Counting Steps in a Different City

28,251 steps. I hitched a ride on my body and chose toes over wheels to guide me from beautiful house on tree-lined street toward downtown Denver.

Men sleep on rocks, which outline the Platte River. I chew on Brooklyn farmer’s market fuji apple as I whisper a poem into the air, in hopes the wind pushes it toward them. I have not seen a pigeon in twenty-four hours and the air smells of grapefruit-suckled roses and freshly cut grass.

A woman stops me on 16th street in the financial district.

“Sister,” she says. “Sister, I’m eight months pregnant.”
And she shows me a belly that could be distended from housed human or intense starvation.
“Sister, do you have anything? Can you give me something, sugar?”
I nod. Apologize. Then, I offer her a granola bar, which she aggressively declines.
The homeless are picky here, I think.

I am wearing black high top converse sneakers. Tall rainbow striped socks reaching just above my knees. Jeans cut into shorts, cuffed. A loose, white t-shirt with various shades of blue and faded lettering. And a black vest. Throughout this walk, I am whistled at and I wonder: Is it the knots of frizz in my hair that turn these men on? The stench of menstruation emitting from inside my purple underwear? The undeclared pattern of scarred incisions on my forearms?

I keep walking. 17th street and Race. St Marks Cafe, home of the best peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie that is like eating a prayer. I opt for a cafe au lait with soy milk and a square shaped raspberry scone. Outside, I sit with first coffee of the day. Notebook gathers words. When all the caffeine has moved from clear mug to pale body, I continue walking.

I head toward Colfax for Tattered Cover bookshop. I search through poetry books, feel disappointed by the lackluster erotica section and move toward gay/lesbian/women studies shelves. Excitement puffs up my body when I recognize names from NYC writers in various anthologies. When we write, we don’t always know where we may be shelved.

A visit to past home on York Street led me to feel sick with sadness. Our garden was replaced with wood chips and impersonal ceramic planters. There was a wreath on our front door. No wind chime.

I used to think: If I turn off the radio, all the music and voices will stop talking. The music will pause until I rotate the dial back on.

Life, unfortunately, doesn’t wait for us to return.

I cross streets I used to cross with black-haired pup by my side; I am alone this time. I am occasionally interrupted by my shadow or a drip of sweat traveling from neck to collarbone. Cars don’t really honk here. Homeowners water their lawns. Garbage remain in cans and off sidewalks. The wind is a meditation, rather than a disruption.

At Cheeseman Park, I search for a bench in the shade. I grab a handful of nuts from the trail mix in my backpack. Suddenly, I am no longer alone. Two squirrels are close enough to pet and I decide to share my almonds. One squirrel turns into two, then three, and suddenly I’m surrounded. I fear being hijacked for my snacks as they hop onto hind paws and move closer.

“You’ve had enough,” I say, in the high-pitched voice I often use with dogs.

They are poor listeners or they speak limited English or they abhor rules and authority. So, I decide to switch benches. The soundtrack here is so subtly peaceful and I never want to leave; sometimes, I wish I never had in the first place.

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