Blue Ribbons at 5:32 pm

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The Saturday I got my College acceptance letter I felt an expansion of energy swell up my lower back and move up to do summersaults around my ears. Two days later, I remember that I have school. Today I get up at 6:00 that morning, 30 minutes earlier than usual, and brush my teeth for the whole two minutes, counting. As I walk out to the door, I become momentarily engulfed in a pocket of morning wind.

Readjusting my bag, I head uphill towards the bus stop, counting my assignments, meetings, projects and tests. It doesn’t seem to process that I had prepared everything the night before (the optional study guide too). Impulsively, I make a left turn the block before I reach the station and start walking downtown towards the ocean.

By 8:30 the sun begins to spill patches of white and yellow over the pavement, my sneakers, fingernails and my nose. I wiggle my fingers above my head and use my thumb to trace the flosses of strings fish-netting clouds (they keep the sky from crumbling). I follow the cable lines down rows of parking spaces, churches, and a garage sale. The clamor of people opening storefronts and running across red lights or into banks begins to filter into the street. I stop at a fabric shop across the street from “Bill’s Shoe Shiners,” go in and start to flip through strips of cloth. Eventually, I pick out a roll of light blue ribbon. I twist the role around my fingers a bit to test the velvet and take it up to the cash register. The redhead over the counter tells me it is 15 cents a yard and neither of us have the change so I give her a five-dollar bill and take the entire roll. On my way out, I rip off a foot of ribbon and tie it to the doorbell hanging from the entrance of the shop.

Here it dawns on me that I can head in any direction I want and there is nowhere I have to go. I spin in a circle and begin to run down the street, the next and the one after. After a while, this redundancy begins to make me tired. I slow down, head into a nearby restaurant. I remember the New Years when some friends and I went out for dinner and everywhere was full, so we took out curry and sat in the parking lot to eat it.
Curry tastes good no matter where you eat it because it’s almost always made the same way. I ordered curry now and sit at the table to finish the whole bowl. Before leaving I leave a tip and write a note on the receipt that saying that the curry today was extremely good. I tie a piece of the blue ribbon to the leg of the table and head back out.
It is half past noon and morning dries out. My toes jam up the roof of my shoes and my body begins to sag. My mind goes blank, for a little bit, and I feel tired. (Where do I go?) Without much thought, I walk instinctively along this street, watch for cars coming from the right and cross towards the next. (Maybe subconsciously) my mind-map has a better grasp on where I’m headed.
As I pass by a bus stop, the number five bus makes it’s stop and the driver asks me if I’m getting on. I start to apologize for the misunderstanding but my feet begins to hurt and the cool blast of air conditioning coming from the doorway hits my face. I jump on the bus route five and shuffle to the corner seat at the way end, lean over on the window and relax my shoulders. It’s been a while since I could lounge like this – with the leisure to watch people shuffle in and out, and sometimes wonder where they were headed to or muse at the odd shapes of their noses and foreheads. I ride the entire route across town, into the suburbs and back out. As the bus pulls over at the last stop I tie a piece of blue ribbon to the seat in front of me, thank the driver and get off.
The last stop of bus route five is the one by the oceanfront. I’ll make the distinction between ocean and beach. The beach is the sandy shoreline where people in polka dot swimsuits spread out towels and wait for tans. In contrast, the oceanfront here is lined with factory buildings and half finished construction. In front of the factories is a small hill with patches of loose green grass stretching across each other in uneven squares. Further down, I can see blue thrashes of ocean waves fold over each other in rhythmic howls. I climb up onto a hill, sit down and watch the silhouettes of surfers and old women walking below. After a little while I lie down, feeling the grass crunch under the weight of my back and the sunlight sting my face. I tie a blue ribbon onto a long blade of grass and watch the wind blow the thin string hungrily towards north. My eyelids droop over and I fall asleep.

At 5:31 pm I wake up and look upwards towards the sky. A cold shiver chills down my back as I watch the shock of purple and orange bleed across its surface. The silhouettes from the factories and constructions elongate and fall over each other creating a kaleidoscope of yellow and gray. The roar of wind throws me back into sitting position as I watch the last rays of sun crawling from daylight. I tie a piece of blue ribbon to my pointer finger.
For a moment at 5:32 pm, time stops (but just for me). I remember the blue ribbons I had tied during the day and I become momentarily aware of the simultaneity of everything happening at this one moment – the redhead at the fabric shop closing up, students eating curry with friends or fathers taking the last bus home, light leaking back into the ocean and me sitting here watching it - the singularity of everything I saw today transcending into one perfect whole.
I laugh and get up to watch night sail over the city, illuminated by flashing neon fireflies, the eclectic array of electric lights. Winding the piece of blue ribbon around my finger, I adjust my bag over my shoulder and make a call home.





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