The woman heard the garage door close as her husband backed out of the driveway and headed to work. He might come home tonight and he might not. She loved him… once. Now it was a relationship of use and misuse. He cheated. It was his way. At one time, he at least tried to hide it. No longer. They barely talked. She pulled her hair from her face and reached over to the bedside table and grabbed a pack of Newport cigarettes. She lit one and inhaled deeply. A blue cloud hung above her head and drifted like her thoughts. The morning light streamed in the windows like an invitation.
She rolled onto her side and thumbed the remote. The CD player spun & whirred into motion. Billie Holiday’s voice flowed like velvet across the room. She felt less anxious with him gone. This was her time. As a girl growing up in Boyle Heights near Los Angeles, she always thought she would marry a strong man and they would have a little place to call their own. Her mama would smooth her hair and encourage her to “… look pretty now!” as they entered the church on Sunday mornings. Her mama always had a way of preparing her. The watchword. Someday. “Someday, a good man will come along and love will come walking in with him. A girl has to be ready. Good men are harder and harder to find!” Her mama. She always fussed about the kitchen and mumbled under her breath. Their daddy had left them a long time ago. He was a distant memory in her mind. Tall. Shadowy. Long legs crossed in dark blue pants. His voice rumbled and answered her mama’s questions in a tense undercurrent. He didn’t visit that often. She couldn’t recall the last time that she saw him.
Pulled from her reverie by the smoldering cigarette, the woman stamped it into an ashtray and took a shower. Toweling, she flipped the radio on and listened to the local hit radio station. She smoked a joint and dawdled about the house as was her habit. Watching the hummingbirds out back, she saw the large empty pool and –for the millionth time–made a mental note to get an estimate to have it repaired and filled. Her morning soon became afternoon. She went outside to the mailbox. Jerry– her neighbor– raised an arm in greeting. “Good day, Sugar. How have you been?” She waved back and told him she was well. Her name was Francine but everyone just called her ‘Sugar’. It was the nickname her mama gave her when she was a little girl and she carried it into her adult life like a treasured family heirloom. Going back inside, she saw a magazine propped against the side of the doorway leading to the garage. She picked it up then looked around oddly. Skateboarder’s Journal. She put it under her arm unsure of where it came from and went inside.
That evening, she picked up the magazine and a note fell out. She unfolded it. It was a polite letter from a skateboarder and writer. He wanted to bring a few professionals over and ride skateboards in the pool out back. She shrugged and couldn’t imagine her husband ever allowing that to occur. She wondered how they could do such a thing. The magazine had photographs of guys skateboarding and hanging precariously on a pools edge and other photographs that were equally exciting. She saw a young guy hovering over a long staircase on his skateboard. “These guys are crazy!” she muttered to herself. Placing the magazine on the glass table, she listened to music as the day burned itself out and into the next one.
She thought of the decade that she called this house home. It was better here in Riverside than where she came from. She recalled the streets of Boyle Heights. They were now gang-infested and violent. It was quiet here in Riverside. People left each other alone. Families. Future. Drifting off to sleep, she heard a familiar song that she liked. Her favorite line was – “… my only wish is I die real, cause that truth hurts and those lies heal and you cant sleep thinking he lies still…” She wanted to have a new chance at life. She longed to tell her husband that … “enough is enough!” It wasn’t going to happen. Her life was stuck in a holding pattern. It was her and the house with its brick courtyard doing time. She awoke when he came home. She heard the car and the garage door. He stumbled about the place. Drunk. Groaning inwardly, she feigned sleep. She smelled him. He had the ghost of an empty twelve pack on his breath. She hoped he would pass out and sleep. He tucked up beside her. Revulsion. Finally, sleep took her.
When she awoke the next day, he was gone again. It was just as well. Her heart had gone to sleep years ago. She was a broken angel with dirt on her face. He only used her as a mattress anyway. She sighed. She longed to see something real. Soulful. Later, she was in the kitchen and heard a knock at the door. Answering, she saw a blonde man standing there smiling. ” Hello. My name is Ozzie. Did you get the magazine I left for you with the note?” She looked past him to the street. There were two or three guys in a car looking towards the house. They smiled and waved politely. She looked back at the man in the doorway. “I looked through it and read the note. It’s pretty amazing what you guys do. How did you know we had a pool?” she asked. Ozzie told her that his friends had ridden the pool in the mid 1990’s. The previous owners allowed them to come skateboard in exchange for yard work.
She shrugged absently and remarked that her husband wouldn’t really care to find a bunch of strangers in their backyard when he came home. “Why don’t you guys ride that new skateboard park that I read about in the newspaper?” Ozzie smiled. He went on to explain that skateboarding in pools led to the modern day skate park being built. His friends and him were purists in a way. She shook her head in the negative and was starting to close the door as she heard him say one other thing. “Backyard pool skating is the original thing for us. We like to keep it real.” he added. She stopped. “Keeping it real.” She hesitated for a moment and then pointed to the side gate and grinned- “It’s unlocked.” Thanks to MRZ for the images. Skate and keep it real- Ozzie