it out, even if she had welcomed me.
The quirky market next door sells stamps. I grab sixty of them and make my way a few city blocks over to the Yellow Jacket Social Club.
It’s known as a railroad respite with drinks and more. What people were saying on Yelp; “Punk, outdoor patio and brunch, what could go wrong? I had the pork belly topped with egg and Siriacha”. The other reviews raved about their bloody mary’s, mimosas, and the shrimp and grits. I ordered an iced-coffee with agave and sat down with Jo out front on a picnic bench beneath the trees. The work I planned on doing from my iPhone, I postponed. I just sat there in the shade, people watching.
I haven’t been feeling well at all. In a Facebook messenger conversation with my mother, she seemed to think I might have a sinus infection. She shares with me what works best for her, both over the counter remedies and doctor prescribed. I began researching medical clinics in Austin, planning on visiting a doctor the following morning, hopeful to get some pills that might wipe out whatever is wiping me out.
Then I googled “Massage Austin” and low and behold, there’s a parlor within walking distance. I stood at the front door of Myo Massage, glancing over the menu, thinking about how wonderful it would be to lay out on a table and be kneaded. But they’re closed.
It’s a two mile walk back to John and Josh’s house. I opened the door to discover a living room full of dinner guests. I take a seat in the corner in a chair that is upholstered with a cows-hide. I find it humorous, sitting there in the moo-chair, thinking about how my host is a vegetarian. Their friends are curious about my journey and begin asking questions.
In that moment I was feeling as drab as an Alaskan resident in the winter. I did my best to verbally chronicle the highlights of my Long Bike Ride with Shoeless Jo and also share with them the Operation Elf Box mission and vision.
In between my sentences, I proceeded to administer to myself a smorgasbord of Ibuprofen, allergy eye drops, Musinex, Benadryl, saline solution for my nose and a Vicodin.
The guys all took a seat on the patio behind the house, indulging on the homemade black bean tacos they fried up and the pumpkin empanadas I retrieved from the market while I was out with Jo.
I didn’t join them, instead, I put my earplugs in, stretched out on the couch and dreamed of seeing a doctor in the morning.
The pollen in Austin is killing me.