The compost seems to be my job, in that, if I don’t take it out, it will not get taken out, and I’ve tested this theory (and others) by leaving the container on the counter, overflowing and molding, and eventually what happens is not that the compost gets taken out, but that the container will be sat out on the back porch and a new one started. She will argue that she has taken out the compost, which is true in the way that I have swept the floor. So I take out the compost at midnight and outside it is perfect. I tiptoe shoeless and blindly over the mulch and stones into the overgrown ferns (thinking frogs, lizards, snails), lean into the trunk of the mango tree, and hurl the stuff into the dark space behind the garage.
“Wanna take a walk?” I say, and she says, “Sure.” We step out into the street and it’s so quiet. The sky is bright because it’s overcast and the moon is about full. “I can’t even hear the freeway,” I say. She says, “I never hear the freeway until you bring it up.”
We walk around the neighborhood, instead of going down to the lake. I want to stay up high. When we pass by certain houses, with the tall trees, the wind catches the tops and then we hear it. I say, “We wouldn’t even know that wind is up there except for those tall trees.” When we walk the blocks paved with old bricks, we slip out of our flops and feel the slippery softness. “All those years of oil,” she says.
Looking at houses makes her talk about mortgages and “three-twos” and retirement plans. She peeks over gates. “Pool,” she says, a positive. “No yard, though.” She sees opportunities and progress where I see worst-case-scenarios and obligations that will imprison us. Without her, I would probably never do anything, and without me, she would probably proceed as usual. Except she’d have to acknowledge the cycles of compost, trash, and recycling.
In the quiet night the houses look different. Some are warm, some creepy. Here’s a manicured lawn with soft grass, very rare around here, and off come the shoes again. “Nice. Weird,” we decide. She doesn’t like houses with columns and neither do I. She thinks they look like plantation houses. I think they look like houses trying to look like plantation houses. Either way.
She thinks this place with the window units is where a local candidate lives. “Any candidate who goes without central air is alright by me.” There’s the apartment where our friend lived before he bought his place. This is that new customer’s house. New construction. Gigantic. Here’s another oak tree so it’s shoe time again. When we crunch something underfoot we hope it’s an acorn and not a snail. Imagine growing your own house, and then, being stepped on.
When we come to our own house I wonder what we’d think of it if we were strangers. We stop outside and bend at the hips, hands on thighs, stretching our backs. Inside, she says, “I didn’t know it was so late.” I wash my feet in the tub and slip into bed.